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Moving Your Facility Into the Right Century With an Expert, Independent Technology Evaluation

There’s a ton of self-storage technology available today, but some facility operators are still operating in the Stone Age. If you need help figuring out which tools to buy and how to implement them, an independent expert can assess your needs and provide guidance. Here’s what they should evaluate and how to choose a professional.

Bob Copper

August 27, 2022

6 Min Read
What to Expect From an Independent Technology Evaluation

As a kid, I enjoyed watching “The Flintstones.” Their Stone Age lives and pets amused me. But I also loved “The Jetsons” and all their gizmos and gadgets, like flying cars and Rosey the robot maid.

Sometimes, when it comes to technology, I feel more like Fred Flintstone than George Jetson. If it weren’t for my kids and grandkids, I wouldn’t even know about a lot of the options out there. I’m still not entirely sure what a TikTok is, and I can barely function in Facebook, which is starting to feel almost ancient!

I think a lot of self-storage operators feel the same way. Well, folks, it’s time for us to put away our horses and buggies and move into the right century. To run our properties professionally and profitably, we must grasp and implement technology. In fact, it’s more important than ever! The last few years have clearly taught us that offering customers more and better ways to do business with our facilities is no longer just convenient but necessary for survival. If the only way for a person to rent a unit at your property is through personal interaction with a manager, you’re using a horse and buggy in Jetsons world!

That said, it can be tough know exactly what technology you need and how to choose the best products and platforms. That’s why more and more operators are hiring outside expertise to assess their business and its requirements. Hiring the help of someone who specializes in this area is smarter, cheaper and more efficient than learning everything on your own. As they say, the wisest businesspeople surround themselves with folks who are cleverer than they are.

If you’re smart enough to move out of the Stone Age and hire a professional to evaluate your self-storage technology needs, then you’re already on the way to becoming a Jetson! Here’s what that assessment should include and why, plus a few pointers for hiring the right expert.

Website

If you don’t have a website for your self-storage operation, you must get one. If the one you have doesn’t allow tenants to rent units and make payments without needing a manager’s input, get a new one. Customers get their first impression of your business from your online presence. In far too many instances, that impression isn’t good.

Your technology evaluation should include a detailed focus on your facility website. Here’s a hint: Your site should emphasize renting units and taking payments. Customers don’t care which clubs or associations you belong to, and they don’t want to see pictures of your grandkids and dogs. It should be incredibly easy for them to see your rates, pick a unit, sign a lease and make a payment without the need to discuss it with any staff.

Management Software

Unbelievably, there are still self-storage facilities operating through the use of index cards and manual payment sheets. Talk about Stone Age! What if all that paper was destroyed in a fire or a disgruntled employee walks off with it? How are you going to replicate all those records?

The ability to run your facility effectively and profitably is dependent on using quality management software, and your chosen program (or lack thereof) should be part of your technology evaluation. Here’s a hint: The software must be Web-based and make it easy for customers to do business with you. It should interact with your website to facilitate renting units and making payments. It should provide the reports you need to better manage your facility. Finally, it should offer the ability to create, sign and store rental agreements digitally. Paper leases are from the Stone Age!

Security

Security is always one of the top considerations when potential self-storage customers are deciding where to store, so it absolutely must be addressed by your technology expert. They’ll consider what equipment you’re currently using (or not), where and how. Ask yourself: Would you store your precious belongings at your facility? If not, it’s time for an upgrade. An evaluation can help you determine what to buy and how to use it.

Choosing a Partner

Once you decide to hire someone to “look under the hood” of your facility and gauge your technology needs, the next step is finding the right professional to do the work. As with any vendor choice, it’s important to use someone who knows what they’re doing and is especially current on the industry, particularly tech platforms and tools. Never hire a vendor who needs to learn about our business using your money!

There are several industry consultants who can assist with assessing your technology needs. Even many third-party management companies work with their clients to review and implement new tools. In addition, consultants who offer feasibility studies and due-diligence audits can often review and recommend technology within specific projects. Insideselfstorage.com offers a Buyer’s Guide containing a full roster of qualified companies. Most will be willing to have an initial call to determine whether a full engagement is necessary.

Finally, always ask for references. It’s important to see work product and get confirmation of results from other owners and managers.

The Cost and What You Get

A self-storage technology review can run from a low $500 for a quick assessment to several thousand dollars for a full implementation. Remember, any cost of upgrading from the Stone Age to the 21st century is an investment in the increased revenue, profit and value of your business; but no amount of money will matter if you don’t follow through with the recommended changes!

A thorough, professional tech evaluation should look at all the ways you operate your self-storage facility, such as conducting a lien auction, overlocking delinquent units, communicating with customers and much more. All these important functions can and should have some technological aspects that’ll make the process easier and more efficient.

While the Flintstones are amusing, watching self-storage owners and managers operate as if they’re in the Stone Age isn’t. In fact, it’s just sad. In an industry experiencing some of the best performance in many years, it’s easy to keep doing what you’re doing. But self-storage is changing. If you continue to operate with a horse-and-buggy mentality, you’ll be left behind. It’s better to be Jetson today!

Bob Copper is owner of Self-Storage 101, a consulting firm specializing in self-storage, and Copper Storage Solutions, a provider of third-party management services for automated self-storage facilities. Bob and his team have worked with hundreds of owners and managers to maximize asset value, conducting countless due-diligence audits and helping owners position their facilities to sell. To reach him, call 866.269.1311 or email [email protected].

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