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Thoughts From the Road 6854

November 1, 2000

5 Min Read
Thoughts From the Road

Thoughts From the Road

By Jim Chiswell

Thisrepresents my final column of this year, and I find myself overwhelmed with somany things I would like to say. However, with this limited space, I'veprioritized my list and will touch on just a few.

Year-End Evaluations

As we move toward the last 60 days of 2000, it hardly seems possible that ayear ago we were getting ready for "The End of the World" as the newmillennium approached. In fact, the Y2K "bug" forced businesses acrossthe world to upgrade their technology. The implementation of these newtechnologies and computer-based systems appears to have provided the states withthe competitive advantage in sustaining the longest peace-time economic boom onrecord.

It has been a very good year for many of us in the self-storage industry.Occupancy rates at most facilities have remained strong. Although there is aweakening ability to increase rental rates because of increased competition,rates still remain at historic highs at most facilities. It seems that as smallbusiness people in prosperous times our nature is to become lazy. Yet it isprecisely at this time that we need to take a cold, sobering look at ourperformance during the past year and map out our goals and financial budgets forthe year ahead.

If you, as an owner, do not have a formalized year-end evaluation process foryour facilities and employees, I urge you to start this year. You must look atall the physical aspects of your facility such as roofs and paving. This reviewshould include not only financial performance, but also an analysis of thesubtle changes that may be taking place at your facility along with employeeassessments. Has the average length of stay of your customers increased ordecreased? Has the number of customers from the various ZIP-code areas you servechanged significantly? Did your average rental rate per square foot meet yourexpectations?

In terms of your employees, you need to objectively evaluate each person'sperformance. Everyone needs to have his work validated. Have they increased ordecreased their call ratios? Are delinquencies in line with budgets? Have youremployees met your expectations as an owner over the past 10 months? Having eachemployee do a personal evaluation can produce surprising results. Many timespeople turn out to be harsher critics of themselves than their employers.

Take advantage of the remaining two months to prepare your team for the yearahead. In some cases, owners have conducted their year-end reviews and goal-setting sessions during an overnight retreat.

Wine Storage

I was overwhelmed by the interest in the panel discussion we conducted at theInside Self-Storage Expo in Nashville, Tenn., in August. George McCord ofSoutheast Storage and Development and Joe Niemczyk of Executive Self Storagejoined me in presenting an overview of this niche storage market. George and Joeboth shared their personal experiences in developing wine-storage areas withintheir self-storage facilities.

In preparing for this educational session, I was amazed at the scope anddepth of the wine industry. We have added a number of links and some additionalwine- storage information on our website, www.selfstorageconsulting.com.If you are considering venturing into this niche market, go slowly and do plentyof research. The message from our Nashville panel was that wine storage can be anew profit center, but is not for everyone and certainly not for most locations.

Take Advantage of the Internet Freebies

Ok, so you paid someone to set up your website and you expected the world tobeat a path to your door, right? But your site has not gotten any hits and,subsequently, no rentals. You are beginning to wonder what all this hype aboutthe Internet being the new marketing paradigm (saving us all from the YellowPages) was all about.

Now that you have your website, the marketing work has just started. Thereare a number of steps you need to take to ensure your site is getting attentionfrom the very people you are seeking as customers. In addition to registeringyour site with the various search engines and setting the meta tags on yourpages, you need to take advantage of all the freebies that are available. Yourlocal chamber of commerce (that you, of course, joined, right?) probably has awebsite accessed by a multitude of individuals and businesses every day. Is yourwebsite prominently linked to its site, and its site clearly linked to you?

One of the best opportunities is being offered by this very magazine, whichnow sponsors a website at www.move-n-storage.com,which provides a national, searchable database of facilities by ZIP code. Makesure you are taking advantage of this site. There are a number of other siteshosting links to self-storage facilities as well. You can go to any of the keysearch engines, such as www.google.com, www.altavista.comor www.hotbot.com and search under"self-storage." You will be amazed at all the websites you find.

You should also be tracking all of your competitors' websites and comparingtheir features with those of your own site. You can gain valuable informationfrom examining their sites on a regular basis. This is similar to theexamination you should be doing when a new Yellow Pages book comes out.

I can promise you that the Internet and web-based marketing is here to stay.It will be playing an increasing role in how we, as an industry, conduct ourbusiness in the future. Please don't turn your back on it now. Embrace it andfind a way to focus some resources into keeping pace with its growth.

I'll Be Back...

I am excited that Inside Self-Storage Publisher Troy Bix and Editor TeriLanza have invited me to return next year with my bi-monthly column. I'll admitthere have been times this past year when I just barely met Teri's copydeadline.

I sincerely enjoy having the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas withyou. It is still energizing for me to hear from owners and managers who read mycolumn and say that something I wrote helped them in making their own businessmore profitable. I urge you to continue to share your thoughts and ideas withme. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to seeingyou at the Inside Self-Storage Expo in Las Vegas, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2001.

Jim Chiswell is the president of Williamsville, N.Y.-based Chiswell &Associates. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisitiondue diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. Inaddition to contributing regularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr. Chiswell is afrequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos and various association meetings.Mr. Chiswell can be reached via e-mail at [email protected];phone (716) 634-2428; www.selfstorageconsulting.com.

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