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Thoughts From the Road 7261

February 1, 1999

5 Min Read
Thoughts From the Road

Thoughts From the Road

By Jim Chiswell

Editor'snote: The following is the first of a new bi-monthly column from industry advisor JimChiswell. The column, entitled "Thoughts From the Road," will cover a range oftopics and opinions concerning the self-storage industry.

When the editors at Inside Self-Storage asked me to write a bi-monthly columnfor the magazine, I was flattered and honored. Having written numerous industry articlesover the years, my first thought was, "I can do this." But as I thought about itmore, reality started to sink-in. I realized that my work and travel schedule might notleave me with the time to do a good job. So I decided to decline the offer. When I pickedup the phone to call Drew Whitney, editorial director at ISS, I should have knownbetter. Before I realized it, my "I'm sorry, I can't" call had turned into"These are your deadline dates for 1999, Jim. Thanks." Drew always has been agood salesperson.

Now as I approach this first column, I am very glad for the opportunity that Drew andPublisher Troy Bix have given me. During the next year, I hope to accomplish more than notembarrassing them for their choice. I plan to bring you a column of ideas and opinions,and rather than try to stick to a single topic, I'll probably bounce around with insightsand suggestions that I gather along the way. So here goes...

A Creative Solution

Don't ever underestimate the power of words. Not long ago, an industry veteran told mehe had run into an interesting new phrase while mystery shopping in his market. He hadasked a facility manager about the lack of air-conditioned space at her facility. Shequickly reassured this potential customer by saying: "You don't need air conditioninghere because we have 'positive ventilation' in all of our buildings. The air circulationis important, and we have it." I guess that is what you get when you have those goodold roof vents and attic fans working, and a creative answer to a competitive marketthreat.

I do see more and more facilities, in every climate area, being built with increasingsquare footage in climate-controlled space. It gives you the opportunity to actually sellagainst yourself. You can offer the same-sized unit for two different prices. Be carefulabout what you say or claim about your climate-controlled space. If you are just heatingto 45 or 50 degrees or air conditioning to less than 80 degrees, tell the customer. Don'topen yourself to a possible lawsuit because the customer interpreted the phrase"climate control" to be mean plus or minus 1 percent of temperature or 5 percenthumidity.

More Than Just a Thirst Quencher

I've always received good ideas at industry trade shows and conventions, and that'swhere I got this hot tip from Joe Niemczyk, president of Executive Self Storage. Joeexplained this simple idea: giving total credit to a member of his management team. On avery hot day, this manager loads up a large cooler with ice and plenty of those smallbottles of water everybody seems to be drinking these days, and straps it to the back ofher golf cart. Her trip through the complex not only offers to the quench thirst ofcustomers, but gives the facility gallons of good will. It also allows another veryimportant benefit: The manager gets to peak inside at the stuff going into or coming outof the customer's units. Just because we don't have care, custody or control over people'sproperty, does not and should not mean that we are not vigilant about what they arebringing to our property.

Please Pick-Up the Phone

Do you have a good portable phone for your manager yet--the kind that can be takenaround the entire property and will still ring? Out on the site and still answering theoffice phone--what a concept! By the way, I think that the excuse that your manager mightsneak into their apartment, kick up their feet and still answer the phone is a cop-out. Ifyou've got a manager that is going to do that--guess what? They are already doing that andthe phone is just being picked-up by the answering machine instead. Free your manager toget visible on the facility with a good cordless phone. It's worth the investment.

Rented, Overlocked, Vacant

Are you still doing daily or at least weekly lock checks? Yes, I know it can seem likejust busy work to your employees, but it is one of the most effective methods to stay ontop of a property. It's really difficult to claim that you didn't see that the far cornerof the building had been crushed if you walk by it every day doing a lock check, or thatthere were six rented units in a row without locks. Gee, wonder when that break-inhappened? It's the best outdoor activity that a manager can do. Drop me an e-mail messageif you don't know what a lock check is, and I'll send you an article.

Your Building Is a What?

A planning and zoning board tip: If you are building a multi-story building that willhave a basement, always refer to the project as a two-story building with a basementinstead of a three-story structure. It sure helps make the building sound a little smallerto officials and the neighbors.

Final Thought

The better educated your manager is on the phone, in their sales skills and in overallproperty management, the higher your rents will be. Make manager education a priority in1999.

Well, the word meter on my software tells me I've got to wrap up. I know that I covereda bunch of things, but I'm hoping that maybe one of these thoughts will help you or getyou thinking. I am really open to your comments and suggestions. E-mail is the easiest wayto reach me at [email protected]  orat Chiswell & Associates, Ltd., 1260 North Forest Road #A2 Williamsville, NY 14221.

Hope to see you at the ISS Expo in Las Vegas.

Jim Chiswell is the president of Chiswell & Associates of Williamsville, N.Y.Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence,professional-witness services and customized manager training for the self-storageindustry. In addition to contributing regularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr.Chiswell is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos.

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