Inside Self-Storage Magazine 09/2004: Clever Vicars and Other Victories

September 1, 2004

5 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 09/2004: Clever Vicars and Other Victories

Clever Vicars and Other Victories

By Jim Chiswell

Most of you can probably empathize with myfeelings of being ripped off every time you buy ink cartridges for your officeprinters. I know it is a cost of doing business, but it still upsets me to payhundreds of dollars a year for some black or colored dust.

If you share my sentiments, I have found a source that mayinterest you: a company called LaserMonks. Thats rightreal monks sellingink cartridges for printers! The Cistercian Abbey was founded more than 75 yearsago on 500 acres in the rolling hills of Wisconsin and is home to a small groupof contemplative clergymen. Let me share some of their story from their website:

Each monastery puts one monk in charge of the communitystemporal needs and activities. Among this persons duties as Steward ofTemporal Affairs is developing and managing ways to support the group and itscharities. Contrary to popular understanding, monasteries are self-supporting. Apart of their day is given to some sort of remunerative work from which theysupport their modest living needs in the monastery; then they use the rest forcharitable work. This particular group looked into various income projects, fromgrowing Shitake mushrooms and raising Christmas trees, to building a golf courseand conference center.

An income source based on a necessary consumable itemlike toner and ink cartridgeswas exactly what the monastery needed: a solid, consistent, revenue stream that would not be affected by difficult economic times. Everyone has to have toner and ink to print,especially businesses. And everyone wants to save money. Add to this the factthe monks use their profits to support their efforts in serving God and Neighboras well as for good works and you have the ultimate win-win situation.

The manufacturers the group approached were elated with thepossibilities. They suggested the monks market to schools, churches and othernonprofit organizations in addition to businesses, saying, Look, youremonks. You have an image and long tradition of being trustworthy and providingtop-quality products. Youre offering a great product at a great price. Oncepeople hear about you, its an easy decision. Why would anyone pay more money, when they can have qualityproducts for less, from monks who use the income to help others?

LaserMonks launched its e-commerce website sellinghigh-quality, guaranteed products. The site went from selling $2,000 worth ofgoods in its first year of operation to more than $500,000 in 2003. The group completely guarantees all of its products. If forany reason you are not satisfied with your purchase during the first six months,they will replace your item, credit your account or refund your money. LaserMonks does not yet sell cartridges for all printers, butit already has a huge selection. Next time you find yourself ready to buyprinter supplies, jump over to and see if they can help. You will be saving money and contributing to a good cause.

SSA Appoints Chief Staff Executive

Congratulations go to Michael T. Scanlon Jr., who was electedas the new chief staff executive for the national Self Storage Association(SSA). In my opinion, Scanlon joins the organization at a criticaltime in the history of our industry. The skills hes developed in his pastpositions in association management, lobbying and the private sector can all beapplied to his new post, which started July 1.

Scanlon has already initiated a new strategic plan for theSSA, including a partnership with the Self Storage Council of state associationsto develop new initiatives in the fields of advocacy, data generation andpublishing. The need for a closer working relationship between the national andstate associations has never been greater. Our industry continues to be underlegislative and regulative microscopes, and it is only through coordinated groupefforts we will remain strong.

I am happy to welcome Scanlon to this vital leadershipposition. The very best thing we can do to help him is make thecommitment to get all of our industry colleagues into the associations. I have talked to some people who think membership fees are toohigh. Yet, if every current member got just one new person to join, we woulddouble the size of our organizations. Remember, if your competitor is not amember, you are, in effect, carrying him. Wouldnt it be better to see hisname on the new-member list and know his check is already in the bank?

Coming to a Bookstore Near You

A book titled Self Storage iscoming to a bookstore near you. This fictional story has been written by GayleBrandeis, who won Barbara Kingsolvers prestigious Bellwether Prize in 2002for The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel. The new publication takesplace in Riverside, Calif., and is set in the world of self-storage auctions,according to the books publicity. No exact publication date for the book hasbeen released.

Anyone who believes our industry is still flying under theradar needs to change his thinking. Self-storage has been used as backdrops in several movies andtelevision shows. One of the final episodes of the popular TV series Aliasfeatured several scenes in which one of the principal characters visited anothersselfstorage unit and discovered a small arsenal of weapons. There is consistentnewspaper and magazine coverage of our industry, and not all of it is favorable.

While Brandeis upcoming novel may not reach the No. 1 spoton the New York Times Best Seller List, I can only hope there are some positivesin the book. We have a great story to tell. As an industry, we help millions ofpeople and small businesses every day, making lives easier and better organized.I hope we can continue to stress these benefits every chance we get.

Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC.Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligenceand customized manager training for the selfstorage industry. In addition tobeing a member of the

Inside Self-Storage EditorialAdvisory Board, he contributes regularly to the magazine and is a frequentspeaker at ISS Expos and various national and state association meetings. He introduced LockCheck, an inventory data-collection system,to the self-storage industry. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; visit or

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