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Stuff, Shmuff: Self-Storage Operators Are Really in the People Business

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As a self-storage operator, you might think you’re in the business of storing stuff. In reality, you’re in the people business. Read the philosophy of an Australia facility owner who believes the human side of the operation is among its greatest strengths.

When I started working in the self-storage industry, I thought nothing could be duller than this business. I expected people to enter my office to store their belongings, but the process didn’t seem very interesting. What I didn’t expect was the emotional state many customers would be in when renting.

My tenants store for a variety of reasons. Some are moving and in temporary need of storage for the possessions they’ve accumulated over their lifetime. Others seek storage during a home remodel. Some use it when they visit my city, Perth, Australia. We have a robust mining community here, with lots of fly-in and fly-out workers. My facility is near the local airport, so I have people who literally get off an airplane and come to me to store their luggage while they find a place to stay, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the area.

The need for storage could also be more serious. There might be a person escaping a domestic-violence situation who needs a temporary place to house belongings while seeking a permanent accommodation. When someone dies, family members might need to store the contents of the estate while the will is administered. In these instances, people are emotional. Some seem on the verge of mental collapse.

Self-storage is often needed in times of great upheaval in peoples’ lives. A life-changing event has occurred, and their next step is to walk into a storage facility. Customers have entered my office in all types of distress and are sometimes in a fragile emotional state.

I had one customer who’d been left for dead by her ex-partner after he had stabbed her. When the police caught him, he proudly admitted to “murdering” her. It must’ve been a great disappointment to him when they told him she’d survived the attack and he’d be facing attempted murder charges. This woman even showed me some of her scars.

This has been far from the dullness I was expecting. I thought I’d be providing storage and nothing else. Instead I’ve been a counselor, psychologist, listener, relationship adviser and travel guide. If it wasn’t for the major life events that cause people to require self-storage, I would never have known I possessed these skills!

Some facility operators make the mistake of thinking they’re in the business of storing stuff. In truth, we’re in the people business. Having empathy, showing compassion, and listening to customers about what’s happening in their lives will do far more for your operation than any marketing campaign ever could.

After completing degrees in commerce and law and living London for 20 years, Charles Cutbush took up the family self-storage business. Based in Perth, Western Australia, Airport Self-Storage provides solutions to anyone who needs them but particularly caters to fly-in, fly-out workers in the state’s ever reliable mining industry. For more information, visit www.airportselfstorage.com.au.

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