If a potential love interest can be accepted or rejected by swiping right or left on a mobile device, how much latitude do you think the average customer will give your self-storage facility when he sees trash, overgrown trees or weeds on your property? How will he assess your site when your competitor down the street has stunning frontage?
Like it or not, curb appeal is an essential part of your storage business. Here are four guidelines to help your facility be the best-looking in your community.
1. Plan It
How often have you walked in your facility’s front door and passed the exact same weed? You’re busy, preoccupied, plan on doing it later, or simply forget about it until the next day when the cycle starts all over again. I have, and I’ll be the first to admit it!
You need to start with a plan. This forces you to look at what has to be done and schedule a time to do it. Nobody likes to work 10 hours in the hot July sun, so break it into manageable time slots in the early morning. The key is to scheme it out so the front office won’t suffer while you’re unavailable for an extended period. If you’re the only one manning the desk, you’ll spend shorter less time on any given project.
Every one of my employees uses a planner to aid in weekly scheduling. Part of their job is to look over what needs to be done each week and set a time to accomplish each task. This is carried over to monthly and even seasonal to-do lists. Once you commit that time to paper, you’ll find it’s much easier to achieve your goals.
2. Consider a New Set of Eyes
Just like the weed you see every day and fail to pull, there other items at your site that that, left ignored, start to blend into your surroundings. For example, I had no idea my college apartment stank. Four guys living in a confined area with chunky milk on the counter, shoes everywhere and then the bathroom ... Not smelly, right? Utterly wrong! Turns out whenever we brought anyone to our apartment, they thought someone had died there.
A few years ago at the start of summer, a self-storage facility by my house assembled an outdoor display of boxes that read, “We Sell Boxes.” As they sat in the Utah sun, they faded. By the time summer ended, they were white with some barely legible letters. Then the winter hit, and another summer. The operator kept these faded boxes up for almost two years. For more than a year, all you could see was a pile of gray that sort of resembled a stack of boxes. This facility is a big competitor in my market, so I wanted to send them a thank-you card!
Ask someone to visit your facility and do a “curb-appeal audit.” This is good for the outside as well as the interior. Have this person walk the property with a notepad and look for things like trees that need to be trimmed, windows that need to be cleaned, and keypad stands or bollards that need to be painted. Let him do this alone so you don’t have the chance to offer your opinions or excuses. Then give him a gift card to his favorite restaurant for helping.
3. Be Real About What You Need
Utah is a desert and, most of the time, we’re in a drought. While it would be nice to have lush Kentucky bluegrass everywhere, we have to be mindful of our surroundings. We designed our facilities to incorporate xeriscape landscaping whenever possible. We also opted for a drip system to deliver water to select plants.
I realize a landscaping retrofit isn’t always an option; however, as you repair or replace plants and other items around your facility, look for opportunities to lessen your workload and enhance curb appeal.
For example, at one store, we originally had three areas where we planted flowers every year. I would spend hours and hundreds of dollars planting for the summer. Then weeds would come up, and I’d have to spend more time in those three sections than anywhere else on the property. After three years, I wised up. I capped the sprinklers, planted a few bushes and laid in some rock. Now I do little to no work in those areas. Nevertheless, they’re well-landscaped and look terrific from the street.
Does your facility have any problem areas that are sucking up resources and time? Is there something you can do to solve that problem relatively easily? Even if it might cost more up front, what would the savings be over time? Look at the long term. Not only would you increase your curb appeal, you could save money!
4. Create Standards
Have you ever cleaned something and then, right afterward, had someone question whether you had done so? Unfortunately, I have. It’s not fun. We all have different standards of clean—for what the property exterior should look like and how it should be accomplished.
To keep all staff members on a similar page, add a best-practices section to your employee handbook. Set the standards you expect for the property. For example, if you want the manager to walk the exterior of the site every morning and pick up trash, then state it. If you want the floors swept and mopped once a week, include it in the manual. This will give everyone a clear understanding of what your store should look like.
As you create this section, make sure it’s not just a checklist. Add in the philosophy behind these standards and why it’s important to have a clean, well-managed facility. This document can be passed down from manager to manager; and it’s especially useful if you have more than one store. Consistency among all properties is important. Make sure each management team invests the same time and effort into facility curb appeal.
This four-step guide covers only part of your journey toward maintaining a beautiful self-storage property. When you invite people to look at your curb appeal, ask them to take notes, and use those notes to formulate an action plan. Be smart about what’s taking up most of your time. See what could be changed to save time and money and increase the overall look of your facility. If you follow these strategies, you’ll improve your curb appeal, which will make your business more attractive to new and existing customers.
Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City. His goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, innovative ideas. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” He can be reached at [email protected]. Connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.