The InternetAre you on board or just bored?

October 1, 1997

7 Min Read
The InternetAre you on board or just bored?

The Internet

Are you on board or just bored?

By Jim Chriswell

When I asked this magazine's editor for the opportunity to write a story on the topicof the Internet, I told her it was not just going to be about various self-storage Websites. I wanted to provide a business overview, from a layman's point of view, of how theInternet has become something that none of us can avoid or ignore.

I have found that there is a real dividing line between people when it comes to theInternet and computing in general. People appear to either embrace computers or fear them.There is very little ground in between these two sides. You may not like using computersor, like some of my friends, are not even interested in learning how to turn them on, butI honestly feel that if you ignore this growing information storehouse and new method ofconducting business, you do so at your own peril.

A recent report from INTECO, an Internet research company, estimated that 37 percent ofAmerican households are online. INTECO also reported that 57 percent of online householdsindicated annual incomes of more than $50,000. Another company, IntelliQuest Research, setthe figure at 40 percent, or 83 million adults age 16 or older, that are online. Thisreport detailed that 56 million people, or 70 percent of those using the Internet, shoppedonline in the past three months.

Actual Internet usage has been doubling every year. A recent report projected that suchuse will double every six to nine months for the next several years. If they hold true,these trends will bring us to a point where the majority of the American population willbe online within the next five years.

The other economic impact the Internet is having on the economy can be seen in thestock market. A recent Initial Public Offering (IPO) of opened at $18 ashare on NASDAQ. By the end of the day, with the stock's last trade above $86 per share, had a stock value approaching $11 billion dollars. That was almost the valueof American Airlines on that same day. Not bad for a company that was less than two yearsold and had never shown a profit.

My point is a simple one: As business people, we just cannot ignore the tidal wave thatis sweeping the country and the world. Let me give a few specific examples of how ourindustry is already using the Web. Your facility may already be online and you just don'tknow it. As I reference specific Web sites, I will also provide you with their UniversalReference Locator (URL) address.

The largest current site for potential customers to find self-storage facilitiescontinues to be Rent Net at Divided intocategories by state, this site provides links to specific individual facilities orcompanies. I have not seen a recent report on these companies' growth over the past year,but all of the public self-storage REITS have their own Web sites and so do a number ofindividual owners. Let me give you a few sites to check out yourself:

Being On Board

Is your facility already listed on the Internet? You may be surprised at the answer.Many chambers of commerce have Web sites that include all of their members. In some cases,universities and colleges have local self-storage sites listed on the institution's Website. I have run into a number of owners that had no idea that they were on the Internetin this manner.

Nothing can take the place of your own Web site. It is a little like designing a YellowPages ad, except you have more room and the costs can be significantly less. The easiestway is to sit down and look at the sites that others have created. You will find a greatdeal of creativity has already gone into many of these sites. All you have to do is go toa search engine such as Alta Vista ( and type in"self-storage." You will get back more than 7,700 pages for your review. Many ofthese sites are just subsections of a single site, but it will get you started. You mayeven get some ideas for your facility's literature and marketing materials from what youfind.

There is also a variety of specific self-storage sites that you can turn to for help. InsideSelf-Storage magazine has an excellent site at, which includes asearchable archive. You simply type in the topic that you are interested in and a searchengine retrieves recent magazine articles that may be helpful.

Jill and Stanley Waldman of Ask the Waldmans have created a great site at You can search forindustry vendors, look at their latest column, get self-storage REIT stock quotes and evensearch for projects in a given city. It's a site worth checking out.

Also remember that many of the industry associations have Web sites providing a greatdeal of information. The national Self Storage Association has a site at, the Texas Mini StorageAssociation has one at,and the New York Self Service Storage Association's site is located at Your state association may also have anonline presence.

Small-business consultant Mark Deion, based in Rhode Island, has created one of thebest business-to-business reference sites that I have found on the Web. He says he builtthis site over the past several years to provide other businesspeople with a shortcut tothe best Web sites that he has found. He also teaches MS Power Point presentations aboutthe Internet at Brown University. Mark makes no money from his site--it's just a servicethat one individual is willing to provide. I urge you to visit to seethe many national and international links he has developed.

I'll admit to spending a great deal of time on the Internet each business day. I amfortunate in that, for the past two years, I have had high-speed Internet access in myhome office via a cable-modem connection. I communicate via e-mail, research varioustopics, access banking information and buy products and services on the Web. It evensurprises me at times the information that I can find.

For example, doing research for a client recently, I discovered that a growing numberof communities have all of their real-estate tax records online. I was able to access thetax files on all of the self-storage facilities in the target market my client wasconsidering. From my office in Buffalo, N.Y., I was able to learn not only the assessedvalues and annual tax amounts, but the total square feet of each project in Florida.

There are no hard numbers on the impact that Web sites are having in generatingpossible self-storage rental leads. Judging from the attention to detail that manyself-storage companies have put into their sites, it is obvious that these owners are notwilling to be left behind. If you have not yet gotten wet, jump into the Internet. It isnot only educational, but may represent the future of marketing our industry directly tothe individual customer looking for space.

P.S. Just to set the record straight, Vice President Al Gore did not invent theInternet. In fact, the roots of the Internet can be traced back to President DwightEisenhower. In 1957, he signed the legislation creating the Advanced Research ProjectsAgency (ARPA). It is from this agency that the World Wide Web, as we know it today,evolved. Senator Al Gore did introduce the Super Computer Network Study Act back in 1986.

Jim Chiswell is the president of Chiswell & Associates of Williamsville, N.Y.Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence andcustomized manager training for the self-storage industry. In addition to contributingregularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr. Chiswell is a frequent speaker at InsideSelf-Storage Expos. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by calling his officeat (716) 634-2428.

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