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Being a Self-Storage Manager in a Challenging Age: Tips for Success

The current self-storage market is incredibly challenging, and the difference between a storage business that thrives or merely survives is manager training and professionalism. Today’s facility manager must possess effective sales skills, know-how to collect and increase revenue, and a professional look and demeanor to clearly differentiate himself from his many competitors.

Most self-storage inquiries start with the telephone, but there are still facility managers who do not know how to successfully turn each call into a site visit or a rental. In this new day and age, managers need to get back to basics and keep it simple. To be operationally successful in this industry, you need to know how to do three things really well: how to sell, how to collect, and how to get it all done in a reasonable amount of time.

Not everyone has skills necessary to be excellent at managing a self-storage facility. Let’s review those skills and see if you’re an “OK” manager or a great one.
Boosting Sales

I came to the self-storage business from a sales background, and it didn’t take me long to realize that what most self-storage managers really need is some basic sales skills. They sell customers on renting space, making payments, sending referrals, etc.

Most prospective tenants will rent storage from someone. If you’re only renting to two or three out of every 10 prospects, the rest are renting from your competitors. Why?
Here are some basic sales tips:

  • Answer the phone with a smile. Potential customers know when you’re smiling and can sense when you enjoy what you do. If you don’t, find something else to do.
  • Get the prospect’s name and phone number. To not get a name is a sign of disrespect. The customer started the relationship, so why be reluctant to get his name?
  • Use price stalls. Once you give a price, your presentation is essentially over.
  • Ask questions. You can’t establish yourself as a storage expert unless you ask questions and attempt to solve the customer’s problem. “What size do you need?” is not the right question.
  • Solve the problem. Offer features and benefits to increase the value of storing with you.
  • Overcome objections. Know what to do when someone says, “I’ll have to think about it.” What he really means is he’ll have to think about renting from you because he might rent from someone else.
  • Close the deal. The best sales presentation in the world won’t count if the prospect doesn’t rent a unit.

Improving Collections

When I interviewed for my first self-storage job, my employer said he had “a huge collections problem,” and needed someone to solve it. My response was, “We have their stuff, how hard can that be?”

You see, I came out of an industry where the customers had my stuff, and I had to either get them to pay for it or get my stuff back. To be successful, I needed an effective collections system, something self-storage managers also need.
Here are some basic collections tips:

  • Effective collections begin with a great sales presentation.
  • Fill out the tenant-information sheet with as much information as possible.
  • Make sure the tenant clearly understands the lease agreement.
  • Reiterate the due date and late fees and the tenant’s obligation to make on-time payments.
  • Have a clearly defined system. When do you call? Who do you call?
  • Document customer contacts and follow up on broken commitments.

Time Management

Far too many managers struggle with getting all their work done in eight hours. This is primarily due to poor work habits and a lack of discipline. Self-storage is one of those businesses that should not be an all-consuming, living-and-breathing way of life. With good time-management skills, a facility manager should get it all done in eight hours and have a life.

Here is a simple exercise to help you better understand where your time goes. Managers who use it always seem to find two to three hours per day for which they cannot account. On a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line to denote your day’s start time and then draw lines at 30-minute intervals. Document your activities every 30 minutes. Try this every day for 30 days. Here are some basic time-management strategies you can try:

  • Make better use of downtime. Plan ahead for the busy times.
  • Schedule tasks. Things seem to get done if they’re scheduled to be done.
  • Write things down. Don’t rely on your memory to take care of customer service and other issues.
  • Do things right the first time. A great customer-service attitude doesn’t mean a willingness to fix problems; it’s avoiding customer-service issues in the first place.
  • Share responsibilities. Everyone should do their thing on their day. Never leave tasks for the next day.
  • Have clear communication. Make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Self-storage used to be so easy that even a caveman could do it. No more. The economic realities of today indicate that mom-and-pop, seat-of-your-pants management is out and well-trained professionalism is in. But keep it simple: sales, collections and time management. That’s it.
Bob Copper is the owner of Self-Storage 101, a full-service consulting firm specializing in training, market and feasibility studies, and helping owners and managers reach higher and more profitable levels of operational effectiveness. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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ISS Blog

The Power of the Self-Storage Talk Forum

From the sublime to the realm of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the Self-Storage Talk forum is full of stories of day-to-day operations at facilities across the nation. From managers and owners to industry vendors, all join in to help each other solve problems or address concerns. 

Day-to-day management and legal issues seem to garner the most attention. That’s proof that so many are trying their best to do things correctly. Especially now when the overall market is so tight, it pays to keep up to date on what’s happening around you.
Many times it may be a manager asking how to deal with a certain tenant situation. This is where Mr. Ripley comes into play. Or the person developing or considering new construction can access some industry power players, and pick the common brain for ideas and inspiration.
And despite the numerous industry polls and surveys, watching responses to our illustrious thread entitled, “I feel dirty ...” addresses the current state of operations on the ground like no survey ever could. The real people on the front lines are sharing, commiserating and empathizing with each one another as their area markets decline.

Occasionally one is able to report an increase, and while the others are collectively jealous of this person, the green monster never rears its ugly head. Instead, you’ll find encouragement, pats on the back and congratulations from fellow site operators.
We’ve seen people go through job losses and others landing their first job in our industry, to veterans relocating to other areas. Recently, one newbie posted about never using newsprint again as a packing material and why.

Bar none, each person has emphasized his or her enjoyment of the self-storage industry. With all of the ups and downs we’ve seen this past 12-18 months, there are those among us who are trying their best to manage properties and increase their occupancy, all the while knowing their dollars are not what they used to be, and may not be at the previously enjoyed levels for some time to come.

Worries about income abound after ownership says “give away the farm just get those units rented,” while others are “Believe it or not” considering a rent increase. From the sublime to the realm of Ripley’s, there is no better place to ask for help and get almost instantaneous feedback. We hope you’ll join us in the industry’s leading forum. Don’t just lurk about reading, sign up and stay anonymous if you prefer, and offer up your suggestions and help. Collectively, we’re all better off with our combined knowledge and support through trying times.  

Hampshire Self Storage Raffles TVs, Hosts Customer-Appreciation Day

In an effort to notify local residents of its recent management change and facility innovations, Hampshire Self Storage of Fairfield and Parsippany, N.J., is raffling off two plasma televisions to anyone who stops by to enter the contest. There is no purchase necessary. Residents must simply visit one of the storage sites and enter by Dec. 30.
The New Jersey-based self-storage operator recently acquired both facilities. The ownership and management now hope to meet as many local residents and businesses as possible.
The company will also host a customer-appreciation day and open house at both facilities on Oct. 22. Customers and area residents are invited to stop by for complimentary food, drinks and fun. The event will take place from 3-7 p.m.
The Fairfield facility is at 593 Route 46 West; the Parsippany location is at 169 Littleton Road.
Hampshire owns and operates 10 self storage facilities in New Jersey and New York.

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Success! Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C.

The Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C., wrapped up on Oct. 8 after four days of educational seminars, a lively self-storage Q&A, a packed cocktail reception and two days of exhibit-hall action. Nearly 1,000 registered participants from around the globe gathered at the beautiful Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
Attendees came from all facets of the industry—owners, investors, managers, builders, brokers and more. The expo also drew people from a number of countries, including China, Australia, South Africa and even Russia. Attendees sought real-world strategies to build or sustain their storage business in today’s difficult economic times.
The expo kicked off with an opening session focused on self-storage marketing, a popular topic at this year’s show. Hosted by Derek Naylor of Storage Marketing Solutions and Mel Holsinger of Professional Self Storage Management, the presentation shared campaigns submitted by self-storage managers and operators to the recent ISS “Best in Self-Storage Marketing” contest.
The three-track concurrent seminars featured hot topics such as construction, development, marketing, financing, sales techniques, day-to-day management challenges, add-on profit centers and more.
The two-day exhibit hall boasted nearly 100 exhibitors from all segments of the industry including self-storage developers and builders, brokers, finance and insurance experts, door manufacturers, software vendors, and others.
Look for details in the coming weeks about the next Inside Self-Storage World Expo, March 1-3, 2010, at the Paris Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas.  For information, visit

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WorkflowOne Software Integration

Centershift, an Internet-based rental management software solution provider to the self-storage industry, completed its integration with WorkflowOne for all centralized mail processing and services through their Store Enterprise and Advantage applications.

The integration will allow the software to better manage facility mail including automating letter setup, proofing and delivery.

Centershift's Store self-storage management software allows access to real-time data for tenants, call centers, kiosks, reservation and payment systems, operational reports, as well as integrated accounting and mail processing systems.

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StorQuest Self Storage Helps California Mudslide Evacuees

The threat of mudslides in Los Angeles County is causing some roads to be closed to the public as well as some evacuations, and StorQuest Self Storage is waiting to assist. The company is offering mudslide evacuees in Sunland and Tujunga Canyon, Calif., free storage space for one month as well as free use of a moving truck and manpower to facilitate a quick and easy evacuation process.
The first major rainstorm of the season is happening this week, bringing a threat of mudslides in the burn areas of the Station Fire. L.A. County roads in the Station Fire burn area were closed to the public for 48 hours starting at 11:59 p.m. Monday.

Yesterday and today, StorQuest has its company moving trucks stationed at the mandatory mudslide evacuation site in Tujunga Canyon to assist all evacuees. The area is expecting to 6 inches of heavy rain this afternoon, and a river of mud is coming off the mountain.

For more relief information, contact StorQuest at 818.352.8855 or visit

It's not too late to call for assistance from Glendale Public Works at 818.548.3900, according to Glendale city officials.

Source: abc 7 (KABC-TV Los Angeles), Residents evacuating due to mudslide risk

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Expo Education: Revitalizing Your Self-Storage Business

Fiscally, it’s been a difficult year for businesses and individuals, and indicators show that 2010 will continue to be financially challenging. Self-storage operators struggle with dropping occupancy, faltering revenue and increased consumer demand for concessions. Industry suppliers feel the impact as their customers look to cut costs and minimize expenses.

Though business owners’ natural instinct may be to stop spending in times like these, it’s critical to invest in the resources that will keep operations thriving. When the going gets tough, the savvy turn to education and innovation, seeking ways to compete in a harsh market and revitalize their business. During March 1-3, 2010, thousands of self-storage managers, owners, investors and developers will find what they need at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, the industry’s largest conference and tradeshow.
Emphasis on Marketing, Green Initiatives and More

The ISS Expo in Las Vegas will include a comprehensive four-track education program designed to address the hottest topics and most pressing needs in the self-storage industry today. Participants who purchase an Education Package can choose from a total of 36 seminars organized into all-inclusive tracks: 

Facility Marketing & Sales: For managers and owners who want ramp up their sales and marketing efforts and learn new, more effective strategies. Sessions will address electronic and traditional methods of marketing as well as the critical sales areas of phone skills, customer service, closing and others. 

Construction, Development & Green Initiatives: Designed for self-storage owners, developers and investors, this track provides critical information that will help you determine project feasibility, construction techniques, real estate trends and more. It also includes highlights on green building and environmentally sustainable options. 

Finance, Insurance & Legal Issues: This detailed track will keep you informed on issues that are essential to managing your money, avoiding liability and protecting your business. Seminars in this track will cover money issues, legal essentials and information about specialized insurance coverages.

Day-to-Day Facility Management: Facility managers and owners will get insight and useful tools through seminars on cost-cutting measures, staffing, collections, retail sales and inventory, facility maintenance, rental-rate management, tenant screening, crime prevention, dealing with the media and others. 

In addition to the core education program, the show will include several intensive workshops and networking events designed for meaningful dialogue with peers and experts. Finally, the exhibit hall will showcase a wide range of products and services from the most reputable self-storage suppliers.

Going to Paris

This winter, the ISS Expo heads to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, a lavish accommodation and one of the city’s premier properties. Owned by Harrah’s Entertainment, the hotel is designed to pay homage to the French "City of Light." Guests will be dazzled by replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, as well as chic shopping along “Le Boulevard” and acclaimed French cuisine. Highlights of the hotel include: 

  • Nearly 3,000 sumptuous guest rooms and suites featuring custom European furniture and extravagant marble baths.
  • Entertainment including  renowned hypnotist Anthony Cools, live bands at Le Cabaret, and an Eiffel Tower ride in addition to the casino.
  • Seven distinctive bars and lounges including the nightclub Risqué and Napoleon’s Champagne Bar.
  • A 26,000-square-foot spa with Balinese-inspired décor, a complete menu of treatments, a whirlpool, sauna, steam room and fitness center.
  • A 2-acre rooftop pool with poolside attendants and views of manicured French gardens. 

The Paris offers a posh experience without the extravagant price, something we can all enjoy in a time of belt-tightening.

Moving Forward

In this troubled market, the ISS Expo is the best place for self-storage operators to get the knowledge they need to make informed decisions and keep their companies healthy and progressing. It’s about gathering ideas, making connections and finding the most cost-effective products and services for your business. The Vegas expo delivers an extensive, hard-hitting program encompassing education, community, exhibits and more. For details about attending, exhibiting and registration, visit

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Extra Space Storage to Release 2009 Financial Results

Extra Space Storage Inc. will release financial results for the three months ended September 30, 2009, on Nov. 2, after the market closes. The company will also host a conference call at 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, to discuss its financial results. Extra Space Storage's Chairman and CEO Spencer F. Kirk will host the call. Joining him will be Kent W. Christensen, executive vice president and CFO; and Karl Haas, executive vice president and COO. 

A live webcast of the conference call will be available online on the company's website in the Investor Relations section. The conference call can also be accessed by dialing 877.407.0789 or 201.689.8562 for international participants.

A replay of the call will be available after 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, until midnight Eastern Time on Nov. 17. The replay dial-in numbers are 877.660.6853 or 201.612.7415 for international callers. To access the telephonic replay, enter account number 3055 along with the conference ID 335083.

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Storage First Offers Assistance to Georgia Flood Victims

In response to the devastation of severe flooding in the state of Georgia, Storage First self-storage is donating up to 90 days of free storage to flood victims. Those severely affected by the disaster can use a drive-up, climate-controlled unit at the company’s Douglasville, Ga., facility at 2477 Fairburn Road in Douglasville.
“We at Storage First realize how difficult and challenging this is for the members of our community,” said a representative from Storage First. “Recognizing how devastating having life's treasures displaced can be, we hope having a climate-controlled space to store what has been salvaged will help preserve them until they find their next home.”

People in need of the donated storage space should contact one of the following:

  • American Red Cross: 866.438.4357
  • United Way: 770.614.1000
  • Douglasville Disaster Recovery Line: 770.614.1000
  • Emergency Help Line: *211

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Litton Presents Webinar on Self-Storage Phone Sales, Nov. 4

On Nov. 4, self-storage management and marketing expert Tom Litton will present a free webinar titled "Maximizing Telephone Sales: How to Use Your Website to Improve Phone Sales.”  The online seminar will teach attendees how to quickly capture a self-storage caller’s attention, implement the right techniques to make the sale, avoid common phone mistakes, and differentiate their facility from the competition. The webinar will take place at 1 p.m. ET. To register, visit
Litton is the president of Litton Property Management and a renowned self-storage authority. He will present live at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, March 1-3, 2010. For details about his “Marketing and Sales Boot Camp,” visit

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