By James Fawcett
Your self-storage manager may be a Jack of all trades, but would you rather have Jack trying to repair roll-up doors or handling the tasks of facility marketing, sales, collections and others that actually drive revenue for your facility?
A third-party maintenance company can and should add value to your self-storage facilitys bottom line and reduce liability risks that go along with Jack climbing ladders to fix gutters or paint the building. Jack may not even have the necessary skills to handle some maintenance issues, like setting tension on an overhead roll-up door or programming the access-control system. And, hopefully, Jack is too busy dealing with paying customers to handle the day-to-day repairs.
Beyond avoiding liabilities and keeping Jack free to actually manage the facility, economies of scale on the supply side is another cost-saving benefit of working with maintenance companies. Thats because you dont have to stock parts, such as door hasps. Firms that specialize in self-storage keep many common parts in stock.
If you try to handle your maintenance in-house, youll have to keep the right equipment on hand and either stock the supplies you need or pay individually for parts as the need arises. That can be an expensive investment either way. Third-party companies buy parts in bulk and pass that savings on to you.
For example, if you buy light bulbs for your wall packs at The Home Depot, you could pay $24 to $28 each. If you hire a third-party maintenance company, youll pay about $30 for the bulb and the installation altogetherand Jack doesnt miss a customer while hes at store or create a liability risk on the ladder. Third-party maintenance companies carry the required insurance and remove the liability from your self-storage operation.
The best maintenance companies also help you identify potential problems at your facility before they become major issues. Firms that specialize in self-storage have employees who are trained to spot the first signs of safety risks or failing parts so they can be corrected immediately. Catching a small leak with some mildew behind a wall is much less costly to repair than a bad leak that has flooded a unit and left behind mold.
Myths and Misconceptions
With benefits like these, why doesnt every self-storage operator work with a maintenance company? There are myths and misconceptions in the industry. One of them is the notion of saving money by doing it yourself. Changing a light bulb or painting a wall is certainly something Jack could handle, but when the maintenance becomes more specialized and time-consuming, wisdom begs letting Jack stick to what he knows bestdriving revenue to the facilityand calling in the experts. In other words, Jack should focus on the business of self-storage rather than the business of self-storage maintenance.
Theres also the unfortunate reality that not all contractors are honest. Over the years, some operators have hired bad apples who gave the maintenance business a bad name. But the majority of companies are legitimate and do solid work, not fly-by-night contractors asking to be paid in cash under the table.
Another misconception is its less expensive to add a maintenance man to the staff and call him as needed. But these arrangements often lead to employees who take three times as long as necessary to complete a maintenance task just so they can clock more hours. Even if you hire an in-house maintenance person to service several facilities, youre still faced with stocking costly parts, along with liability insurance and workers compensation insurance, which drive up the overall cost.
Knowledge and Experience
When evaluating a maintenance company, look for knowledge and experience. Ask for referrals and get references. During the interview, ask what types of supplies the company keeps on hand and if it's staff is familiar with your type of doors, gate-access system and roof.
If you want 24-hour service, ask if the company provides it. Ask about the turnaround time for a maintenance call. Does the firm do emergency calls? If so, what's the wait time? Smaller firms may get backlogs of service requests. Also ask if the firm hires its own employees or subcontracts the work. Firms with in-house employees have more control over how the work is performed and may offer better service and pricing.
Finally, experience in the self-storage industry is vital. Although many maintenance companies could perform most of the tasks you need, those experienced with the unique needs of storage facilities are a safer choice.
James Fawcett is the president of Accent Building Restoration (ABR), which offers a full range of property and building services including cosmetic construction, painting, maintenance and other repairs. For more information, call 866.498.7391; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.abrusa.com .