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Self-Storage Report Card: Evaluating 2014 in Preparation for the New Year

If you’re a self-storage owner or manager, it’s vital to the success of the business year ahead that you spend a few minutes looking over your shoulder at the results of 2014. Here are some key points you should measure.

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January 8, 2015

3 Min Read
Self-Storage Report Card: Evaluating 2014 in Preparation for the New Year

By Jim Chiswell  

I don’t know how it happened, but we stand in the doorway to 2015! A new year awaits with all of its different challenges and opportunities. If you’re a self-storage owner or manager, it’s vital to the success of the business year ahead that you spend a few minutes looking over your shoulder at the results of 2014. Here are some key points you should measure.

The comparison of year-to-date results versus budget targets can provide a detailed report card on your facility and management team’s performance. I have to admit that I’m still amazed when I talk with owners and managers who admit they’ve never written an annual budget. I could do an entire workshop on why everyone needs a budget.

The bottom line is if something isn’t measured it may not get accomplished. Without at least a budget to measure your progress, you’re left with just a gut feeling of whether you’re doing better month to month and year over year. At a minimum, you need to examine the following results as you prepare for the new year.

  • How do your move-in/move-out ratios compare to prior years? It’s easy to set up a trend-line chart when you’ve owned and operated a storage business for a number of years. This is more than just a math exercise about whether you had a positive or negative ratio. Did your monthly new rentals parallel the patterns from prior years? Or is there greater seasonality in your pattern?   

  • What’s the average length of stay of your customers? Has it increased—as it appears has been the pattern across the country—or decreased? Have you seen a move-out trend of long-term customers?   

  • Did you increase the average sales of your facility’s moving and packing products per new rental? We’re earning 50 percent margins on the sale of most these products, yet most owners/managers don’t set a dollar target for product sales per rental.   

  • Where did your customers come from in 2014? Using a nine-digit ZIP code or a simple digital-mapping program, you can quickly see where your customers are coming from and compare that to past years. Did that new facility that opened two miles from you erode your market share from that ZIP code? This type of data will provide valuable insight into where to spend your marketing resources.

Using the various Internet tools available, especially website analytics, you can gauge the effectiveness of one of your most valuable marketing tools. Beyond just your website, you should examine your overall digital footprint. Are you taking advantage of all the free things you could be doing on the Internet to increase your search engine optimization? This process should start by making sure your facility is properly located on Google and Bing Maps.

Have you claimed your listing on every free site available? Many folks overlook the online membership directory of their local chamber of commerce and even their state’s self-storage association. These organizations maintain a searchable database of facilities for the general public—it’s free advertising for you!

I could go on and on with a list of data points you should review. I hope the year ahead will exceed your every expectation. It begins with just a bit of hindsight of 2014 as you prepare to take on 2015. 

Jim Chiswell is an industry veteran and owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence, coaching and customized manager training. He can be reached at [email protected] or www.selfstorageconsulting.com

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