Cut back, downsize, condense, economize, curtail, decrease, lower, slice, trim the fat, mark down, prune, slash, pare back, shave off no matter how you state it, cost-cutting is something were all too familiar with of late. Any of these terms, when stated by a superior, could cause cold chills to run down a subordinates spine. But when an underling uses the same words in a conversation with his boss, it can turn that negative connotation into a positive.
Just as were each responsible for our personal budgets and cost-cutting when needed, the same should hold true for your position as a self-storage property manager. Little things you cut back on can add up quickly. For example, how many pens do you have to purchase each year because they simply vanish? But put a large silk flower on top, stick a few into a clay flower pot, and then stand back and be amazed at how long those dozen-for-a-dollar pens last.
Some self-storage properties already run on such a tight shoestring, they make Old Mother Hubbard feel like a rich lady. Others operate with as much fat and waste as the federal government. Somewhere in the middle is where we should all strive to be. Even for those with a rich budget, cost-cutting opportunities are all around if you simply look at things through a different set of glasses. Ask yourself, If this purchase were coming out of my pocket, do I still believe Im making a decision that offers the best value for the dollars spent?
Some of the best ways Ive found to maximize our self-storage facilitys budget dollars is to never assume Im getting the best price on a service since weve always done business this way in the past. Below I share some of my favorite ways to save. I hope they inspire you to consider how you can maximize your value as an employee while looking out for the investors bottom line.
1. Research Prices Online
Each time you need an item, check several sources for the best pricing. The Internet is your friend. If you order online often, consider establishing an Amazon Prime account. The membership cost far outweighs what youll save in shipping costs for everyday operating supplies.
Or order office supplies (quarterly if need be) totaling $250 or more from Costco, and theyll deliver it right to your office. Bulk purchasing can be very cost-effective, so always keep it in mind as an option. With delivery services, theres no more wasted time lugging cases of paper home from the local office-supply store. I do still enjoy roaming store aisles once in awhile for inspiration, but now its a pleasurable experience and not a chore.
2. Get Competitive Bids
When you need a service performedcarpet or building cleaning, landscaping or the likedo what corporations do as standard operating practice every day: get competitive bids. Sure, Joe the handyman may be a great guy, but youll never learn that Harry is superb unless you give him a chance to bid on a job.
We get a minimum of three bids on any outside service in which we need to hire someone. The absolute lowest price may not always prevail, however, if we meet someone who has the same mindset for the project and gives us outstanding customer service prior to being hired. You always want the best product, end result or value, not necessarily the lowest price.
3. Always Read the Fine Print
No service contract or sale item is worth it if the restrictions are too many, the responsibilities of the provider are too small, the return policy is non-existent or the final, hidden cost with all the trimmings offsets the potential savings. The devil is in the details, and its worth the time to read, check out FAQs and learn how a company operates before conducting business with it.
4. Price Shop Your Printer
Get a competitive price quote on your printed materials today. Sure, its easy to call Jane over at the print shop and order another couple hundred business cards. But if you have your artwork (you should always retain the rights and camera-ready artwork), you can ship it to the guy in the next city if he offers a better price and free shipping. If youre really adventurous, try one of the many Internet-based print shops. If you dont know how to upload an artwork file, its easy to learn how on the Internet.
5. Compare Vendor Pricing
You can also see if another vendor can provide you with a quality product. I was unhappy with one sign vendor we used in the past, so I asked for a second bid. What I received from the new company was outstanding, well-thought-outthey actually listened to their potential customerand very professional. They were hired for a sizable project.
A few days later, the original vendor phoned asking why he didnt get a chance to bid on the job. I was happy to share with the owner my most recent experiences and offer him a chance the next time.
More recently, I wanted to replace items the original vendor had provided years ago. The items had aged considerably. When I mentioned it to a graphic-artist friend during a casual conversation, he said, We can do those for you. So I asked for a quote. Fifteen years later, his pricing was more competitive than the original vendors. The product was also more creative and represents us better. I now have two great vendors to work with just by asking around.
6. Seek Out New Ideas
Just because you have something in place doesnt mean it should remain. We hit a point where replacing ballasts and high-pressure sodium bulbs was going to run into a substantial amount of money by the time we replaced the worn-out fixtures. A little Internet research and a phone call or two led us to a new lighting vendor who not only replaced our fixtures with newer technology for roughly the cost of repairing the old ones, but we received energy rebates and a significantly reduced electric bill as a bonus. The electric-bill savings alone amounts to $4,000 to $5,000 annually.
7. Ask for Referrals
Post a note in your office or ask people who stop by for a referral on who to use for a project youre considering. Also remember to ask your other trusted vendors for people they depend on and recommend to their family. Other trade people know who the professional workers are, and which ones are just skating by collecting money with tail-light guarantees.
Our soda-machine vendor has been a valuable resource for us, as he travels all over and has inside access to many companies. Vendors are like spies into the inner workings of other companies, so ask your soda or bottled-water vendor for referrals and dont overlook anyone.
8. Ask Your Peers for Their Best Practices
You have a wealth of support, help and advice at your fingertips via industry websites. Many helpful hints have surfaced from one person posing a question. I know Ive gained numerous ideas from the folks who share on SelfStorageTalk.com. A solution to any problem or dilemma is available from those whove walked before you in your shoes if you simply ask.
Its up to each member of the team, from onsite management to ownership, to ensure everything is in place and the property is running at full, maximized capacity. Cost-cutting doesnt have to be painful. In fact, you can enjoy the process, meet some great vendors, and come out looking good to your superiors while positively impacting your facilitys bottom line.
Gina Six Kudo is general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 16 years of self-storage experience, and a strong customer-service and sales background. Shes also a moderator on SelfStorageTalk.com, the self-storage industry's largest online community, hosted by Inside Self-Storage. For more information, call 408.782.8883; visit www.cochranestorage.com.