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Self-storage operators everywhere are entering their 2014 planning and budget season. This process is critical, and it goes hand in hand with the annual business checkup, which allows you to pinpoint areas of problem performance and get your revenue goals back on track. Get your facility ready for its annual prod! Here are some tools to help guide the exam and create a checklist of items to evaluate.

Teri Lanza

September 13, 2013

3 Min Read
Prodding and Planning: Time for Your Self-Storage Operation's Annual Checkup and Budget

My college Western Civilization professor used to say that life is like a roll of toilet paper: The closer you get to the end, the faster it spins.

I was doing some shopping in a Michaels store the other day, and I was more than a little sickened to see winter-holiday decorations already filling the shelves. I know a lot of people get excited about Christmas, and if that's "your holiday," then bully for you. But all I could think was, "Where the heck did this year go?" It seems like summer just began; and now, here we are, staring down the barrel of another new year.

Business operators everywhere are entering their 2014 planning and budget season. This is when you look at your performance for the first three quarters of the year, figure out where you excelled or missed the mark, and attempt to predict your future trends and progress. No doubt there are many self-storage owners and managers out there pulling software reports and analyzing this year's occupancy, income and expenses.

Budgeting is an incredibly important part of the revenue puzzle, though it can be overwhelming. Hand in hand with the financial plan goes the annual operational checkup, a detailed examination of the business from multiple angles to determine strengths, weaknesses and areas for new growth.

I don't know about you, but I dread my annual physical with our family physician. He's a great guy, and very easy to talk to. But I worry about which new maladies he'll discover as I get older, what new restrictions he'll put on my lifestyle, and how many new to-dos he'll add to my health-maintenance checklist. I do my best to eat well, manage stress and stay in shape; but I don't always succeed, and I have my vices. Every year, it seems they cost me a bit more.

I'm sure business owners feel the same way. It can be intimidating to take such a close look at how things function. But it's got to be done. Otherwise, how can we predict and head off trouble at the pass? It's like they say about cancer: Early detection can mean a cure.

To help self-storage operators through this difficult season, we recently published a new online slideshow, "Self-Storage Metrics Checkup: 10 Facility-Performance Checklists Owners Should Regularly Review." With content provided by industry expert Alyssa Quill, vice president and managing partner of Storage Asset Management, the presentation covers 10 areas you should monitor at least once per month and includes handy lists of questions to help you identify business ailments. I encourage you to download the free accompanying PDF and share it with your staff. Use the lists as guides for team meetings and especially during your annual budget creation and review.

If you want guidance in the overall budget process, Ms. Quill can assist you there, too. Read her article, "7 Steps to Creating a Realistic Budget for Your Self-Storage Facility," or purchase the more in-depth video, "The Art of Creating Your Annual Self-Storage Budget," offered through the ISS Store. Available in on-demand and DVD formats, the film provides insight on how to use your budget to manage revenue, expenses, bank relationships and staff. It covers ways to measure and report against the budget throughout the year as well as how to create incentive plans and avoid common budgeting pitfalls.

So brace yourself, and get ready for the somewhat scary but imperative task at hand. If you're feeling vulnerable, that's OK. When it comes to your annual facility checkup, at least you don't have to don the paper dress.

Anyone working on their self-storage budget now? How's the process going? Have any tips or questions? Please post them to the blog. Perhaps you can assist a fellow operator and get solutions to your own challenges.

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