By Amy Campbell
With the new year just weeks away, everyone is focused on finishing 2014 with a bang as well as looking ahead to how to make 2015 even better. This is especially true for self-storage operators, who can gauge successes and missteps over the past year and build strategies for improvement in the coming months. Whether you call them “goals,” “resolutions” or simply “plans,” it’s a chance to start fresh. Here are 10 business strategies self-storage operators can employ for a prospersous and productive 2015.
No. 1: Start the year with a solid budget. This should cover every facet of your self-storage business. from allotting funds for maintenance and staff training to setting goals for revenue growth. Marketing should definitely be a line item in your budget. Creating a budget can be a time-consuming process and requires you gather information about your property’s financials. Simply put: This isn’t something you’ll accomplish in an hour or two. Get advice on creating a budget in this ISS article.
No. 2: Plan ahead for property improvements. Even if you’re knee-deep in snow, think ahead to the summer months—your busy season—and consider what needs to be done. Is it time to paint the office? Will your unit doors need a good scrubbing in April? Will you need roof repairs in October before next year’s storms? Assess what needs to be done in 2015, put it on your calendar, and then allocate the funds. Here are some articles on facility maintenance to help you get started.
No.3: Clear out the bad debt. If you’ve been halfhearted about your self-storage collections, now’s the time to shift gears. Call it a new policy, if you must, to make tenants understand. This will be especially difficult if you’ve allowed some tenants to be continually late, or worse, have let them carry a past-due balance. Managers, you’re at the forefront of this movement. Everyone has a sob story about why the rent didn’t get paid. And while some may be legit, unfortunately, self-storage is a business so it must be treated as such. Get advice on better self-storage collections in this article.
No. 4: Plan to attend industry tradeshows. There are numerous events throughout the year that offer a variety of education. Many state associations offer seminars, webinars and other training for owners and managers. Most are affordable and will provide operators with a wealth of knowledge. The 2015 Inside Self-Storage World Expo, April 7-9, in Las Vegas will be packed with seminars, networking events, workshops and the popular Self-Storage Q&A. Act now to get the best pricing!
No. 5: Consider online training resources. If you can’t make it to any live events this year, consider online education resources. There are a number of options, including the ISS Store, which offers digital magazines, DVDs and so much more. Again, check with your state association to see if they’re hosting any online courses this year. There are also several industry consultants who have online tools for purchase.
No. 6: Set up a maintenance schedule. Property improvements aside, your facility also requires year-round, regular maintenance. Your schedule should include things that should be done daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Be sure to include the office, bathroom, parking lot, units and doors, landscaping, golf cart, etc. Again, check out the articles on the ISS facility maintenance pages for tips.
No. 7: Join Self-Storage Talk (SST). If you’re not a member of the SST community, you’re missing out! Members include managers, owners, owner/operators, new investors, regional and district managers, and quite a few industry vendors. Talk shop, get and give advice, share a laugh or photo, or make new friends. It’s all free!
No. 8: Stop offering discounts. Too many operators are still relying on discounts to fill up units. Time and again, industry experts have said this only hurts a facility in the long run. This article shows operators how to create a “million-dollar counter,” in which service and amenities drive new rentals. Pricing your storage rental rates requires a methodical plan. Read this article to learn how to increase your facility’s income without sacrificing occupancy.
No. 9: Consider hiring a pro. Is it time for a complete overhaul of your business? Not sure where to start? It might be time to invest in a consultant. Warning: it won’t be cheap. But if you’re losing tenants, have a high employee turnover or having trouble making your monthly mortgage payment, the investment in a consultant will be well worth it. Here’s a list of self-storage consultants from the ISS Buyer's Guide who can help your business become successful again.
No. 10: Enjoy your job. Regardless if you’re an owner/operator, a full-time manager or simply log a few hours on the weekend, you should love what you do. I’m not saying every day is a slice of pie! We all have those days when we ask ourselves, “What am I doing here?” However, if customer service and sales aren’t your thing, you might be in the wrong industry.
The spotlight is on, folks. We all know the perception about self-storage is rapidly changing, so everyone expects more. There might be a McDonald’s on every corner, but you still expect great service and quality food, right? Well, self-storage is becoming “retail,” not just a place to dump Grandma’s old furniture. Expectations are high. Don’t just meet them next year, exceed them and show everyone why the self-storage industry is truly awesome!