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Lifelong Girl Scout Finds Success in Self-Storage

Diane Tipton, owner of CE Group LLC (Self Storage Zone), has been a Girl Scout her whole life, and says she’s used the leadership and team-building skills she learned through the organization to succeed in business. She has been actively engaged in the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital since 1997 and was named president of the council last year.
 
Tipton launched her storage business in 1987. Since then, she has developed, owned and managed more than 1.8 million square feet of self-storage in 17 projects throughout Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. According to an article in the Washington Business Journal, Tipton’s business strategy is to build from scratch, manage and lease the facility to stabilization, and sell the portfolio when the time is right.  
 
Source: Washington Business Journal, Women Who Mean Business: Diane Tipton, Owner, CE Group LLC (Self Storage Zone)

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All Aboard Storage Awarded 2009 Readers Choice

All Aboard Storage, with 12 locations in the Daytona Beach, Fla., area, was awarded The 2009 Reader’s Choice Award from the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

This was the 16th year All Aboard Storage was recognized by the readers in the Daytona Beach area as the best self-storage company in town. The contest ballots are only distributed in home-delivered newspapers. Clark Properties uses the campaign period as an opportunity to ramp up marketing efforts and promote its properties. “It really feels good to know our customers think we are the best,” says Andy Clark, CEO of Clark Properties and owner of All Aboard.

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RV Building Design

Trachte Building Systems announces the availability of its flush jamb and header system for larger-sized storage buildings. Where a RV/Boat storage unit would typically utilize ribbed panels and J-trim top create the exterior, Trachte engineers have developed a flush exterior similar to its standard storage buildings.
The new design has these benefits:

  • Greater damage resistance: The flush jambs are formed from steel that’s more than twice the thickness of typical A-panel siding, resisting dents and dings. 
  •  Lower material cost: Although the jamb and header material is thicker, the new design eliminates the need for “J” trim and jamb finishing materials and reduces overall material cost.
  • Less time to build: With fewer parts and less field cutting, the new system takes less time to build. This means lower labor cost, and the facility can open for business sooner.
  • More attractive: The sleek, attractive flush system can help gain the approval of local boards, and is compatible with a variety of sectional and roll-up doors.

 

Trachte Building Systems, an ISO 9001:2000-certified company, designs, manufactures and erects a full line of durable, pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems, including single- and multi-story, portable storage, interior partition and corridor, and canopy boat/RV.

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Alcatraz Storage Buys Tulsa Facility for $1.98M

Alcatraz Storage of Tulsa, Okla., bought the 558-unit United Mini Storage facility in south Tulsa for $1.98 million, or $24.19 per square foot. The seller of the 14-building site was Upland, Calif.-based Frank & Bonny Huang Irrevocable Family Trust. The sale was facilitated by The Grant Group, a real estate firm based in Edmond, Okla.
 
Broker Casey Massegee had originally listed the property at $2.3 million. He told The Journal Record via e-mail that the property sold well below replacement cost and comparable sales in the area because it has been severely mismanaged by the current owner, who had no previous self-storage experience. The property is currently at 50 percent occupancy, though competitors operate within the 85 percent range.
 
Grant broker Chris Anderson represented the buyer. There were more than 10 offers on the property. According to Massegee, the buyer intends to purchase more self-storage facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.
 
Built in 2003, the facility will be rebranded as Alcatraz Storage and expanded to include additional revenue streams, such as truck rentals and moving and storage supplies.
 
Source: Journal Record, Tulsa firm pays $1.98M for mini-storage complex

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Big Yellow Self Storage Reports Increase in Pre-Tax Profit

U.K. self-storage firm Big Yellow reported a 12 percent increase in its half-year adjusted pre-tax profit. Profit rose to £7.7 million in the six months ended Sept. 30 compared to £6.9 million the year before, due to increased occupancy levels. Loss before taxation decreased to £3.4 million from £54.3 million in the year prior. Revenue for the period slipped 3 percent to £29.2 million.

"We are experiencing the usual seasonal slowdown in trading; however, our cautious optimism at the time we last reported that the business was at least stabilizing appears to have been broadly well-founded," said Chairman Nicholas Vetch. "We expect the improvement in the economy to be slow and patchy, and the performance of this business will reflect that."

To preserve cash, the Big Yellow Board of Directors is continuing with the suspension of the interim dividend payment.

Source: ShareCast, Big Yellow reports bigger H1 profits

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Out O' Space Storage of FL Supports Marine Toys for Tots

Out O' Space Storage of Florida, in partnership with the Florida Self Storage Association, is supporting the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation this holiday season by offering up its two locations as donation drop-off points. In addition, the company will host open houses for donors, complete with cookies and coffee, every Saturday between now and Christmas.
 
New toys can be brought to the facilities between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Items must be new, unwrapped and in their original packaging; toy guns and weapons cannot be accepted.
 
"We are pleased to be involved in the Marine Toys for Tots program and help give back to the community in this small way," said Richard O'Brien, Out O’ Space owner and operator. "We are happy to support the effort to give toys to local children who might otherwise not receive a gift during the holidays. During these hard economic times, we hope that those who can help remember this wonderful cause."
 
Out O’ Space Storage has facilities in Cantonment and Pensacola, Fla.
 
Toys for Tots has been collecting and delivering toys to underprivileged children since 1947. The organization has delivered almost 20 million toys to approximately 8 million children.

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A-Mini Storage Supports Cash for Cans Program, Toys for Tots

A-Mini Storage Hernando in Florida is accepting food donations through Dec. 21. The “Cash for Cans” program donates all unopened canned or packaged foods to The Path and The Resource Center of Citrus County.

Current customers who make a donation will receive a $10 credit on their next month’s rent. The self-storage facility is also serving as a drop-off site for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program, and will accept new, unwrapped toy donations.

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RT Recycling Containers

New recycling containers from Witt Industries allow either one-stream recycling or three separate stream recycling to be collected within a small area.  The metal containers are available in 24 gallon and 34.5 gallon and are good for the collection of paper, clear plastics, glass and other recyclable materials.

The single-opening or three-opening lids are removable. Each recycling stream is collected in a separate heavy-duty plastic liner, which keeps the streams separated for quick and convenient collection. Available in standard blue or black, RT recycling containers include a durable recycling logo. 

Witt Industries is a woman-owned manufacturer of a full-range of metal waste and recycling receptacles for indoor or outdoor environments. Witt Industries products are used in commercial and institutional settings including hotels and motels, commercial office lobbies and atria, hospitals, casinos, schools, restaurants, stadiums, arenas and more.

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Sure Lock Mini Storage Collects Donations for AZ Homeless Shelter

Sure Lock Mini Storage, with two locations in Phoenix and Peoria, Ariz., is accepting donations for UMOM New Day Centers, Arizona’s largest homeless shelter for families, until Dec. 23.

Current customers who make a donation can receive 10 percent off their next month’s rent. New customers who donate can receive half off their first month’s rent. Accepted donations include non-perishable food items such as canned goods, baby products, personal hygiene items and first aid supplies.

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Using Coupons: Customer Referral and Incentive Programs for Self-Storage

In these times of economic upheaval, it’s more important than ever for a self-storage manager to make good use of his time. When it comes to marketing, what better, faster way is there to promote your facility than to enlist the help of your current and former customers?

When using a customer referral or incentive program, you’ll simply exchange a gift of some kind in return for a person referring a new customer to you. These programs can run the gamut from gas cards and movie tickets to cash or services. To implement a program, plan your strategy carefully, and then move forward. 

Building a System

A referral system takes planning, and to make the most of a program, you need to take a fresh look at all of your marketing materials. You’ll find some are missing important information and others may be outdated. This is a good time to revisit each piece and add a fresh twist. Your length of commitment to the program is your first decision. Are you willing to run the program indefinitely, or will it be a one-time deal?

Next you need some hard facts: How long does your average tenant stay, and how much value does that person represent to your facility? You’ll need these figures to make your next decision. If your average tenant length of stay is six months, at an average rent of $100 per month, your average tenant value is $600. How much are you willing to give back to garner an additional $600 in income?

Choosing an Incentive

Determining the money factor in your demographic area is next on your list. Would your customers be happy to receive $20 cash for a referral, or do you need to bump it up to $50? Would they be thrilled with movie tickets, or would it take a high-end restaurant gift certificate to motivate them? While you can use any number of incentive options, from pre-purchased gift cards to dinner for two, many operators find the best motivator of all is cash. Have you ever known anyone who turned down free money?

Once you’ve determined your customer value and what you have to offer, you need to implement a program and insert it into your marketing materials. For example, you might choose to use a referral coupon that offers a $50 cash payment to the referring party. Maybe it also offers $50 off the first month’s rent for the new tenant. So you’d be giving $50 cash and discounting $50 for each referral received. The combined $100 is a small price to pay for your average customer value.

Coupon Design

The design of your referral coupon should reflect your property or personality, or be a blending of both. It doesn’t have to be droll. You can inject a little humor, such as creating your own version of a $50 bill. Using quality card stock rather than just printing paper will give the coupon a classier look.

You’ll also need space on the coupon for information, including the coupon recipient and the referring tenant’s name and contact information. This could lead to an increase in referrals because customers can fill out the coupon in advance and then distribute to friends and family. For example, you can add a line that says, “Please send $50 to:,” and then insert the lines for the name and address of the referring party.

There’s no need for an expiration date if you plan to keep the referral program ongoing. However, if it’s a limited-time offer, be sure to stamp an expiration date clearly on the coupon. Consider creating a second coupon that offers $50 off the first month’s rent to all new customers. This gives you a second coupon you can offer to particular customers.

Promoting Your Program

Referral coupons that sit in your desk drawer or stacked at the end of the counter won’t get much action. You need to actively promote your program. First, give every new tenant a couple of referral coupons to share with friends and family. You can also incorporate the program into all your print ads as well as your newsletter. Staple the coupon to payment receipts and billing statements. In addition, when you give someone an exit survey, toss in a couple of coupons.
One of the best places to use your referral coupon is on your website, but with one small distinction: Your Internet coupon should be for $50 off any rental only.

Onsite promotion of the referral program also works. When Mr. Jones says your place really works great for storing his work tools, ask him to tell a couple of his co-workers about you. When Mrs. Smith says she loves that she can now park the car inside her garage in the winter months, ask her for some referrals. This is your opportunity to enlist her in your efforts and offer her a few coupons. Keep a stack near your computer and pass them along often.

If you know your tenant well, give him a small handful of coupons and ask him to distribute them on your behalf to his social club, service organization, church or youth sports group. One of our customers works for a moving company. He began passing referral coupons to customers headed to our area from out of state. A person doesn’t have to be local to use your coupon! We’ve had many people from across the country show up with our Web coupon in hand. It pays to expand your horizons when it comes to a referral program.

Coupons can also be a great deal-clincher for enticing prospects who say they need to “check out a few more places before making a decision.” Say softly in a conspiratorial tone: “You know, I shouldn’t do this, but since you didn’t see our website offer, let me sneak you one of these coupons. Just forget where you found it, OK?” Often, a $50 discount breaks down that last nagging piece of doubt in their mind. Soon the customer will be signing on the dotted line.

Keep a few coupons in your car, pocket or purse and pass them along whenever the opportunity presents itself. You can even use them in lieu of a business card. Here are some other ways you can pass along coupons:

  • Contact your local realtors and give them a supply to use as resources for their clients.
  • Make sure the local chamber of commerce has a supply on hand for members and new businesses.
  • Pass out coupons at local street fairs and farmers’ markets.
  • Take coupons to every networking event you attend.
  • Ask your local coffeehouse if you can leave some on the counter.  
  • Contractor supply houses are great places with bulletin boards. Most of the contractors stick with people they trust.
  • Home-improvement stores are another great place to post coupons on bulletin boards.
  • Get your coupons into the local Welcome Wagon-type packets.
  • Contact the local school district and ask if you can drop off coupons for the office, parent-teacher organizations, clubs or sports organizations.
  • Partner with any local business that meets your criteria and sees a lot of foot traffic. Their traffic and a supply of your coupons will generate more rentals.

Your ultimate goal is to create awareness so that when someone does need self-storage, they’ll turn to you, not your competition. The best thing you can hear is a competitor complaining he sees your coupons everywhere he goes. Once you’ve hit that level, you know your name is in the customer’s subconscious as well.

We can’t force people to rent at a time of our choosing, but we can make sure they know our name and remember it when a need for storage arises in their lives.

Gina Six Kudo is the general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 15 years of self-storage experience and a strong customer-service and sales background. She can be reached at 408.782.8883; e-mail [email protected], visit www.cochranestorage.com.

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