Toughing It Out

September 1, 2004

6 Min Read
Toughing It Out

Toughing It OutWhen the going gets rough, Duffy gets goingBy Kimberly HundleyIN his 34 years, Inside Self-Storagecolumnist Scott Duffy has been down, but hes never been out. The founder ofSelf Storage Capital Group Inc. doesnt know how to give up, which is fortunate, because hissetbacks would have most of us brandishing our lily-white flags. If triumphingover adversity and beating the odds was an Olympic sport, Duffys place on thepodium would be guaranteed.

A born entrepreneur, Duffy started his first company while afreshman studying business at the University of San Diego. His life derailedduring junior year after a car accident in Mexico left him with two brainhemorrhages and a months-long recovery period. Duffy was forced to drop out ofschool. Unable to read or even watch TV, he listened to music and inspirationaltapes, including those by motivational guru Tony Robbins.

Duffy was so intrigued with Robbins presentation, hedecided to work for the best-selling author and speaker. I tried to apply fora job as an intern, and they offered me something much bigger than that. To this day, I dont know why, says Duffy, who joinedRoberts team at the age of 20 as international representative, sellingprograms and conducting workshops throughout the United States and Canada.

Cherishing the Plateau

Just one year later, Duffys hectic schedule shuddered to astop. He was back in the hospital, having sustained severe injuries in abicycling accident. This time, recovery would take a year. Duffy wasunderstandably frustrated. Why him? Why again? But his experiences with Robbinsand other inspiration specialists fortified him against despair.

Working for Tony enabled me to work one on one with someincredible people, including top athletes, entertainers and community people,who had overcome significant personal or professional challenges to get wherethey were, Duffy says. I had this reference about what a person could andcouldnt do. I believe what we can do is absolutely incredible. What we usually do can be disappointingbut we have thisunbelievable potential that most of us havent been able to tap into.

Two key pieces of advice helped Duffy through his healing. Heremembered the words of writer George Leonard about how a persons developmentmap includes plateaus. You need to be able to recognize when you are on theplateau and love that, because that is where growth and progress take place,says Duffy. Another thing that stuck with me was the saying, You are goingto have good days and bad days. But you wont know which is which because youdont know what you are going to make of the experience. Duffy emergedfrom the accident determined to enter the budding dot-com industry in SanFrancisco as a businessman.

Darkest Hour

Breaking into the highly competitive technology business wouldprove to be one of Duffys biggest challenges. He applied everywhere he could,hopping from couch to couch in friends homes while maintaining an apartmentwith his sister in Los Angeles. He was running out of money and occasionallysleeping in his car. Then the crucial moment arrived: Duffy was down to his last$100 and knew hed be bunking in his vehicle again. Was it time to give up hisdream?

I had to make a decision in that moment. Was I going tosettle and take a job close to home, or was I going to figure out a way to getinto the technology business? What I did was drive home, grab my things, pawnthem, pay my sister the back rent, take the remainder and go right back up toSan Francisco. And it was shortly thereafter that I got a job. You might call itmy darkest hour. I would say it was one of the best days of my life.

Duffy used his pawn money to buy pizzas for a brand-newcompany, Infoseek, pasting a photo of his face inside the boxes. Companyofficials loved his chutzpah, but said to wait a few weeks for an interviewbecause the sales rep was out of town. Disappointed to come so close with hisfinances near nil, Duffy boldly persevered. Its just the way Im built.When I have a goal, I am committed to doing everything necessary to make itwork, he says.

Ultimately, Duffys career would read like a Whos Who ofdot-com giants. He joined the startup team for, which sold for $78million to Lycos. He launched West Coast sales and opened offices for CBSSportline, and boosted revenue for as vice president. In 2001, Duffy moved to the Fox Sports Internet Group, closinga major distribution deal for the company. By the time he left the tech sectorin search of new entrepreneurial opportunities in real estate, hed never haveto worry about where to sleep again.

The Road to Storage

Deciding to depart Fox wasnt easy, but Duffy felt a pull toreturn to his familys traditional business of real estate. I wanted tofocus on building businesses based on passive income, generating businesses thatpay you while sleep. He asked his brother for advice, saying, Whats 180degrees from what I now do? The answer was unexpected: self-storage. Duffy researched the industry and fell in love with it. Isaw a big market, a highly fragmented market and a relatively unsophisticatedmarket. All that combined looked like a great opportunity.

Last year, Duffy formed Self Storage Capital Group Inc., areal estate investment company specializing in developing, acquiring andmanaging self-storage facilities. The company creates syndications that includeinstitutions and private investors.

Duffy says the groups market outlook is what differentiateshis company from others. Our mantra is patience. I believe most of todays realestate investors are like day traders at the height of the dot-com boomtheydont really know what they are getting into. I believe we are experiencing nothing more than a good,prolonged real estate cycle. I am busy preparing our company and laying thegroundwork so when this bubble bursts, we are in the right place at the righttime.

Self Storage Capital Groups ultimate goal is to close dealsthat are win-wins for partners and investors. The company recently launched anacquisition and development division based on feedback from partners. We want to make the process of buying and developing aself-storage business turnkey, Duffy says.


Duffys story was featured earlier this year in Entrepreneurmagazine, which is tracking his foray into self-storage. Though Duffy willalways find encouragement in the teachings of Robbins and other successfulpeople who have shared their insights, his main inspirations these days arewife, Tera, and pug dog, Sarah.

The secret of slaying obstacles and fulfilling potential isall about attitude, if Duffys life is any indication. I think what has de-fined my careerwhether its been personal challenges or going intodifficult business situationsis that Ive been successful in turning thosethings around and creating a win, he says.

Does Duffy have any advice for those striving to make it inthe business world today? First, align yourself with people you trust andgenuinely like, he says. Second, be patient. Dont get caught up in the hype. Ifthe numbers dont work, they dont work. And it nearly goes withoutsayingdont be too quick to believe youre having a bad day. It could bethe start of something beautiful.

For more information, call 310.656.0900; e-mail [email protected]. Duffy also contributes abimonthly column to

Inside Self- Storage titledBusiness in Development.

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