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One on One With Clark Hotard

February 1, 2000

7 Min Read
One on One With Clark Hotard

One on One With Clark Hotard

i021lk0.jpg (16710 bytes)With an extensive background in the self-storage industry, Clark Hotardbrings a unique perspective and depth to his role as sales manager for Overhead DoorCorp.'s self-storage system products. The company, based in Dallas, pioneered theupward-acting door industry, inventing the first overhead door in 1921 and the firstelectric-door opener in 1926. Today, the company and its divisions--including W.B. McGuirefor loading dock equipment and impact traffic doors, and Horton Automatics for automatedpedestrian entrances--is recognized as one of the nation's single-source manufacturers ofintegrated door and operator systems for residential, commercial and industrialapplications.

Beginning his career in the early 1960s with B&M Corp., Mr. Hotard servedclients in the pre-fab building market and was instrumental in developing time-savingsolutions for client Kentucky Fried Chicken's rollout of approximately 1,000 store units.In 1974, he moved on to Tenneco, where he served as project manager, designing andremodeling service stations.

In 1982, as a private consultant, Mr. Hotard began developing self-storagefacilities for private investors. As the industry was new, he was challenged to addressand solve problems related to a variety of facility issues, such as security and climatecontrol. In 1986, he joined a competing company to standardize construction procedures inthe field, and soon thereafter moved into sales. At Overhead Door, Mr. Hotard acts as theteam leader for direct sales efforts targeted to the self-storage industry. His productand industry knowledge are instrumental in expanding the company's presence in that arena.

ISS is now pleased to present an interview with Clark Hotard...

Why don't you begin by giving us a little bit of background on your involvementwith self-storage and Overhead Door Corp.?

I got involved in this industry in 1982 building a facility in Jackson, Miss., while Iwas working as a consultant. I was also involved in one of the first climate-controlfacilities in New Orleans in 1983-84. That's when climate-control was just coming into itsown. Since then, in the course of my career, I've built several self-storage facilitiesfrom the ground up. Ironically, I worked for a competing company for 12 years.

Overhead Door was founded in 1921 and invented the sectional garage door. In 1926 theyinvented the first electric garage-door opener. The company has grown since then toinclude virtually every type of commercial door produced in the United States.

Last December I was brought on board to head the self-storage division, which involvesdesigning new, state-of-the-art door products, including hallway systems, dividingpartitions, etc. These are the only products we offer related to this particularindustry--the door that we have on the market now. And we're prototyping the self-storagehallway-system products as we speak. Those should come online in the next few months.

What we're trying to do is develop a self-storage hallway system using a flush and asemi-flush system, but also using advanced design technology and engineering to make ituser- and installer-friendly. We also have a state-of-the-art self- storage door--thecommercial door and the wind-loaded door--with several snap-on parts that eliminate a lotof fasteners and allow for a faster install and smoother operation. All three models havesealed ball bearings in the head plates as a standard feature.

What have you noticed in the evolution of this product since you've been in thebusiness?

Well, I've seen things come along such as tensioning devices, the use of ball bearings,the use of snap-on components to eliminate fasteners, as well as efforts to make the dooreasier to install and operate. I've seen changes in packaging from individual doors in abox trailer to putting doors on pallets and being moved by a forklift. I've seen theadvent of 20-year paint. The product has evolved in that regard, but the door itselfreally hasn't changed that much.

What do you see happening in self-storage as it pertains to your business, orin general?

I see the construction of more and more climate-control facilities, and the reason forthat is two-fold: There are buildings available that can be retrofitted with relative easeand speed because the building is already there and existing. At the same time, I see landcosts increasing. So consequently, less land is available for self-storage, and moreclimate-control will be built.

In years gone by, a self-storage facility could have several buildings on severalacres. Now with land costs on the rise because of the boom we're experiencing in thiscountry, people are buying less land and doing more with it, incorporating one largebuilding with 300 to 500 units in it, and having it entirely climate controlled. Anotherthing we'll see coming about is this change: Before, climate-control units were containedvirtually all on the inside of a facility. Now, I see the advent of a new prototype to bebuilt that will have exterior, climate-control units, complete with a device that willkeep the air-conditioning from being wasted. I also see much more multistory buildingcoming on. Some of the major companies, such as Public Storage, have been buildingmultistory facilities for a few years now--large, multistory facilities.

How much of a slowdown--if any--do you predict in development as a result ofmarket saturation?

As long as there's reasonable money available, you'll see continued growth. Thisindustry had peaked at one time during a recessionary period when no funds were availableto build with, unless you had a company that was on the stock exchange, or a REIT; but aslong as we don't see any drastic increases in the percentage of the prime rate, thingsshould continue at an equal or only slightly slower pace. I don't see any more than a 4percent or 5 percent decrease. I've been hearing about saturation for years, but I don'treally see that much of it. Certainly there are areas that are overbuilt, but everybody'sstill renting. And they're still building. Take Dallas, for instance. I've been expectingDallas to quit building for years and years, but that city has building going oneverywhere.

I don't really don't see--unless the money supply is squeezed off--a halt in building.We've got an engine going here. It's climbing up the mountain full speed, so to speak; sounless somebody puts the breaks on--and they can certainly do that--I see continuedgrowth.

Is there more demand for storage now?

I think there's more demand in that, nationwide, people are more apt to rent a unitthat's climate-controlled. In years gone by, there wasn't climate control available, andpeople didn't want to put their valuables in an area that could get dusty or wheremoisture could cause damage. Now, with the increase of climate-control facilities andpeople getting more accustomed to the concept, they're more apt to trust a facility withtheir goods.

What have you noticed in terms of an increase of amenities at self-storagefacilities, such as the sale of ancillary products?

I've noticed boxes personalized with logos available at various facilities, along withtruck rentals and packing materials among other things. This is business like anythingelse. There are ancillary products owners can get involved with, and if they don't takeadvantage of it, they're losing good income. This trend will continue and you'll see moreand more related products.

What do you see Overhead Door contributing to the industry as we enter the newmillennium?

Overhead Door is a well-established company. We have a reputation for service andquality that far exceeds market expectations. We have a full staff of engineers who areconstantly redesigning and improving each and every product we offer. We also have awell-established network of distributors throughout the United States who represent ourcompany, some of them third and fourth generation. They're here to help us with these newproducts, in the warranty work as well as post-warranty work, which is a tremendousadvantage to us.

We provide a 24-hour, toll-free number for our customers to call and receive the properassistance with warranty and non-warranty issues. We are not owned by a steel company--ourprimary focus is doors. The best selling point we have is that we can call on ourdistributors for help in solving problems, such as broken springs or other things of thatnature that come up, without the customer needing to locate help and possibly not gettingthe service he needs to continue his business. We feel this is a great advantage to us,and we intend to utilize it to its greatest potential.

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