By Amy Campbell
Over the past few weeks I’ve read several online articles about how everyone is so over 2016. It seems the year was a huge FAIL on many fronts for many folks. Everyone in America is still suffering from election fatigue. We lost more than a few great celebrities (RIP Prince, Alan Rickman and David Bowie). And let’s not forget the Zika virus, Brexit, Hurricane Matthew and the deadly shooting in Orlando, Fla. Not to say there weren’t some great moments, but most of us are beyond ready for fresh start.
Regardless if your 2016 was fabulous or frightful, it’s time to refocus. For self-storage operators that means prepping for not just an uptick in business but also an increase in competition. Self-storage is the second-fastest growing industry in the country, according to an October article on the “SpareFoot Storage Beat.” Construction spending will topple $1 billion, a 124 percent increase over the $534 million spent during the first eight months of 2015, the blog stated.
If you have a new competitor—or three—in your town, it’s time to get your 2017 game face on. It begins with taking a hard look at your budget for the upcoming year. Now’s the time to examine where your business has been financially over the past 12 months and make plans for the next 12. The more detailed your budget, the better. Think about your maintenance needs, especially deferred projects, staffing, vendor contracts and other notables. Where can you make changes that will benefit the business?
One of the top expenditures in your budget should be marketing. We’re living in a digital world, and if you’re not online you’ll be left behind. This includes having a user-friendly website, ranking well on search engines and being active on social media sites. A growing audience that should be on your marketing radar is Millennials. This generation is plugged in 24/7, which makes your online presence critical to reaching them.
Another step you can take to prepare for the new year is to examine your current business practices. What changes can you make that would positively affect your business and staff? Perhaps it’s time to consider online auctions after your live auctions failed to garner great results. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate an operation procedure such as facility maintenance tasks or how you order inventory. Can you introduce a new product or service? Gather your staff and brainstorm on ways you can make the business run smoother and be more profitable.
While decreasing expenses should always be a top priority, you also need to consider ways to increase your business’ revenue. When new competition arrives or rentals decrease for another reason, many operators automatically drop rates or offer discounts. This may fill a few units, but will actually hurt the company in the long run. Instead of slashing prices, learn how to be a better salesperson. Self-storage operators have a captive audience. No one is “window shopping” for self-storage. They have a need. And while some prospects will always be price-sensitive, the majority can be won over with a customer-centric sales approach. Small changes in your sales presentation will do more for a facility than any discount program ever can
The best way to refocus in the new year is by attending the ISS World Expo, April 10-13, in Las Vegas. Whether you’re a new investor, current owner or manager, or just thinking about getting into the self-storage, you’ll find the expertise, insight and partners to help you forge a new path.
Another educational opportunity is the ISS Guidebook series in the ISS Store. Explore the topics above and so much more in two content-specific guides: Facility Operation and Building/Investing. The series is available in digital or softcover publications. You can purchase them individually or get a discount when you buy both.
What changes will you make in 2017? Add a comment below or on this thread on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s biggest online community.