You know our industry is onto something when the founder of a nail-care empire joins the scene. Among the more than 3,500 attendees who found their way to this year’s Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas was George Schaeffer, the founder and former CEO of OPI Products, a nail-polish manufacturer and a subsidiary of Coty Inc. In anticipation of developing his first facility, OPI Storage, in Deerfield Beach, Fla., Schaeffer wanted to learn more about the business and confirm his notions about what a good facility needs, such as high-end aesthetics, superior customer service and advanced security.
“This is a business about service. People need to feel comfortable in the facility,” he says. “I’m excited to go into the self-storage industry.”
Schaeffer is among many investors and entrepreneurs who are “hot” for storage right now. As the industry blazes with success, this year’s expo drew more than 3,500 people from all 50 states and nearly 30 countries. It also boasted more than 1,000 first-time attendees.
“The self-storage industry is a magnet for discerning professionals, and we want to help them make sound decisions,” says ISS Vice President Teri Lanza. “Our goal with the ISS World Expo is to lay a path to profitability and business fulfillment. We provide education to accommodate every level of interest, from greenhorn to veteran, and each professional role, whether that be investor, developer, owner or site manager. We provide the tools so attendees leave feeling confident in their decision-making ability and equipped to tackle challenges. It’s our privilege to serve the community this way, and the success of the 2018 event was an incredible validation of our efforts.”
One of the hallmarks of the ISS World Expo is its superb education program. This year it included 45 seminars, eight workshops, 20-plus roundtable discussions, two open-forum Q&As, several vendor presentations and other options. Nearly 100 presenters provided insight on building, investing, ownership, management, marketing and more.
“The classes and seminars offered were a really interesting mix. I'm always more interested in the classes that go over legal aspects of business management, so I gravitated more toward those,” says Anne-Marie Douglas, a first-time attendee who co-owns Lock’N’Key Storage in Newnan, Ga., with her husband.
The show opened on April 3 with four workshops, including the Development Workshop, which was doubled in length this year, from four hours to eight, and broken into two segments. The first focused on the planning stages of a new project, while the second explored the nitty gritty of construction. The pair drew a record attendance of more than 600 students.
A rousing opening session by Calvin Stovall, chief experience officer and iconicity enthusiast for ICONIC Presentations LLC, set an encouraging tone for the first day of seminar-track education on April 4. Titled “Inside-Out Service: A 3-Step Process for Building a Business Customers Will Love,” the presentation focused on ways to deliver a memorable customer-service experience with every tenant interaction. Armed with statistics, real-world examples, and a good dose of humor and entertainment, Stovall presented tactics operators can immediately employ to provide an emotional connection with consumers.
From Stovall’s session, attendees raced into one of five seminar rooms, where presentations were organized into comprehensive tracks. After several hours of intense education, they enjoyed the popular “Self-Storage Q&A,” where attendees gathered to ask questions, share advice and potentially win prizes. This year’s open forum was hosted by a new dynamic duo: self-storage attorney Jeffrey Greenberger, who led the discussion despite having broken his leg and endured surgery the day before, and Stephanie Tharpe, senior vice president of operations for A+ Storage of Tennessee LLC.
The show continued on April 5 with more seminars and a full slate of roundtable discussions covering a wide range of topics, from roll-up door maintenance to live-chat platforms to facility security and much more. The final education component of the day was the well-attended Self-Storage Legal Q&A, also hosted by Greenberger.
The expo concluded on April 6 with four specialty workshops: Advanced Legal Workshop, Management Workshop, the Owner/Operator Executive Workshop and the returning Sales-Skills Workshop, which attracted more than 170 participants this year.
First-time attendee Darrell Nead, owner of Nead Self Storage in Fort Atkinson, Wis., enjoyed the education tracks as well as the Buyers & Sellers Meeting, where he had the chance to interact with other real estate investors. “I was impressed with how organized the show was. Everything was close, and there was a great selection of seminars,” he said.
Expanding Global Appeal
International participation in the ISS World Expo continues to grow every year. In 2018, the show welcomed more than 200 attendees from 28 countries outside the U.S. In addition to the general curriculum, they were invited to participate in a full-day International Program of seminars on April 4 and Sessions in Spanish on April 5. Experts from various regions of the world shared their insight on industry growth, development challenges, investment opportunities and more. They also participated in a special networking session that featured storage professionals from more than 10 countries.
Long-time attendee Robert Madsen, president of U-Lock Mini Storage Group, which operates six facilities in British Columbia, Canada, brought eight of his employees. The crew met onsite to discuss what they were learning and make plans for their individual locations. “The experience is very positive and it brings good momentum,” Madsen says. “They love being entrenched in all things self-storage. They get to share, talk and learn. It’s been a super eye-opener.”
The expo hall at this year’s event was once again sold out. Nearly 200 companies, including 23 first-time exhibitors, displayed their goods, answered questions and provided demonstrations of their products. An overflow room included 14 additional companies, and several industry associations and two charity organizations set up camp in the main hallway.
Many exhibitors changed up their booths this year to create dynamic and interactive destinations to attract attendees. Some opted for lounge-style open spaces, complete with comfy furniture and tables, while others featured full or smaller versions of their products.
On the Move Inc., a provider of truck-rental programs, parked a full-sized vehicle on the show floor and sponsored a caricature artist. Trachte Building Systems erected an actual self-storage structure including a typical unit, and partial roof and corridor. Janus International Group LLC expanded its booth to include a video wall and two giant “iPhone” screens demonstrating its SecurGuard Smart Entry System.
Attendees were also treated to plenty of swag. In addition to the usual bounty of bags, pens and candy, there were bottle openers, hats, T-shirts, beverage koozies, lanyards, flashlights and even branded adhesive bandages. There were also a few “special guests,” including a glamorous showgirl in the SelfStorageAuction.com booth. MiniCo Insurance Agency LLC welcomed an impersonator for the rock band Kiss.
One of Douglas’ favorite parts of the expo was interacting with suppliers and learning about new offerings. “The variety of vendors and booths was impressive,” she says. “Everyone was so helpful and knowledgeable about their products and services.” She was especially impressed by smartphone apps that opened unit doors. “My customers would love it!”