Inside Self-Storage 1/98

I'm Going to Explode!
Dear Waldmans: My storage facility has been in operation for a little more than a year. We are still trying to decide why we need to do this, or how we need to do that. I have a wonderful manager, but it seems the busier we get, the more we lose things. In the beginning, I didn't think this was a problem, just an oversight. But each day I seem to lose valuable information: "What was the name of the tenant that was coming by?" Or, "When did you call the past-due tenant?" Or, "Which day was the maintenance man going to spray the units for pests?" Last week my manager tells me, "Oh, I forget to tell you that I have a dentist appointment this afternoon." Meekly, I thought, "This really has to get under control. I won't make it another year without some control over my lost information." Do you have any suggestions, before I really lose my temper?
--Losing It in Sanford, Fla.

Dear Losing It: It does become very perplexing when you can't find what you're looking for, or you can't remember calling the past-due tenant. You may have a great manager, but if there is no organization things can get really out of whack. We have found all sorts of ways to get organized.

A really simple way to get started in becoming organized is to purchase a large calendar for the office wall. Make sure you have four different colors of markers--black, red, green, yellow. What color you use is up to you; just use each color consistently. Okay, let's say black represents appointments made by the staff. Red could be used for any maintenance duties, such as spraying the units or cutting the grass. Green could be used to remind managers to call on delinquent tenants. You might use the last name and always the color green. Yellow may show the need to check the units for debris or any repairs.

First, instruct all personnel to write everything down. Anyone that answers the telephone must take a complete message. Use telephone message pads and make sure everyone understands the urgent need for a name, time, reason and what the call was about. It is always a good idea to purchase the message pads that have a carbon copy. If any messages are misplaced, you always have a copy.

Another good practice to get into is placing notes concerning any tenant inside his individual file, such as why the call came in or why you made the call to the tenant, the name of the individual you talked to, and the results of the phone call. You can never take a message that is too long. When it comes to covering all the bases, you may be surprised that you have all the necessary information right in front of you. Stress the importance of the rules and make sure everyone understands the specific reasons for all this writing. Notes are good for everyone. Lists are great to remember what it is you need to do. It may help to write a list of things to do for the next day. This list should be placed in a convenient location, place, as it does no good if you can't remember where you placed it. Another tip is to have a list for any supplies you need to order and hang it in an obvious spot. Hint: don't wait until you run out of an item before placing it on the list. Make a list for the maintenance person to follow, so that he knows when to check on certain chores. It makes life easier for everyone if they know what needs to be done and when.

A father-daughter team, Stanley and Jill Waldman are self-storage owners/operators and attorneys. In addition, Ms. Waldman holds a master's degree in labor and employment law from Georgetown University. Together they have co-authored a number of books on self-storage operations, including Getting Started in the Self-Storage Business, Self-Storage Business Management Forms, The Policy & Procedure Manual for the Self-Storage Business, Selling Your Self-Storage Business and The South Carolina Tools Manual for Self-Storage Operators.

Comments and questions may be sent to: Ask The Waldmans, P.O. Box 21416, Charleston, SC 29413; or via their Web site:

Editor's Note: Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.

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