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Articles from 2009 In October


Self-Directed Lessons for the Self-Storage Manager: The Training You Need, the Career You Want

So, you finally landed that self-storage manager position, and it’s your first day on the job. You’ve met the supervisor and he’s given you the “nickel” tour. Back in the office, as you follow your new boss behind the counter, he points out the computer, cash drawer and customer files. Next, he hands you the keys to the entire facility with a ceremonious smile. Then he does something you didn’t expect—he leaves. What about your training? A feeling of anxiety comes over you as he drives away ...

You may think this story is imaginary, but it’s all too real and repeated more often than anyone would like to admit. During our first taste of self-storage management, my wife and I learned that the regional manager had no real interest in our training or in the success of the site. Consequently, we were forced to learn all the early knowledge about the facility and industry on our own, without the benefit of a close supervisor or trainer.

Our situation may have been unique, but it does help illustrate a point. There are times when all self-storage managers will need to direct their own continuing education, whether as a result of an upheaval at a facility that places you in charge, or to develop your knowledge in preparation for future advancement.

In other words, training is the key to every successful facility manager, and the foundation on which a satisfying self-storage career is built. Whether you’re on assignment at a new facility or trying to prepare yourself for advancement within your current organization, there are things you can do to ensure your knowledge keeps pace with the demands of the position.

First, don’t panic, even if you’ve taken the reins from a manager who was dismissed and left the site a mess. Keeping your wits in this type of high-stress situation is vital to your primary objective of re-organization. In every case, begin by examining the resources you have at your disposal. Strive to quickly understand the fundamentals of your site and procedures to help you more easily understand the new situations you’ll encounter. From there, consider these simple, self-directed lessons.
 
Office Systems 101

Many new self-storage managers come into a facility with experience from another type of property-management position, possessing a basic understanding of this type of office system. Others are completely green and know little. In either case, a good starting point in your self-education involves a review of the various systems and procedures unique to our industry.

Above all, a review of the facility's management program is necessary. Fortunately, even the most basic self-storage management software includes a tutorial, and you’ll want to go through it several times until you’re familiar with the program’s main functions such as taking payments, processing rentals and creating reports.

Speaking of reports, your supervisor will be duly impressed if your initial questions include a request for a list of periodic reports he may require. Familiarize yourself with this important function of the management program, and practice creating and modifying important reports such as operational and financial summaries, customer inquiries, delinquency reports, etc.

As time passes, you’ll discover not only which reports provide the best information, but just how valuable these are to site operation and success. Make a habit of discussing these reports with your supervisor, and demonstrate an interest in what they tell you about the business. 
 
Fundamentals of the Facility

After a while behind the desk, it’s time for a walk—a site walk, that is. Obviously, you must learn office operation, but you must also learn your facility. As soon as it is convenient, take a walking tour of the entire site (with map in hand, if available), noting where you find specific unit sizes, climate-controlled buildings, etc. Try imagining yourself as the customer, asking questions about the features and amenities. Review the general layout until you have it memorized, and then determine the best tour route for your customers.

Do your best to learn all you can about the greatest aspects of the site, because they’re an important tool and critical element of the self-storage sales process. Repeat the walk daily to keep site information fresh in your mind. Plus, you’ll also discover maintenance issues while they’re still minor.

Back in the office, find and study facility maps, vacancy reports and rate sheets until you’re satisfied you can answer every prospective question thrown your way. Don’t forget that a thorough knowledge of your facility is the prerequisite for more technical instruction in other areas like maintenance and marketing. Remember, the more you know about the site, the more precise your judgment will be in setting important facility priorities.
 
Know Thy Customer

Few of the lessons you learn in the self-storage business are as important as understanding your customer. Learning to interact with your current tenants helps you understand their motivations and concerns, and may assist you in gaining insight to past tenant-management issues. Consistent communication also tends to solidify customer loyalty, which ultimately provides an invaluable boost to your referral program.

The process of knowing your clients usually begins by learning their first names, and greeting them enthusiastically as they visit the office to rent or drop off payments. Creative site managers sometimes encourage interaction by providing free coffee in the office, which is one of several ways to foster open communication with your customers. As appreciation for your tenants grows, you may discover that the trust you build helps you gain cooperation in the implementation and enforcement of facility policies.

Ultimately, with a better understanding of your client comes customer-service skills that are more acute, and these skills are beneficial in every aspect of the self-storage manager’s job.
 
Advanced Industry Education

Once you’ve completed a few fundamental courses, you’ve laid much of the groundwork necessary to effectively manage your site. As with most careers, however, continuous improvement is required to make sure your skills stay sharp, and to ensure you keep up with the many advances in the industry. Information related to marketing your facility, legal issues, etc., may call for additional expertise. Fortunately, much of the information you need to advance in the industry is literally at your fingertips.

Today, most self-storage trade organizations provide training programs designed to improve your skills in a variety of areas. Many of these allow you to learn at your own pace, and successful completion is rewarded with a manager certification, often invaluable to future advancement within the industry. Local, state and national association meetings and conferences provide the perfect “hands-on” training, allow you to meet other professionals and, compared to the value of the experience, are relatively inexpensive.

SelfStorageTalk.com, the industry’s largest online forum, provides an incredibly diverse source of knowledge via the experience of thousands of peers within the industry. The benefit of this ever-expanding network of professionals cannot be overstated. Registration is open to self-storage managers and others at no cost, making participation a no-brainer.

There exists near-unanimous agreement among industry professionals with respect to the evolution of the business, and as they vie for a limited number of jobs, storage managers are discovering the same. Continued improvement is a vital part of the self-storage career. Obviously, training is a must—not only for the “newbie,” but for experienced managers who desire to expand horizons and set the stage for greater heights within their own vocation. Education is the key, and training is mandatory.

Hopefully, your organization provides its own comprehensive manager training, and you have ample opportunity to improve your skills through the program. Regardless, the wisest manager is one who takes control of his own career by exploiting every educational opportunity. As the industry evolves, self-storage managers with a well-rounded education will be better positioned to prosper and thrive.
 
John Roser has broad industry experience as a facility manager, regional manager, sales and marketing trainer, and founder of USA Storage Resource, a self-storage enterprise devoted to the support of small and independent facility owners and operators. He is the creator of the “Adventures in Storage” cartoon featured monthly in Inside Self-Storage magazine, a member of the ISS Education Advisory Committee and a moderator for Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community. To reach him, e-mail [email protected].

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Texas Self Storage Association Delivers Excellent Show

A steady drizzle didn’t keep self-storage professional away from the Texas Self Storage Association’s annual convention and tradeshow in Houston this week. Despite the wet conditions on the first day, attendees turned out for education seminars on legal issues, collecting payments, customer service and employee performance. Monday also included roundtable discussions and the tradeshow preview and cocktail reception.

During the reception, I spoke with a number of self-storage managers and owners who expressed concern over falling occupancy rates and the increase in concessions. They were happy to drive from various parts of Texas to learn new sales and marketing strategies, and learn more about lending options.

The second day of the tradeshow brought an increase in traffic. My booth neighbors, David Essman and John Reddick of Sentinel Systems, talked to a number of owners and operators about software and security systems. One storage owner spoke at length about a recent break in at his facility where the perpetrator new where the cameras were located—and how to avoid detection.

I also spoke with several potential investors. One man had just learned about the TSSA show. He said he has a piece of property in a prime location and is considering developing a self-storage facility. While he said he realizes there is plenty to learn about the industry, he was also intrigued by the potential for a successful business venture.

The week wrapped with more educational opportunities, including Ray Wilson of Self Storage Data Services, who hosted a market survey seminar. Overall, the TSSA board did a thorough job of zeroing in on the hot topics in the industry.

Speaking of hot topics, the team responsible for the education program for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo is putting the final touches on the education program for the next show in Las Vegas, March 1-3 at the Paris Hotel and Casino. The education program will include four tracks: Facility Marketing and Promotion; Construction, Development and Green Initiatives; Finance, Insurance and Legal Issues; and Day-to-Day Facility Management. Plus, there will be two days of exhibit hall action, roundtables and add-on incentive workshops. Register today!   
 

Analysts: REITs' Quarterly Results Will Show Drop in Consumer Demand

Quarterly results for the self-storage real estate investment trusts (REITs) are expected to show a drop in consumer demand, analysts said Friday. 

While the self-storage industry has fared better than other commercial markets, it has also been impacted by the U.S. recession. Public Storage, Extra Space Storage Inc., U-Store-It Trust and Sovran Self Storage will likely have better-than-expected results, analysts say. However, key metrics such as occupancy and revenue are expected to drop in the fourth quarter, which is typically slower for the self-storage industry. 

Third-quarter occupancy numbers for self-storage REITs are expected to drop 300 basis points year-over-year. To combat falling occupancy rates, many self-storage facilities are offering discounts and other incentives to attract new tenants. 

However, analysts predict new rental rates will be down 7 percent to 15 percent on average for the third quarter, negatively impacting revenue by 5 percent. 

Investors will also keep an eye on the number of move outs the REITs report during the quarter. Historically, August and September see more move outs than other months of the year.

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Florida Man Parked at Self-Storage Facility Arrested for Sexual Battery

A Florida man was arrested and charged with sexual battery after police found him with a woman parked at Assured Self Storage in Seminole County.

Police say the man,  33-year-old Winel A. Castro Molina, was spotted Thursday morning parked outside the self-storage facility.When officers made contact, they discovered Molina in the backseat of the vehicle with a woman.

After interviewing the pair, officers determined Molina had picked up the woman on S.R. 400 where she was stranded next to her vehicle. Officers say Molina offered to give the woman a ride home. However, officers say, Molina drove her to the self-storage and sexually battered her.

Molina was placed under arrest and charged with sexual battery  and transported to the Seminole County Jail for booking.

    'Cool' Paint Sytems: Saving Energy and Money in Self-Storage

    Wall and roof panels coated with “cool” Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) paint systems, often referred to as Kynar or Hylar, are now available for self-storage buildings. These panels feature vivid, fade-resistant color, incredible durability, and environmentally friendly technology that was originally developed for stealth aircraft in the U.S. military.

    The energy-cost savings, architectural appeal, variety of profiles, texture and color, flexibility, and long-term durability make PVDF panels a popular choice for architects and building owners.  
     
    What’s Cool?

    Cool isn’t just a meaningless marketing term. It’s a technology that could revolutionize the building industry. Combating urban heat islands and high-energy consumption requires innovative products that meet or exceed even the most stringent industry requirements.

    To be considered cool, products must have a solar reflectance of at least 25 percent. Solar reflectance is the measure of a panel’s ability to not absorb certain wavelengths of the sun. Another important factor is thermal emittance, the measure of a panel’s ability to release the heat it absorbs. Put these two factors together, and you get the solar reflective index (SRI), which is the measure of a panel’s ability to reject solar heat.

    Metal roofs coated with PVDF-based resin can achieve solar reflectance of more than 25 percent and reduce energy consumption by up to 40 percent as part of a total system design, as reported by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    But cool technology is only one benefit of these types of panels. Durability is another. PVDF-based coatings are the most durable, UV-resistant, and chemically and environmentally resistant coatings available in the market for use on commercial and industrial buildings. The carbon-fluorine chemical bond in PVDF is photo-chemically stable (resistant to sunlight’s UV rays) and inert against acids, bases and chemical attack.
     
    How it Works

    During the coil-coating curing process, the PVDF powder melts and “fuses” to become a continuous high-density network, with very high-tensile strength and flexibility. Additionally, the PVDF “alloys” with the acrylic polymer matrix (an interpenetrating polymer network). PVDF resin chemistry is transparent to the UV light that breaks down other coating systems.

    Whereas non-cool materials absorb a majority of the sun’s rays and generate heat, cool resins reflect them, keeping the paint coating itself cooler. This technology not only maximizes the life of the panels, it can ultimately lead to lower cooling costs.

    Such superior performance and the wide range of color choices are the reasons PVDF metal coatings provide billions of square feet of protection against weathering, aging and pollution on commercial, industrial, institutional and residential buildings around the globe. The Louvre Museum, world-famous theme parks and Las Vegas casinos count on PVDF when long-lasting color plays an important part in their visitors’ experiences.
     
    Case Study

    Two schools of the exact same size and design were constructed similarly and have the same HVAC equipment, with thermostats controlled at the same place. However, one school was able to save more than $10,000 on its annual cooling costs. How?

    The difference lies in the coatings of the schools’ roof systems. Baggett Elementary and Poole Elementary in Dallas, Ga., are near identical, right down to their forest green roof panels. The only difference is the panels at Baggett are standard PVDF, with a total solar reflectance value (TSR) of 12 percent. Poole, in contrast, has infrared-resistant PVDF pigments with a TSR value of 29 percent.

    This led to vastly different results.Poole’s annual net savings is more than $10,000 because of an added TSR of 17 percent, which equates to a projected savings of $350,000 during the school’s 35-year expected lifecycle. These savings were confirmed in a thorough study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In addition, the added TSR didn’t jeopardize the school’s ability to meet district appearance requirements.
    Why Use Cool?

    Self-storage owners using a PVDF coating rather than a bare galvanized finish on climate-controlled facilities can achieve savings of 50 percent or more on cooling costs. Here are some more advantages:

    • Considered the most energy-efficient coating system on the market
    • Reflects more of the sun’s rays to produce cooler indoor temperatures
    • Meets many Energy Star requirements
    • Can add to facility aesthetics  
    • Generates lower environmental temperatures to help reduce smog
    • 100 percent recyclable
    • Increases fire-resistance
    • Complements other building products such as stucco or concrete
    • Maintains gloss and color
    • Comes in exceptional colors that stay true for years to come

    When building or remodeling your self-storage facility, consider cool panels to reduce energy costs and save money.
     
    Wes Brooker is the marketing development manager for American Buildings Co., a Eufaula, Ala., manufacturer of custom-engineered steel-building systems. The company produces metal roof and wall systems, components and accessories for the low-rise, non-residential, metal-building industry. For more information, call 888.307.4338; visit www.americanbuildings.com.

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    Door to Door Partners With University to Help Cancer Survivor

    Door to Door, a national provider of portable storage and moving containers, will join with the University of San Diego (USD) School of Business Administration (SBA) in its 2009 Sustainable Environment Enterprise Development (SEED) project. The goal is to retrofit and make accessible the house of Skip Gleavey, an accomplished tri-athlete, marathon runner and 100-mile biker.

    In the past five years, Skip has battled significant challenges including a massive heart attack, Stage 4 Follicular Lymphoma and a devastating biking accident that left him paralyzed.

    Door to Door's San Diego branch will donate all portable-storage containers, transportation fees and off-site storage plus a majority of the packing supplies for the project. The storage containers delivered on Oct. 13 will be used by Skip and his wife to accommodate their furnishings and possessions until completion of the project in November.

    This is the 13th project USD SBA students have participated in to change the lives of senior or disabled San Diegans to create safe, secure and accessible environments. SEED teaches graduate and undergraduate students the tools and techniques of project management by having students plan and implement a house renovation using green materials.

    "The feelings of self-worth, pride and dignity are priceless. Because of SEED, I can now look forward to the future," Gleavey says. "For the first time since the accident that left me paralyzed, I will now be able to function independently and lighten the burden on others. It also allows me to regain some of my self-esteem that I lost when I became incapacitated. "

    Costs of the renovation project are not covered by USD, so raising the funds to cover all expenses is vital. To make a donation, volunteer and learn more about SEED and the 2009 Skip Gleavey project, visit www.SEEDsandiego.org. The project can be followed at http://twitter.com/seedsandiego and on Facebook.

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    Warehouse Owner Fined for Improper Asbestos Removal

    A warehouse owner will be slapped with penalties after removing asbestos in violation of state regulations, a Labor Department spokeswoman reported Friday.

    West Solloway, who owns warehouse tenant Fort Knox Self Storage, said material containing asbestos was found in the building in June. Solloway said he complained repeatedly to the city and state about the improper asbestos removal, and noticed workers were not were not protected while working in the building, which is the former Classy Leather Goods warehouse in Middletown, N.Y. The warehouse also houses a program run by the Family Empowerment Council, which provides services to people with disabilities.

    On Oct. 14, a city building inspector found workers ready to leave the premises in a van to dump bags of asbestos-containing materials. The inspector shut down the operation on the spot, sealing off the entire area.

    Under state law, asbestos removal may be done only by state-certified contractors, using certified workers, proper procedures and proper safety equipment. Contractors are required to give the state 10 days notice of asbestos work, and must have a valid permit.

    The property owner will be cited for failing to use a contractor certified in asbestos removal, for using workers not certified to perform asbestos removal, and for doing the job improperly, a Labor Department spokeswoman said.

    Source:  Times Herald-Record,  Improper Asbestos Removal Means Penalties for Owner          

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    Federal Court: Texas Star Not Copyrighted; Landmark Interest Cleared to Use Symbol

    A federal court in Houston ruled last month the use of the Texas Star cannot be trademarked, dismissing a case against Landmark Interest Corp.  

    The ruling came after Amazing Spaces Inc., a self-storage company, sued Landmark Interest Corp., a self-storage and metal-building general contractor in Baytown, Texas, for building storage facilities decorated with the famous symbol, which depicts a star inside a circle.

    In the lawsuit, Amazing Spaces Inc. v. Metro Mini Storage and Landmark Interest Corp., Amazing Spaces claimed it owned a valid trademark to the Texas Star and that Landmark, and other Texans, could not use it. 

    Judge Lee Rosenthal, a Federal District Judge in Houston, disagreed. Judge Rosenthal’s order, dated Sept. 28, recognized the Texas Star as “a common symbol long associated with Texas.  A drive on a highway, a walk along a downtown street, or a visit to the shopping center drives home just how common” the star is. 

    Because the Texas Star can be found decorating just about every kind of business in Texas, Judge Rosenthal ruled the Texas Star doesn’t qualify for trademark protection and dismissed Amazing Spaces’ lawsuit.

    Landmark owner David Boothe is pleased with the judge’s ruling. “We could never understand why we were sued because so many people use the Texas Star to decorate and promote their businesses. I’m just glad to know that Texans are still free to use the Texas Star.” Amazing Spaces is appealing the court’s decision. 

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    Morningstar Mini-Storage Selected to Manage Houston Facility

    Morningstar Properties LLC, of Matthews, N.C., and its joint venture with 180 Development Services of Phoenix, was selected to manage Richey Road Self Storage in Houston. The class-A facility opened in 2007, and will be re-branded and operated as Morningstar Mini-Storage.

    The facility includes standard, climate- and humidity-controlled units, many with drive-up access.  The facility has nearly 100,000 square feet and 709 self-storage units ranging from 5-by-5s to 10-by-30s.

    The store offers a variety of additional services including office and warehouse space, packing supplies and boxes, and free truck rental for move-ins. A digital security system allows tenants secure access to units 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Morningstar Mini-Storage of Richey Road is owned and was developed by an affiliate of Locke Acquisition Group LLC. Morningstar is a vertically integrated developer, builder and operator of specialty real estate types across the Southeast. The company currently owns or operates 46 self-storage facilities totaling almost 3 million square feet.

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    Supply Side USA Names Johnston President

    Supply Side USA Inc., a PWC Group company, named Barry Johnston president. Johnston has extensive experience in corporate management, sales and marketing. He has spent the last 15 years working for various companies in The PWC Group, which specializes in retail distribution, global sourcing, logistics and call-center management, domestically and internationally.

    “I look forward to further integrating Supply Side USA into The PWC Group to take advantage of the many corporate resources available,” he says. “We’ve just added a new distribution center in Los Angeles, which brings us to 1 million square feet nationwide. This is just one example of how we can position Supply Side USA to serve its customers in the most effective ways possible.”

    Supply Side USA, a distributor of moving and storage, shipping, and packaging supplies, has developed retail merchandising programs for national, regional and independent self-storage and parcel shipping companies for more than 50 years.

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