When you interviewed for your self-storage position, you likely presented yourself in a professional manner. You wanted to come across as someone who could represent the company well, so you’d be remembered in a positive way. You showed the interviewer that you took the opportunity seriously and would do what you could to earn their trust.
Those same principles should apply to the way you portray your self-storage facility to customers. Your curb appeal is that first impression, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. How attractive is your property to those walking or driving by, or taking a tour? Customers like that “wow” factor. They want to know their belongings will be somewhere the manager takes pride in and cares for the property. How can you “sell” your facility as the best place to store goods if it looks like the Old West with tumble weeds blowing by?
Just like when you go to a job interview, your facility should be “dressed” for its role as the customer’s top storage provider. If you think about it, every prospective tenant is interviewing your business to see if it fits their needs. Furthermore, people who don’t even need storage yet will see your facility as they drive or walk by. So, take a step back and see what message your property presents to the community. Does it stand out in a good way or simply blend into the surrounding area? Worse, does it scare folks away?
To ensure your self-storage facility makes best first impression with current and future tenants, staff, and neighbors, consider the following advice.
Areas to Scrutinize
All self-storage facilities should look and feel welcoming to customers. To determine where your site needs attention, start at one corner and walk your way around, taking notes about how it could be improved. Pay close attention to the following areas:
Landscaping. This includes the grass, trees, bushes, flowers, weeds, etc. If you can’t remember to water the grass, how can customers trust you with their belongings? They might think, “If the outside is this bad, how horrible is the inside?”
Perimeter fencing. If your fence is covered in graffiti or has water stains, faded paint or security vulnerabilities, you need to fix it. It’s reasonable to believe that if you have those problems, you may also be attracting tenants you don’t want. Would-be thieves often seek out businesses that appear rundown or mismanaged because they believe it’ll be easier to get away with crimes.
Parking lot. When a potential customer pulls up, what do they see? Are your parking-space lines bright and clean? Are the handicap spots within regulation and neatly presented? Remember, this is an important part of your facility's first impression.
Keypads. Inspect these regularly for cleanliness and functionality. The numbers can fade over time, screens can suffer damage from the weather, and even the base could be unstable. Frequently cleaning this security component is essential, as it’s the gateway to your site.
Paint. Chalky, peeling or otherwise faded paint is always unattractive, whether it’s on your building exterior, unit doors or inside the office. A fresh coat can do wonders for your curb appeal, or sometimes a thorough cleaning is all that’s needed. When it comes to your unit doors, just be sure to check with your manufacturer for guidance.
Signage and eye-catchers. Are your signs clean and easy to read, with accurate information? Are flags bright and easy to see? What about banners and sandwich signs, do they need to be updated or moved around?
After-hours presentation. While your property may look a certain way during the day, you must ensure your curb appeal is just as good (if not better) at night. There may not be anyone visiting the property after dark, but potential customers drive by all the time. So, view your facility at night to see what message you’re sending. Make sure the property is well-lit and your signage is clearly visible.
In-House or Outsource?
The amount of time and effort you must invest in curb appeal varies depending on property size, staff availability and amount of upkeep required. Sometimes maintenance can be handled in-house, while other times it may be better to outsource.
One of the major factors in determining which direction is right for your business is to evaluate whether customers’ needs are being met. If you’re focusing so much on maintenance that you miss phone calls or visits, outsourcing may be the best solution. If you’re doing your best to preserve the property but it looks like your 5-year-old mowed the lawn, it’s most likely better to leave it to the professionals.
While self-storage operators are always looking for ways to cut costs, it should never be done by sacrificing service and quality. In addition, there are some duties that require specialized skills or tools that some staff simply don’t possess. On the other hand, managers need to know their role isn’t limited to customer service. They’re there to manage all aspects of the business, including things outside the office. If the front curb or driveways have weeds 3 feet high, it’s time to dust off the weed wacker and show the plants who’s the boss!
A Good Reflection
As a self-storage manager, you should want to exceed the expectations of your owners and investors. The more you know and can do around the property, the more value you bring to the job. Hands-on managers who take ownership of curb appeal have a better understanding of how to lead than those who don’t. Plus, it’s easier to avoid job burnout if you get out of the office and do something different every day. If you don’t know how to perform a task, simply ask. It’s always great to learn something new!
First impressions are important in life. You wouldn’t show up at a job interview in a dirty shirt and mismatched shoes. Don’t allow your self-storage facility to be that amazing place where no one wants to rent simply because it doesn’t look appealing. Rather, put in the work and nail that “interview” so your customers choose you for their storage needs.
Matthew Eoff is owner of Enhancing Self Storage, which offers staff training. He’s worked in several industry positions over the past eight years, including part-time manager, maintenance employee and area manager overseeing six California locations. With a background as a military police officer, he takes pride in analyzing situations and can translate trends and predictable outcomes. He enjoys sharing information to improve the industry community. To contact him, email [email protected] or follow him on LinkedIn.