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Why Self-Storage Managers Should Think Like Van Halen

By Amy Campbell Comments

A guest installment by Matthew Van Horn, vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management

The details matter in the operation of a self-storage facility. They really do. Your self-storage business depends on them to run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. There are numerous distractions in our insanely busy lives: our smartphone beeps, the office phone rings or, while a family member is talking in the background, we just miss things. Unfortunately, in the extremely litigious society we live in, these distractions can easily come back to haunt us.

While working on 10 things at once, it’s very easy to accidently overlock the wrong unit, miss something on a rental agreement, or send a lien notice to the wrong address. It’s easy to misplace a file, throw out an important paper, or forget to call back a customer. This is just the result of working within a distracting environment, but it’s important to take steps to try to minimize mistakes and mitigate their impact.

From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s Van Halen was one of the most popular rock bands in the world. Over the course of their career, they have sold more than 86 million records worldwide and, according to one fan website, have had the most No. 1 hits in the history of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. As a Van Halen fan for many years, I consistently heard of a stipulation band members placed in all of their concert agreements: There was to be a bowl of M&M’s in the dressing room of the concert venue, only the bowl was to be free of any brown-coated M&M’s. Further, if any brown M&M’s were found in the bowl, then the band did not have to play but would still receive full compensation for the show.

When people first hear about this odd stipulation, most, including myself, find it to be a laughable requirement. Everyone assumes this was just another hilarious stipulation from a band that didn’t really want to work. In actuality, the real reason the band made the stipulation was genius. The following is an excerpt from Crazy from the Heat, Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth’s autobiography:

“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors—whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say ‘Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes…’ This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: ‘There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.’

“So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”

In the Van Halen example, this one detail provided a glimpse into how the rest of the production was going to proceed. If there were brown M&M’s in the dressing room, then it was going to be a long night. Similarly, the systems you have implemented at your facility are there for a reason. Don’t cut any corners. Don’t overlock your customers early. Don’t manipulate the terms of your rental agreement. Don’t be lazy with your auctions.

Always remember that someday an attorney could walk in and find brown M&M’s in your self-storage operation. You really don’t want that to happen.

Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management, a full-service management company specializing in management, feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the self-storage industry. He’s well-known for finding hidden profit centers in self-storage operations. For a complimentary “Hidden Profit Discovery Session” and a free whitepaper, e-mail . For more information, call 866.970.EDGE; visit . Follow the company on Twitter at Cuttingedgemgt, and on Facebook at Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management.


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