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'Coaching' Your New Self-Storage Project to Success: A Primer on Building Your Construction Team

By Benjamin Burkhart Comments

Have you ever paid attention to the coaches on the sideline of a winning team? They often don’t look like they could step on the field and throw the winning pass or make the game-clinching shot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slighting the coach. Coaches know their job is forming the team and staff, installing the vision, and making sure the players perform and execute at a level that gives the team a chance to win.

If you’re building a new self-storage project, you don’t have to be an expert; but you do need to assemble a team of knowledgeable people. You need to be “the coach.”

A Tale of Two Business Owners

I know a business owner who’s a visionary at a high level. He took a small family business with a couple of employees and grew it into an entity with $100 million in assets and more than 1,000 staff members. This guy’s the type we all look up to in business. When he started looking at self-storage as a new venture, his first questions were all about the team: “Who do I need to plan? Who do I need to build? What are the steps to taking this idea from paper to project? Who are my key players?” He’ll be successful.

Another business owner, who is a friend, started a new business (not self-storage) and asked me what I thought it would take for him to be successful. Knowing he was a true expert in his industry, with blue-collar, hands-on experience, I told him he would have to stop working with his hands and start working with his brain. He decided he would do both. Every month, he laments at how hard it is to keep the business going and keep his customers happy. His hands-on, be-the-worker-bee approach has really limited his success.

In this article, I’m going to define the key-player needs for the new self-storage developer/owner and help you assemble your winning construction team. I want you to be successful in casting your vision, building your team, building your project and winning your market.

Cast the Vision

Your immediate job as “head coach” of your project is to install the vision. You may be naturally visionary, seeing the big picture, or you may be analytical and detail-oriented, or a combination. That’s OK. Use your strengths as an advantage, whatever they may be. Be aware of your own weaknesses. Where you are weak, you just need a mitigating strategy.

Understand who your competitors will be, how you’ll compete and how you’ll go from nothing to a market leader. You can hire a guy to dissect and analyze the market, but you’re the one to implement a plan of attack for winning—and it starts with your vision.

Knowing what is and isn’t working inside your small market can be a good place to start in setting guideposts for your new project. In almost every market, there’s an array of competitors. When developing a game plan, focus on market leaders. That’s who you want to compete with, not the guy with 50 units and a rickety fence who built 20 years ago.

As you develop your vision, run it by others you trust. If you’re considering a multi-million-dollar project, you have people in your own network who are savvy and successful. These advisors might be like your assistant coaches, making suggestions along the way for seeing the vision grow into an actual competitive project. Sharing your ideas in the concept stage and inviting input from others will strengthen your overall vision.

Your Key Players

For a new self-storage project, a few players are in clearly defined roles. As the coach defining the vision, you must facilitate the discussions, set the expectations and let these players perform, while ultimately holding them accountable for their respective roles. Here’s who you should include on your team.

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