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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Going for the Pot o' Gold: Self-Storage Success Takes a Lot More Than Luck

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In the self-storage business, "green," can mean many things. If you're "in the green" or "rolling in green," you're doing better than "in the black"—you're making substantial revenue gains. If yours is a "green" facility, you're making efforts to reduce your carbon footprint and be eco-conscious. You might just be green with envy over a competitor's success. Or, you might be from the Emerald Isle!

St. Patrick's Day is Sunday, so it's a perfect time to honor those self-storage professionals who hail from Ireland, the twentieth-largest island on Earth (according Wikipedia). It's a relatively small market with limited competition at present, and yet its storage operators have still learned the hard lesson many U.S. self-storage operators have had to study in recent years: Success takes a lot more than luck and sheer existence. You cannot just build it and expect them to come.

The Irish Self Storage Association reports four facilities in Cork, eight in Dublin, two in Galway, two in Limerick and one each in Ahtlone, Belfast, Kilkenny and Waterford. But even where one business monopolizes the market or contends with only a single competitor, to find the pot o' gold, operators have had to employ smart strategies.

The rental office of Storage World, which has facilities in Dublin and Limerick, Ireland.Storage World has a facility in Dublin, opened in 2010,  and another in Limerick, opened in 2002. (View a showcase of these facilities here.) The Dublin store is expected to reach full lease-up this year, regardless of the difficult economy. According to director/owner Aidan O'Brien, proactive promotions, excellent signage and a "gold-standard approach" to SEO and Adword maintenance has enabled the Dublin site to succeed in a market where one competitor went bust in 2011 owing €9M and another, with four facilities, wrote off senior debt of €17M.

In Dublin, the company spent three years looking for the right site, O'Brien said. "Location is absolutely critical, especially in a difficult or depressed market. Opening a facility where there are numerous other operators is not our thing. Key location, with no competition and sufficient local population coupled with barriers to entry (lack of suitable sites) ensured Dublin’s success.

"Excellent building branding coupled with good website SEO and effectively managed Google AdWord campaigns are how we attract business. We also get excellent repeat and referral business. I guess we’re nice to deal with!"

Barons Self Storage in Galway is another Irish operator, and ISS is pleased to announce that three representatives from this company will be joining us in Las Vegas for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in just two weeks. We look forward to meeting them and learning more about the unique aspects of storage in their area. According to the website, Barons opened in 2003 and is looking to expand.

I encourage all non-U.S. professionals attending the Expo to participate in our International Track of seminars, with presentations covering a wide array of topics of import for developers and operators. Attendees will learn about site selection, financing, real estate, project design and construction issues. They'll also hear about marketing challenges and tactics, public awareness, legal issues, customer expectations, staffing and more.

Whatever rainbow you're chasing in the self-storage industry—a new facility or expansion, greater revenue, larger customer base, better staff, stronger marketing—realize it will take a lot more than luck and won't be had by simple wishing. To compete, you have to be well-informed. Perhaps the pot o' gold isn't about wealth but the tools and knowledge that will help you build your business to fortunate heights.

I'll close with this tribute to those (like me) who will be celebrating Irish culture and heritage this weekend, and Storage World with its Limerick location:

There are buildings in Limerick and Dublin
For people to store all their stuff in.
Once they pay rent,
It's money well spent,
And then they can get back to drinkin'!

Have a magical St. Patrick's Day. If you host a special event or promo at your facility to celebrate—or have any leprechaun sightings—please tell us about it! Sláinte!

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