When I was a kid, one of the traditions that ushered in the New Year was the annual list of predictions from famed psychic Jeane Dixon. Dixon gained prominence for supposedly forecasting the assassination of John F. Kennedy (without naming him) in 1956—four years before he was elected president. By the time I came to know who she was, her annual predictions were fodder for “The National Enquirer” audience but still had wide notoriety.
As a Southern California kid, my favorite pick from Dixon and others was always the annual warning about The Big One—the earthquake of all earthquakes that would brake California off from the rest of the mainland. It stood to reason that sooner or later someone would be right (at least about a sizable quake), but whenever someone was brazen enough to pinpoint a day, some Los Angelenos were apt to throw doomsday parties in mocking defiance.
The partiers ultimately always had the last laugh because even though an earthquake in California may have seemed worthy of prediction, it’s still an incident left to chance. In her career, Dixon was certainly more often wrong than right, but like anyone making a reasonable forecast, she stood a better chance of being accurate when taking several factors into account to formulate an educated guess.
The good news for self-storage operators is that approaching your business as an astute observer rather than an outright guesser, means you can make reasonable and accurate annual forecasts about how your facility or investments will perform. This, of course, takes a lot more work than firing off a bunch of random predictions, but in the end, you’ll likely be far more successful.
Whether you’re a self-storage manager, owner, developer or investor, the Inside Self-Storage Store was created to provide industry education and tools to help you predict the future and, to some degree, control the outcome. With that in mind, following are some products to help you hone your crystal-ball gazing skills.
For self-storage operators, understanding how your facilities are performing is critical to budgeting, property value and understanding what’s helping or hurting your bottom line. In “Stop Going With Your Gut! Installing Data-Driven Decision-Making at Your Self-Storage Facility,” Matthew Van Horn discusses how small operators can leverage data to gain a competitive advantage. Among his takeaways are why gut decisions are dangerous and how to sift through data to find the information you really need.
Similarly, “How to Audit Your Self-Storage Facility Like a Pro: A Case Study” presented by Magen Smith will help you identify weak spots that can be corrected to increase revenue. Beyond identifying theft, owners can use audits to train staff, improve processes and ensure local laws are being followed. Smith shares real examples of audit results and how owners not only found deficiencies in their operations but improved their business.
When considering the future, a company must evolve and embrace technology. The best technological tools not only improve efficiencies but assist decision-making. In “The Age of the 'Unreasonable Consumer': Tech Essentials for Self-Storage, Today and Tomorrow,” Phil Murphy discusses how the new age of consumerism impacts self-storage, sharing insight to customer-communication strategies, technological essentials for tenant convenience and facility automation. The self-storage owner and entrepreneur also provides his thoughts on artificial intelligence, chatbots and social-media-based customer service that may change the industry moving forward.
If you’re in the process of finding a piece of ground to develop, looking to purchase a storage facility or considering an expansion project to an existing property, being able to predict a successful outcome or avoid a bad investment is paramount. Through our partnership with Colliers International, the “Custom Expense Report” provides self-storage income and expense data based on a specific U.S. address. It offers a comparison against national data as well as income and expense metrics from actual self-storage facilities as close in proximity and type to the subject property as possible. Expenses are broken into nine categories including advertising, general and administrative, repairs and maintenance, offsite and onsite management, property insurance, real estate taxes, utilities, and reserves.
Another powerful tool is Storage World Analyzer Software, a cloud-based program from self-storage owner Mark Helm. The tool is designed to provide self-storage buyers and investors with cash-on-cash return estimates and 10-year cash-flow projections based on unit mix and assumption variables, including acquisition price and other investment costs, income, expenses, occupancy, capitalization rate, and debt service. The latest version includes modules that allow users to make long-term projections on all types of self-storage property investments including existing facility acquisitions, raw land with new construction, conversion projects and facility expansions.
These are just a few of the many products in our inventory that can provide advice and business intelligence from which you can confidently make decisions. You don’t have to have psychic powers to accurately predict the future. Much of business success is about eliminating guesswork. Learning how to find, analyze and interpret key information is a great place to start.