Writing isn’t easy. Even professional authors need strategies and tricks to help them through the process, from using a special pen to sitting in a distraction-free room.
If you’re looking to launch a self-storage business and attract investors, you first need a plan; but writing one can be tough. You want it to be enticing but accurate. Blandness and mistakes can be costly, each in their own way.
So, what do you do? Channel your inner Tom Clancy! As the author of more than 17 bestsellers, the man knew what he was about. He said, “Writing is beastly hard work, which one would just as soon not do. It’s also a job, however; and if you want to get paid, you have to work. Life is cruel that way.” Amen, Tom, amen. Now let’s get paid, my self-storage brothers and sisters. Hallelujah!
I’m going to assume you know how to use the Internet to figure out the essentials any business plan must contain. Now, I’m going to take a page from Tom’s playbook and share five tips that will help you polish it up to be “The Best Self-Storage Business Plan of All Time … With No Expensive Mistakes.”
Keep Your Audience in Mind
Who’s going to read your business plan? Is it potential investors with whom you need to make a positive impression quickly? Is it bankers, who are formal and more concerned with detailed financial analysis than a unique concept or impressive resume? What about potential partners who are wondering what their roles would be in the operation? Is it managers who need a clear, strategic vision and objectives?
Depending on the audiences your plan will serve, you may need to create multiple versions. The good news is the financial analysis will stay the same. The points you want to stress to each audience will vary.
Don’t Bury Assumptions in Facts
What’s the difference between fiction and reality? Tom says, “Fiction has to make sense.” The reason “The Hunt for Red October” is compelling is because it seems like it really happened. In a business plan, your fictional statements are called “assumptions,” and you need to make sure they’re clearly labeled as such.
State the assumptions your plan makes, and then support them with research and industry data. Don’t mislead the reader by portraying them as reality. Market demand, lease-up schedules and phasing projections are examples of reasonable assumptions every self-storage investor must make. You should capture all of these from your feasibility study.
Create Personas for Key Customer Segments
Your self-storage facility is going to serve human beings. Your feasibility study should provide information about them. Your business plan should talk about who they are, what they want and how to reach them.
Review the demographic (age, gender, salary, family, etc.) and psychographic (attitudes, lifestyles, values, etc.) data of the customers your facility will serve and create personas for the key segments of your target audience. Once you know their primary goals, challenges, values and fears, you can create a specific marketing message and strategy for each customer type.
This is the essential starting point for developing an exceptional facility. Not only is it the basis for your unit mix, personas are the stars of everything you envision. Follow Tom’s advice: “Don’t just write, tell a story.” And use your personas as the main characters.
Fill Knowledge Gaps With a Pro
No one is an expert in everything. Your business plan will have knowledge gaps. For example, perhaps you’re good at financial analysis but don’t know anything about marketing. That’s OK. Get help with that part from a professional.
Even if you consider yourself a “self-storage expert,” you may still need help from engineers, attorneys and accountants. Your “Best Business Plan of All Time” will need input from other experts, from a feasibility consultant to a property-management company, depending on your limitations.
Embrace Hard Work
Never use a “boilerplate” business plan. Self-storage isn’t a boilerplate business! Simply cutting and pasting is an easy way to set yourself up for failure. If you follow the advice Tom and I have given you above, your plan will be unique, and going through the process will lead you to explore the distinct advantages and challenges of your project. The more you research and learn, the better equipped you’ll be to customize and revise.
Before he created a spy-book phenomenon encompassing more than 100 million books sold, multiple movies and video games, Tom was a humble insurance agent. His relentless pursuit of excellence led to his tremendous success, and channeling his attitude can help lead you to your dream self-storage facility. As he said, “If you want to kick the tiger in his ass, you'd better have a plan for dealing with his teeth.” You heard the man. Now get to work!
Katherine D’Agostino is the founder of Self-Storage Ninjas, a feasibility-analysis firm delivering unbiased reports resulting in facilities with high occupancy and the highest possible returns. She offers a free, weekly newsletter that provides insider techniques, ready-to-use calculators, downloadable spreadsheets and data sources. For more information, visit www.selfstorageninjas.com.