By Kevin Bledsoe
Most self-storage owners and managers have sat down at one point or another over the last year to discuss ways to improve traffic counts, increase revenue, gain occupancy, reduce discounting and create awareness for their facilities. Whether you represent one storage facility, a portfolio of 20, or you work for a national company, these are common issues you're working hard to manage.
Two years ago, my company was offered the chance to manage a new self-storage facility with all the bells and whistles. Included in the property was a UPS store franchise. At the time, we had limited knowledge of The UPS Store operations, but we had all used a local franchise to ship a package from time to time. We were intrigued by the opportunity and ready to learn how this business model worked with our primary business. Perhaps you'll find it's an add-on service that could be of benefit to your self-storage operation as well.
During the first six months of operating The UPS Store, we were thankful to acquire staff who understood how to run the franchise. In return, they were happy to have our knowledge on running a successful self-storage property. As we began the learning process, we noticed we were enjoying some unique benefits from the partnership. Our storage property was benefiting from a globally recognized brand, traffic counts were much higher than a traditional storage facility, revenue opportunities were limitless, and marketing efforts became much easier.
UPS is one of the most highly recognized brands in the entire world, and adding its shield to a self-storage facility creates instant public awareness. The traffic count at a UPS store franchise is three times that of the average self-storage property. The UPS Store offers a variety of different profit centers the general public needs on a daily basis.
Marketing became very easy because this facility benefits from UPS national and regional marketing campaigns. Customized marketing pieces are at our fingertips, and promoting a global brand makes recognition in the community effortless. At one time or another, most people will need the services offered through The UPS Store. Its hard to make that statement about a self-storage facility.
Understanding the Operation
Due to the benefits we were enjoying from our operation of The UPS Store, we decided to learn more about operating a franchise. Thankfully, the people at UPS headquarters are extremely helpful and open to making each of their locations a success. We worked with them to arrange training programs for our company. We also held meetings to discuss our business model and developed a positive working relationship for future growth.
The UPS Store has a world-class training program that includes two weeks of online courses, three weeks of in-store training and two weeks of training at its San Diego headquarters. Of course, the training program is just the beginning. The real work begins once you start operating your individual franchise.
The learning curve for understanding how to operate a successful UPS store is somewhat long. It took us almost a year to understand how to run everything according to franchise guidelines. The process was tedious and took a lot of dedication, but today we understand all aspects of running a successful location at a profitable level.
The million-dollar question every self-storage owner wants to know about operating a franchise such as this is, how profitable is it? Whats the return on investment? We cant answer that question in general, but the financial barrier to entry is surprisingly low.
The three primary expenses for a traditional The UPS Store franchisee are rent, store build-out and employment costs. As a self-storage owner, youve eliminated rent costs, your location will need a minimal facelift to comply with branding requirements, and you already have the employees. Some additional staffing will be necessary due to the volume of business, but the expense is very low.
We typically find it takes about a year and a half for a location to gain full momentum, but the franchise does an excellent job of creating awareness. In turn, the self-storage business will prosper from high traffic counts and facility branding. The UPS Store has been a win-win for my company, and its owners are very pleased with the success. Sometimes it pays to think inside the box.
After 18 months of working with The UPS Store, we opened our second operation in August 2011. Were opening a third in 2012. We currently have eight people on staff who can operate the business, and were prepared for continued growth in coming years.
Kevin Bledsoe is a district manager of York, Pa.-based Storage Asset Management Inc., which provides full-service management, consulting and website-development services to self-storage owners on the East Coast. For more information, call 717.779.0044; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com .