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Articles from 2001 In March

Oh, the Feasibilities...

Oh, the Feasibilities...

I live my life in a time warp. This is because I work in publishing, and I am two months ahead of myself at any given moment. We produce this publication--as well as our others--that far ahead of schedule to allow time for all systems to "go," but it makes it difficult to be in the moment sometimes. It also makes things confusing when I talk to you about our February expo in our May issue, which I am about to do.

If you attended the Inside Self-Storage Expo in Las Vegas during Jan. 31-Feb. 2, you know what an astounding show it was. If you didn't attend, I'm about to fill you in on what you missed. While my experience in self-storage spans only three years, I am told by industry veterans that they have just witnessed a show "like those we had in the good old days," shows that were very high energy, that produced lots of leads and sales for our suppliers, and top-notch education and events for our attendees. Attendance exceeded 3,000 this year, which is the best we've ever seen. Our heads are still reeling. I don't mind telling you: We're pretty psyched.

Next month we'll be doing it all over again during our annual Trade Fair, which is, admittedly, a smaller, more regional show than the expo. But we do guarantee the same quality opportunities for education, networking and deal-making. This event will be held in Biloxi, Miss., June 7-8, at the Beau Rivage casino and resort. If you've never been there, the facility is gorgeous and a mere 90 miles from New Orleans. Come enjoy the Gulf Coast for the show, and hop over to New Orleans for some creole and jazz over the weekend. You can't beat it.

I know from talking to people in Las Vegas that there are more tire-kickers than ever in this industry--people interested to know whether this business might be the Golden Goose they're seeking. To everyone who approached me at the show or who has sent e-mails since, I advise against taking any action--whether it be purchasing property or buildings, or hiring builders or managers--before they have a feasibility study conducted on their proposed location. Without this, you're going in blind. On page 20, Jim Chiswell explains the importance of such a study, as well as what it should include. And, of course, you need to educate yourself as much as possible before making any business decision.

We hope to see you in Mississippi. As at all of these opportunity-producing events, the "feasibilities" are endless.

Warm regards,

Teri L. Lanza
[email protected]

For a complete list of references click here

Eight Secrets to Marketing Success

Eight Secrets to Marketing Success

By Bill Dueease

You have the right and obligation to determine which potential customers you will serve. You should screen out undesirable customers early so you can focus more attention on customers you want.

The profits of a business are largely dependent on marketing. But what is marketing anyway? It is doing what it takes to convince enough customers to pay the necessary price for your products and/or services and produce the desired profits for your business. Let's discuss the eight secrets business owners can use to greatly improve their marketing success.

Secret #1

Give marketing top priority. The primary reason any customer chooses to buy your products or services is because of effective marketing, comprised of the four important P's. It begins with product development, ensuring the product or service fills a need for potential customers so they will want to buy it. The next step is pricing, ensuring the business will achieve profits from sales. Effective positioning allows customers easy interaction with the business to evaluate the product or service. The final step is promotion, where the business communicates with potential customers about the existence and benefits of the products or services, enticing them to contact the business and learn more.

Marketing culminates in sales--when the customer's perceived value of your products and services exceeds the price. You generate successful sales only because you complete the four steps of product development, pricing, positioning and promotion. You want to focus on marketing at all times to succeed.

Secret #2

Do not confuse advertising with marketing. Advertising is only a part of the last marketing step, promotion, and it occurs late in the game. Many often think advertising is all there is to marketing, so they overlook the other three very important marketing steps. Consequently, they lose the opportunity to control and develop more than 75 percent of all marketing, which must be done first and well to allow advertising to succeed.

Secret #3

Do not base your marketing solely on your own opinions and desires. Some owners make the mistake of believing their power and freedom of choice as "the boss" means they don't have to accept or deal with the opinions of others. But that is only partly true. You are in virtual control of either succeeding or failing to convince the customer to buy your products or services. You want to avoid imposing your opinion on potential customers. Focus on fulfilling their perceived wants and needs--from their perspective--and you will greatly increase the number of customers who decide to purchase with you.

Secret #4

Learn all you can about your potential customers. You want to conduct in-depth research of your potential customer base. You will want to learn everything possible about who they are, what they think they want to buy, and why, how, and when they think they buy.

Secret #5

Learn how to screen out undesirable customers. You have the right and obligation to determine which potential customers you will serve. You should screen out undesirable customers early so you can focus more attention on customers you want. Sadly, you often may not know how to identify the desirables from the pool of potential customers you encounter. As a result, you often spend too much time, money and energy trying to deal with a handful of hard-to-please customers, who frequently demand lower prices, at the expense of better customers, who go elsewhere because they were ignored. You should know the key criteria to help you decide which potential customers are the right ones.

Secret #6

Know and appreciate the value of your existing customers. You may often become so focused on getting new customers that you ignore your existing ones. But the truth is, your business will probably not survive without repeat business. Repeat customers present a wealth of opportunities to you. They frequently provide you excellent feedback; they provide an excellent reference and referral service (read, free advertising); and they are the least expensive and most likely source of additional revenue. Their unnecessary departure causes your business substantial damage. Upset customers will complain to at least five to nine potential customers, so stay loyal to your existing customers and learn as much as you can from them.

Secret #7

Create a positive identity distinct from your competitors. Most customers compare. They need a good reason to choose your product or service over others. You complete more sales when you understand your competitors extremely well and position your products or services for positive customer comparison.

Secret #8

Consider the overwhelming power emotion has on the process of deciding to buy. The buying process is largely governed by emotional forces. Some say more than 80 percent of the entire process is emotion; yet you probably focus your energies on price and avoid the real emotional reasons customers will buy. You should know and feel the emotional connection your potential customers will make with your business, products and/or services. You should know how they interact with your business. You will want your entire marketing program to address those emotional issues to attract and keep the right customers.

Making a decision to buy almost always starts with an emotional need a customer is seeking to meet. Therefore, the search and evaluation of possible products and services is also frequently emotional. The issue of price comes in toward the end of the sales process and, in reality, the customer mostly wants to know price to justify the emotional decision he has already made. In fact, the request for price from a customer is a very strong buying signal (does the cost allow me to buy what I want and is it fair for what I will get?). Business owners succeed when they know how to deal with this emotional process and permit the customer to complete this process through final payment.

What a wonderful opportunity! Marketing allows you to take charge of learning, succeed in your goals and have fun along the way.

This article was provided as an educational service by Bill Dueease of Aspen Business Group. Mr. Dueease is a coach for U.S. and Canadian business owners, teaching them to increase profits, reduce stress, and gain control over their businesses to reach life goals. His article, "10 Insider Secrets Most Business Owners Never Learn," is available for free by e-mailing [email protected] or calling 800.489.6818.

The Feasibility Study

Conducting a self-storage feasibility study should be looked at as more than just determining the viability of a specific location or market area for your project. It should be viewed as the process of determining if you really are suited to be in the self-storage business along with the analysis of the specific location you have identified. The completed study should provide you with a road map to self-storage success or an objective warning telling you not to build on the location.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines "feasible" as 1) capable of being done or carried out; 2) capable of being used or dealt with successfully: suitable; 3) reasonable, likely--synonym: see possible. When you consider this definition, it really captures the essence of performing a feasibility study for a self-storage site. Consideration needs to be given to whether you are capable of completing the project and carrying out all of the steps necessary to successfully develop a facility in today's competitive environment.

You must determine if the site is capable of being used for self-storage. Or, if there are obstacles standing in the way, if they can be overcome successfully. Are you prepared to deal with the marketing and property-management challenges you will face? Finally, the study should answer the question: Is it likely you will meet your investment objectives when the project is leased to a stable occupancy?

While some of you are reading this article, there are times that you might be thinking, "What is he talking about? All I need to know is if I can build the project on this site. The rest of it will take care of itself." This may have been true at one time, but not any longer. Fifteen or 20 years ago, you may have been able to pick a "C-grade" location, build a project with no thought to design, traffic flow or security, and still retain customers. Today, you must not only look at every aspect of a location, but also consider the general and specific market conditions, along with the demographic trends and traffic patterns. The details of the level of market occupancy, relative square footage, rental rates and the professionalism of the competition's operation must be reviewed. In addition, you need to look carefully at the potential of future competition building on vacant land and the ability to convert existing buildings into self-storage business.

Another consideration to make before deciding to move forward with a specific site is, what is your exit strategy? If you think about a plan to get out of the business before you get in, it will help you to make sound business judgments about the project you seek to develop. For example, if your goal is to simply flip the site after it has been re-zoned for self-storage, you will have a different mindset than if you are building a project to be placed into a trust for your children to operate.

Let's Get Started

Enough introduction--let's get to the meat of conducting a feasibility study. Please keep in mind you cannot do enough homework. This holds true whether you are a "do-it-yourself" kind of person or if you plan to retain an industry professional to conduct the study with you. Your involvement in the process is vital. Any consultant will welcome the opportunity to spend time with you, sharing his knowledge of the industry and involving you directly in conducting the study. The need for information is critical in making an informed investment decision. Make sure you ask a lot of questions.

If the self-storage bug has bitten you, you must first identify all the existing self-storage facilities within the prospect community. Once you have these highlighted on your map, get in your car and start driving. Armed with the competition map, a camera, notepad, current Yellow Pages and a big cup of coffee, drive to each property. Make sure you have charted their location correctly on your map and photograph them for future reference. Visit each office personally. You can either explain you are thinking about building a project in the community or be a "mystery shopper." Mystery shopping is when you pose as a prospective customer to learn pertinent information about a facility. There are several companies providing these services to the industry if you would rather have a professional do the shopping. The choice is yours.

Pay special attention to the manager's style and the appearance of the office. Note the facility's office and gate hours. Are they charging a security deposit or administrative fee? If so, how much are they charging? What is the curb appeal of the facility? Does the office present an appealing retail appearance or does it have only one window, a single square of glass in a steel door guarding the entrance from imaginary intruders?

Look for vulnerabilities in the competition. You are looking for that market niche that can set you apart as well as other areas of opportunity, such as the lack of security or available climate-controlled space. It is hard to quantify all of the factors you should consider. Look at each competitor through the eyes of a potential customer.

How Much Competition?

There are several ways to determine the estimated size of the competition. The first is to simply ask the manager. If you learn that a single-story project has 400 units, you can estimate the size to be somewhere between 36,000 and 46,000 square feet. Use a range of 90 to 115 square feet as an average unit size. This obviously varies from project to project. A converted building in an urban environment, for example, will usually have much smaller unit sizes than a similar sized rural project.

If a project has no security fencing or gates, you can drive through the property and count the units, estimating the various building sizes and calculating the net-rentable area. If there are interior hallways, remember to deduct these areas from your calculations. In many jurisdictions, you can also obtain the square footages from the building departments or tax-assessment records.

You will determine the average occupancies of the facilities you visit from your conversation with the managers. Is the market occupancy in the high 80 percent to mid-90 percent range, or soft with vacancies running in the high 30 percent to 40 percent range, with stores offering a variety of discounts to entice people to rent? A warning: Just because the current occupancies of most facilities seem high does not in and of itself indicate that your proposed facility will lease up quickly. You also need to consider the seasonality of the market. In Boston, for example, when the college year ends, summer occupancies can jump dramatically.

Once you're back in your office, look at the distribution of the competition on your map. What are the radius distances from your proposed location vs. the actual drive-time distances? These are two totally different measurements. During your drive, make sure to pay special attention to natural and man-made barriers that prevent a free flow of traffic. A river or interstate can create commuting obstacles your potential customers will have to navigate. These barriers will usually have a negative impact on the effective population density in your real market area.

Remember to consider what streets your target-market population will use to get to your proposed location. Will they be driving by another new facility that just opened? For most people, self-storage is the same from facility to facility. How you design, build and manage the facility will differentiate you from the rest of the pack.

You need to know what the traffic counts are on the streets that will directly impact the facility. Although I have seen successful facilities constructed on dead-end streets, they are the exception. You normally would like to see a 24-hour traffic count of 15,000 to 20,000 cars. In some cases, a traffic count of 75,000 vehicles per day could indicate that customers will have a difficult time turning into or out of the project--traffic can be a double-edged sword. The state highway or city-planning departments should have the latest road counts. Also, remember to ask about any upcoming highway projects in the area. There is nothing worse than finding out the main road serving your market will be under construction for six to nine months after you open your doors.

Don't just consider the street where the facility is to be located. It is possible to be on a dead-end street and still beat the existing competition because of some unique location factors, such as facility visibility from an adjoining street or ease of customer access. It also may be that your dead-end site is in the middle of thousands of apartments and condos with no competition within five miles. Each location is like a snowflake--no two are ever alike.


One question that can never be left to chance is, "What is going on in the immediate market area?" You need to look at the demographic trends taking place in the area. There are all kinds of "freebie" sources for general demographic information. The area chambers of commerce, real-estate brokerage firms, local newspapers and the communities themselves will have some information. However, do yourself a favor: You are about to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an investment; spend the money to purchase specific facts and figures for your location.

For a few hundred dollars you can have the exact data you need to consider. Use a company such as Claritas (, whose reports will provide you all of the historic data and future-trends information you require. These demographic pages are also useful when approaching your banker. The report is an effective tool in explaining to your lender why self-storage can work on this particular site. It will help show the lender you have done your homework and know the market you intend to serve.

With the demographic information in hand, you can now perform the highly overrated "square-footage demand-potential calculation." For years, people have made their building decisions based almost solely upon the following mathematical formula: Take the population figures for the three- or five-mile radius of the proposed location (corrected for any negative natural-barrier impact) and multiply that number by the "magical" self-storage demand factor. I currently use 3.5 or 4 square feet per capita in many markets. Some consultants are more comfortable using 1.5 to 2 square feet, while some others are using 4.5 to 5. The resulting answer gives you a range of anticipated square-footage demand.

It isn't certain these calculations really work or if they ever worked. In places like Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta and many other metropolitan areas, the upper limit of this magical demand-index figure of so many square feet per person is constantly being tested. There are various factors that impact market demand. The ratio of owners to renters in the housing-stock figures, the turnover ratio of people moving in to and out of housing units annually, and the economic growth in the market will all play a role in determining demand. The number of small businesses and home-based entrepreneurs can impact demand, as well as homes without basements, attics and garages. A significant number of military families or students can also affect the demand curve for rental space.

Yes, you need to look at the square-footage demand figures, but they alone do not predict future success. Facilities have been developed with positive demand factors, only to see the project never reach its full potential because of poor site design coupled with poor property management. Don't be misled into building or not building a facility simply because of the results of this calculation.

How Is It Zoned?

You've mapped your competition. You know the relative levels of unit occupancy and the rental rates other people are charging. You've looked at the traffic counts. But do you know if your site is capable of being used for self-storage? Many people say, "No problem--the owner or realtor told me the site is OK to build on." This is a huge red flag. Do not ever take someone else's word on the issue of site suitability when it comes to property zoning. You have to find out for yourself. This could mean another trip to the municipal building or city hall, and it may mean dealing with staff people who really don't care what you want to build. However, you must get the facts about the location from the horse's mouth.

If a rezoning is going to be necessary, be prepared to dig in--into one pocket for the costs of professional expenses--legal, architectural and engineering--and into your pocket of patience. Fighting for a rezoning is always filled with land mines. At any point in the process, a mine can be triggered and your dream turned into a nightmare. I know owners who battled for more than two years in hearing after hearing only to finally lose. If you are not prepared to take this risk, then you need to find a suitable site that is properly zoned.

Not only do you need to know if the zoning is OK, but you also need to discover what the attitude is of the local building and code officials concerning the development of another one of "those things" in the community. Find out if there are any potential wetlands problems. Ask the staff for suggestions for a good local engineer. You'll quickly discover that, in many communities, there are only one or two engineering firms that do the bulk of the work in the city. Don't try to bring in some high-powered, out-of-the-area engineering firm that doesn't know its way around the personalities and political land mines of your area.

Even if the property is properly zoned, you cannot ignore the abutting property owners. Whether you go door to door, speak at a community meeting or have your own open house at a local hotel, you must make sure the residents understand what is being proposed. I have seen several situations, even with properly zoned sites, where the political heat from upset neighbors made the process almost impossible. If you establish a dialog with the neighbors, you will know what planning issues they will raise at public hearings and be prepared to answer their concerns. Ignore the abutting neighbors at your peril.

A side benefit of your visit is you can find out if there are other projects in the approval pipeline. It sure would be nice to know if that other piece of dirt you were looking at down the street has just been approved for an 80,000-square-foot project. If there have been any self-storage projects recently constructed within the community, ask to see the file folder on the project. In most jurisdictions, this is considered public information. From the files, you can examine the project's plans and get detailed information on its unit mix and office/apartment. You can also review the correspondences in the file to see the various issues the prior applicant dealt with. You can also get a wealth of information on the attitudes and "hot buttons" of the community's professional staff and sometimes even the commissioners you will also appear in front of with your application. Remember to find out about the local sign ordinances. Signage is critical and you want the most you can get from the system.

You will also need to conduct a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment of the site. You will often eat this cost, but lenders will require it to even consider making a mortgage-loan package. One point of negotiation with the seller may be that if you pay for the study, the results belong to you and could be made public. However, if the seller pays, the report belongs to him. In either case, eliminating any possible environmental concerns can produce peace of mind if you move forward to a purchase.

Can I Make a Profit?

Let's recap. You have looked at your competition. You've considered the demographic trends. You have done the "magical" demand-index calculations, and the municipal officials have given you the green light on the site's suitability. So what's left? How about finding out if you can actually make a profit building the project?

An old friend and self-storage industry veteran, Buzz Victor, has developed the "66 Percent Rule" in considering the price of the land you buy. He maintains that you should not pay more than 66 percent of the average rental rate you will earn at the facility. So if your average rental rate were $12 per square foot, you should not pay more than $7.96 per buildable square foot for your land. If you were building 65,000 square feet store, you would be in the ballpark if you were planning to pay about $500,000 for the property. Like any rule of thumb, you must individually evaluate this in light of the financial return you are anticipating.

Here is a sample scenario: We are going to build a single-story, 60,000-square-foot net-rentable project, which will include 26,500 square feet of climate-controlled space. Approximately 44 percent of the total square footage is in climate-controlled space. There will be 530 units with an average unit size of 113.21 square feet, and our average rental rate will be $12 per square foot annually.

Operations will generate miscellaneous income of 4 percent of the monthly gross-rental income in late fees, lock sales and the sales of moving-and-storage supplies. In some cases, this extra income will be much higher, but let's use a conservative 4 percent. We will be charging our new tenants a $10 administrative fee at lease inception. Our operational expense load will be $3.25 per square foot. This will allow us to cover a seven-day-a-week operation in a high property-tax community. Expenses typically run in the 30 percent to 45 percent of total rental income range.

We will have a 1,000-square-foot office and a 1,200-square-foot apartment. (The debate as to whether or not to have an onsite apartment is a topic for another article.) I've assumed a lease-up rate of a net 5 percent per month. Therefore, our project will reach 90 percent occupancy in 18 months. No inflation is projected for the expenses or income for our calculations. (This is obviously not the real world, but it helps in making the example easier to understand.) Estimated construction costs--including land and working capital--will be $46.80 per square foot. Please keep in mind this is just an example. I can guarantee your experience will vary from these examples, depending on your local market conditions, type of construction and site requirements.

Based on the factors above, the project would produce net operating income (before corporate taxes and any debt service) of $471,120 at the end of year three. This is considered a mature property with a stabilized occupancy of 90 percent. If you had invested all cash into this transaction, you would be earning a 16.8 percent cash-on-cash return at the end of the third year. Depending on the amount of money you borrow, fixed operational expenses and your debt level, you will probably be kept in a negative cash position for maybe a year or longer. An internal rate of return can also be calculated from this information for the real math wizards.

At a 10 percent capitalization rate, the project would have a market value of $4,711,200. If the project were sold at the end of the third year, it would produce a gain of $1,902,800 over the original investment. OK, so this is why you want to build a self-storage facility. Now is the time for you to make the value judgment of the risk vs. reward in making the final investment decision.

The painful reality is that many projects will not achieve these results. There are some facilities that have never achieved above 60 percent occupancy. The facility, simply, should never have been built. The owner--the one who owned the facility before the bank foreclosed on it or it was sold at a "fire-sale" price--did not do his homework. He got caught up in the allure of the potential rates of return and positive cash flow. He loved the fact that the number of employees necessary to produce that level of income is one of the lowest of any retail business in America. He was not objective in his consideration of the facts. This is especially true when the person already owned the land. He lost sight of all the other negative factors from the feasibility study that should have told him not to build.

Do the income and expense calculations as the final step in the feasibility study. Make sure the market is not saturated and it is really practical to buy the site, even if the land is properly zoned. Make sure you really want to be in this business. It is not as easy as it looks. Yes, it can be a great business and hundreds of entrepreneurs, just like you, are enjoying success in our industry every day.

Despite some of the prophets who preach of industry consolidation doom and gloom, there is still time to enter the industry. Not all of the good sites have been taken. Not all of the growth has gone out of the industry. However, it will require more attention to the feasibility-study details, more attention to the subtleties of the industry and how you operate the facility once it is built to ensure success. Remember: Getting the facility built is the easy part. It is getting it leased up that will really test you and help you realize the anticipated financial return. Don't wait until the project is under construction to consider the management challenges you will face.

Jim Chiswell is president of Chiswell & Associates. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence, expert testimony and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. In addition to contributing regularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr. Chiswell is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos and various association meetings. He can be reached at 716.634.2428; e-mail [email protected];

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 04/2001: Raising Rental Rates

Raising Rental Rates
Is it time?

By Pamela Alton

Raising rental rates is probably one of the least enjoyable aspects of a self-storage manager's job. No one likes to field those calls from tenants threatening to vacate because they received a $5-per-month rental increase. How do you handle them? When do you raise rental rates and whose rates do you raise?


Obviously, researching the rental rates in your market area is a must before you raise your own rates to existing tenants and new move-ins. At least every three months or so, you should contact the other managers in your area and trade information on rental rates, changes in office or gate hours, administration fees or deposits, etc. Most managers are cooperative with each other; however, like anything in life, there are exceptions to the rule. Some companies, for one reason or another, refuse to exchange rental-rate information with those they consider to be their "competition." If that is the case in your area, you could be forced to play the "rental-rate game," placing a mystery call as a tenant inquiring about a unit. But how you get the information is not as important as having it.

You want to be competitive--not too high or too low. One way to "test the waters" on rental increases is to change your walk-in rates to be slightly higher than what your existing tenants are already paying. If you find you can easily rent them at a higher rate, then consider increasing the rates of your existing tenants as well. Similarly, when someone vacates a unit and you are otherwise full in that unit size, try putting a higher rate on that unit. If you can easily fetch a higher price, you can consider a rate increase across the board.

There are times of the year when rental-rate increases are expected and usually considered part of doing business. Winter months around the holidays or early spring are good times for increasing rates. Most tenants expect a rate increase around the first of the year. Just before the holidays is a good time to send out your rental-increase notices indicating a January or February change. Most tenants are busy with the holidays and don't have the time or desire to move even in the event of an increase. The weather could also act as a deterrant, encouraging renters to stay in their units until spring. Spring is also a great time to increase your marketing efforts, allowing you to make up vacancies with new rentals.

A word on notices: Some rental agreements say you can change rates, office hours, etc., with only a seven-day notice. I personally give my tenants at least a 30-day notice, if not slightly longer. Seven days is not enough time, regardless of what your agreement states.

Whose Rates?

You might choose to implement an annual rental increase across the board on the first of the year to all tenants, regardless of how long they have occupied a unit. This is fairly easy to calculate. It is a little more difficult to selectively increase certain tenants or unit sizes. In this case, you will have to print several computerized site records, such as rental history, discounted units, past-due accounts, etc. You will use these reports to determine who will receive a rental increase.

Tenants who pay below the standard rate because of a discount or other special are good candidates for an increase. Similarly, those tenants who often pay late are good candidates. Those who pay late and receive discounts should be at the top of your list! Make certain you tell each new tenant who moves in under a discount program that the discount could be changed or removed at the end of X number of months. Tenants who have been with you for more than a year and have never received a rental increase should see a raise.

Handling Those Irate Calls

Once you have sent out your rental-increase notices, be prepared to field the calls and tenant inquiries. A vast majority of tenants will accept the increase as part of doing business. However, when you get an irate tenant, kindly explain that it's your job to do as the owner or management company requests, and that rental increases are standard. Let your tenants know you have enjoyed having them as renters, and remind them of any discounts they have received, or what the current "walk-in" rate for their unit now is.

If the tenant rants and raves about the increase and threatens to vacate, your response could be something along these lines: "The rental rates at local facilities are all within a few dollars of each other. We would hate to lose you as a tenant, however, if you feel you can get a better deal--a cleaner facility, better location, longer access hours, more security features, etc.--then you owe it to yourself to go elsewhere. " Then remind them of your vacate policy and wish them well.

The facility owner or management company should rely on the input of the onsite manager when considering rental increases. I love it when one of my managers calls me to ask if he can raise his rates. It shows he is looking to bring in as much income as possible. Some managers think in terms of occupancy levels, bragging, "I have been 100 percent full for the last three years." I say, then your rental rates are too low and the owner is not making the income he should be. And you are not making the salary you should be making! Ask yourself: Is it better to be 100 percent occupied with an income of $40,000 per month, or 92 percent occupied with income of $42,000 per month? Which numbers do you think an owner would like to see?

Rental increases are a necessary evil for the onsite manager. How you select tenants or unit sizes for increases or handle objections shows the type of professional manager you are (or aren't). As spring and summer approach, be prepared with additional postage, paper and envelopes; research those rental rates and get those letters out--at least 30 days before your changes go into effect.

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations-only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.

Vehicle Storage and Profits

Vehicle Storage and Profits
An evolving business adds to your bottom line

By Rex W. Young

There has been a great deal written in the past few years about boat and RV storage, but often the reader is left with more questions than answers. There is a good reason for this. The vehicle-storage business is like the self-storage business was 30 years ago in its sophistication. Once, an open dirt field with a fence around it was the norm. That is changing and will continue to change as the vehicle-storage industry evolves, just as the self-storage industry did.

Determining Need

If you are looking to expand your self-storage facility to include vehicle storage, you should have a good feel for the demand as indicated by your customers. If this is not the case, the first thing you need to do is determine if there is a need for this type of storage in your area. If there are no other storage facilities (including dirt fields) offering vehicle storage, that may be a good indication that a demand has not made itself evident.

The development-radius concept of one facility every three to five miles does not apply to vehicle storage--in this case, the radius is usually about 10 miles. One of the quickest ways to determine need is to use your Yellow Pages and check how many RV, boat and trailer dealers--as well as their counterpart service facilities--exist and where they are generally located. This information will be very useful when it comes time for choosing a site location.

Look up city ordinances to see if they restrict both on- and off-street parking of recreational vehicles. Also check to see how many retired persons live in the area, as they are the ones with the highest percentage of RVs, fifth wheels and trailers. Break down the demographics and study them closely. Finally, listen to your "gut feeling," as this can sometimes be the best indicator of all. Remember, there are no books of answers regarding vehicle storage as of yet.

Definition of 'Vehicle'

One facility has decided to define a vehicle as "anything on wheels or that can be put on wheels that needs to be stored." The individual/consumer side of the vehicle-storage business includes RVs, boats, fifth wheels, trailers, pop-up camping trailers, box trailers and automobiles. On the commercial side, it includes small cranes, commercial trucks of any nature, landscape trailers, 45-foot construction trailers, church buses and small business vans. They have had an Indy racing team store their support vehicles as well as a TV satellite truck. These are examples of some nontraditional vehicles that require storage.

Land Requirements

There are three basic development choices: expansion of an existing self-storage facility, a new self- and vehicle-storage facility, or a stand-alone vehicle-storage facility. Some operators have developed at least two of those choices. Then whether they are discussing the integration of 300 to 350 vehicle spaces into an existing self-storage facility or the construction of a 550-space vehicle-storage facility, the project will require a minimum of five acres for expansion or 10 acres for stand-alone vehicle storage.

The Facility

Operating a first-class facility requires that it be paved and offer at least some covered parking for all the lengths of vehicles you will store. A simple answer is to provide 50 percent covered and 50 percent uncovered spaces, but each market has its own demand. One advantage of vehicle storage is that you can paint over your "mistakes" or adjust to your customers' changing needs. One facility repainted the 40-foot covered spaces twice to provide more width until something worked. They repainted all the uncovered 35-foot spaces from 90-degree angles to 45 degrees. They lost spaces, but gained paying customers because the aisles were widened.

You should include, as a minimum, a free dump station, 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week access, separate ingress and egress gates for the vehicle area from the self-storage area, night-patrol security, TV surveillance with a recorder on all gates, excellent lighting, and electrical outlets on the poles of the covered parking for keeping batteries charged. Other amenities may include a wash rack or special vehicle services, but first check your liability and its costs. One philosophy is that you are in the vehicle-storage business, not the service business.

Finally, if you design your canopies to extend more than 5,000 square feet, most cities will require you to include fire sprinklers. A loop fire line with hydrants and retention basins may also be required. Check with your local fire marshal.

Location, Location, Location

This is one of the most used expressions in real-estate development. At the same time, it is the least understood. In the self-storage business, "location" consists of accessibility, visibility and market area. All three are necessary in order to be successful.

Accessibility. Your customers must be able to easily ingress and egress your facility. Remember, they are driving 45-foot or larger vehicles. You must also have accessibility to a freeway, state highway or other major traffic artery that leads to recreational areas such as lakes, ocean marinas, camping sites, etc.

Visibility. If they cannot see or easily find you, potential customers will not store with you. Street signage is extremely important. Visibility can also be achieved through advertising in the Yellow Pages with a clear map in all the listings, i.e., household storage, RV storage, boat storage, trailer storage and so on. Cold call all the RV, boat and trailer sellers or service facilities in your area and leave them with your information.

Market area. There are always additional ideas to explore. For example, look for new home subdivisions and see if they ban outside vehicle storage in their CC&Rs. This is also an excellent place to provide information to home builders so they can easily answer their customers' questions about where to store their "toys."

The Site

Check with your city's planning department to determine the type of zoning required for your facility and with the building department to find out about building codes and retention requirements. Now comes the biggest contraint: price. It's been determined $1.75 to $2 per square foot is the maximum you can pay or allocate for vehicle storage in order for economic viability to exist. Before you start yelling that there is no land available for that price, get in your car and start driving through the general area where you wish to locate your facility. Take an aerial map to assist you. There are usually sites tucked away that have been leaped over by development or have unusual configurations. The sites exists--you just have to find them.


Whether it is a combination or stand-alone facility, you must determine your mix of space sizes and widths, isle widths, canopy locations, sun orientation and ingress/egress gates. Remember: A 30-foot fifth wheel or trailer is really 40-feet-plus with the hauling vehicle when you consider the turning radius and space needed for backing into a space.

The economic feasibility or costs of this type of facility have been avoided in this discussion because there are just too many variables involved to make broad generalizations. Suffice it to say, it could be economically rewarding at your facility.

Rex Young of A-Secured Self and Vehicle Storage Centers in Glendale, Ariz., has more than 30 years experience in commercial development, 11 years in the self-storage industry and five years in the development of vehicle-storage facilities. His entities own and control a total of 1,641 vehicle-storage spaces, 642 of which are covered.

Inside Self-Storage 04/2001: Tools for Records Management

Tools for Records Management

By Cary F. McGovern

Selecting the right tools for your business may be the most important decision you make. Why are tools so important and what makes the selection process critical? This article will discuss the importance of tools as they relate to records-management services.

The Importance of Tool Selection

Being a consultant for nearly 25 years, I have collected many stories about tools. Selecting the right tool for any job may cut the cost in half. My favorite story has to do with my father-in-law. Albin was a machinist all of his life, and his garage was filled with tools. One Saturday morning, after he had passed away, the men of the family met in his garage and each selected a tool, one at a time. After a couple of hours, we had selected a number of tools, but there were still perhaps 50 left on the floor. None of us knew what they were used for. Some were odd shaped and others really strange looking. I can tell you Albin not only knew what they were for but how to use them. Without the right tool, any job is more difficult. Sure, you may be able to unscrew a screw with a knife, but it can be very difficult.

I recently did an assessment of a file room at a major regional bank that had more than 200,000 files. The bank had just purchased an automated file-tracking system for more than $60,000, including the software and subsequent conversion of data to the system. The bank did not, however, have enough money in its budget to buy portable barcode readers. As a result, its employees have to type barcodes into a single location code, "the file room." The results are that files are still missing. My analysis showed that although the company had a great tool, it was being used improperly. The analogy I presented to the division manager was that the company had purchased a pneumatic nail gun, but was hammering nails with its handle. Clearly they had the right tool, but didn't understand its function.

I personally encounter poor tool selection and improper use all the time in my business. Sometimes it is because of overly cautious practices, other times it is purely from ignorance. Tools abound in records management. Its tools include start-up planning, business practices, marketing strategy, software and hardware, outsourcing services and strategic alliances. Let's discuss each of these.

Start-up Planning

Records management is quite different from self-storage. Although there is no better fit than records management in a self-storage facility, a very different plan is required. Where self-storage is typified by passivity, records management is typified by activity. Planning your business with the right tools is imperative. The feasibility study, strategic business plan and market assessment are all key to success.

Business Practices

Since self-storage requires minimal management intervention and records management requires close attention to detail, internal controls and more effective business practices change the staffing qualifications and requirements. Attention to detail becomes the most important factor. Managing your resources is key to the success of your records-management business.

Marketing Strategy

Know your market. Know what you want to be. Position yourself and develop a strategy to reach your goals. Two important marketing tools are software products: prospecting tools, such as Imine BrowserTM and sales-management tools, such as Act 2000TM or GoldmineTM. Imine Browser automatically collects data from existing Internet Yellow Pages listings and sells for less than $100 (visit Sales-management software effectively coordinates the sales cycle. These products are widely available at software stores and over the Internet for about $150.

Software and Hardware

Although there are many inventory-control software products available on the market, some are very inexpensive. Typically, you get what you pay for. At a recent tradeshow, a customer informed me he had purchased a product I would never recommend. He said he was satisfied with it. I suggested his satisfaction would not last long. There are only a few software products that are worth their salt in records-center operations. Eventually, the others will leave you behind. I could recount story after story about companies being left behind by poorly managed software vendors. If your product does not include Internet capabilities, you have relinquished great leverage with your customers and cost yourself a great deal more labor in the future. Labor is an ongoing cost where software is not.

Outsourcing Services

The greatest tool developed for business over the last 20 years has to do with outsourcing non-core business functions. Careful planning of your facility will allow you to outsource activities to others who offer those services as their core business. In many cases, outsourcing a function enables you to have more control and reduce cost at the same time. This tool must be utilized wisely, however, or you may find yourself in the same analogy as the pnuematic nail gun mentioned earlier.

Strategic Alliances

Smart business people know what business they are in. If an activity is not "core" to your business, find the right resource partner to provide that set of expertise or services. The best example I know of is a general contractor. He will employ sub-contractors for plumbing, electrical, framing, mechanical, etc. Why? Because he is good at project management and his framer is good at framing. Since records management is a discipline more than 50 years old, you can find content experts to do just about anything. Each is experienced in what he does. Know what you are good at but when you can, hire those who are better than you at various tasks.

Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and the principal of File Managers Inc., a records-management consulting firm specializing in implementation assistance and training for new, commercial records-center start-ups, as well as marketing support for existing records centers. For more information, call 877.FILEMAN; e-mail [email protected].

From Not-Com to Dot-Com

From Not-Com to Dot-Com
Putting your self-storage business online

By Fred S. Steingold

So, you're ready to put your self-storage business online. The move from brick and mortar to "click" and mortar can be exciting--but also a bit daunting. Fortunately, there is plenty of literature and software out there to get you up to speed on the business and technology issues, as well as consultants to aid you. But information about legal issues can be more difficult to come by, so we'll focus on those here. The following suggestions can help reduce your legal risks as an e-commerce company.

Consider setting up a corporation or limited-liability company.

If your business is already organized that way, great. But if it's set up as a sole proprietorship or partnership, consider a change. The reason: It's impossible to predict your business' legal exposure when operating on the web. The Internet is relatively new, and courts and legislatures are just beginning to look at e-commerce conflicts.

Since the web is everywhere, if you are involved in litigation relating to its use, you may find yourself hauled into court halfway across the country. If your business is a sole proprietorship or partnership, you, as an owner, can be personally liable for a judgment against it. Your personal assets will be at risk. Why take a chance? It's simple to limit your personal liability by shifting to a corporation or limited-liability company (LLC).

Make sure you own your domain name and that it's legally secure.

Registering a domain name, such as, is the easy part. If someone hasn't already registered it, you can pay a modest fee to an accredited registrar, and the name is yours. But if you've used a consultant to help you get online, you need to make sure your business--not the consultant--is named as owner. If you and the consultant should part ways, you want to be able to control the domain name in the future.

Also be aware that just registering the domain name doesn't mean you can keep it. If the name resembles some other company's trademark, you may wind up in a lawsuit. If you lose, you'll have to give up the name, and may have to pay hefty damages to the rightful owner. The best protection is to have a lawyer do a trademark search for you. You'll learn if your preferred domain name infringes on someone else's trademark. A trademark search isn't 100 percent foolproof, but it comes pretty darn close.

Be certain you own your website content.

If you hire a website developer, have a written agreement that makes your business the owner of the words and images that make up the site. Otherwise, the developer may continue to own some rights, and will be able to use your material on other sites. Similarly, if you or the developer use material, such as an article or photo, from third parties, get permission in writing to use that material. This permission is sometimes called a license.

Be alert to linking issues.

As you know, linking to other sites is what makes the web fun and interesting. In fact, linking is what the web is all about. You may want to put a link on your own site, allowing visitors to get quick access to another site--maybe one with good information about your industry.

Usually, linking is free of legal problems. But watch out for deep linking--taking visitors to someone else's site but bypassing the other site's home page. The other site may be getting advertising revenue based on the number of visitors to the home page. If your visitors don't have to stop there, this ad revenue is lost, and you could be sued.

Keep up with privacy agreements.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is concerned with how you use information you collect from customers online--especially children. We don't have the final word yet on what will be premissible, but you should develop a privacy policy and post it prominently on your site. If, for example, you're going to sell personal information to outsiders, customers should know that. For more information on this developing issue, check the FTC's website at

Be truthful in online advertising.

Claims and promises you make online are subject to the FTC's advertising rules. Tell the whole truth online and don't mislead customers. Don't hide important information in inaccessible places. Otherwise, you'll incur the FTC's ire, and have to pay fines, too.

If you'll be shipping goods to online customers, get familiar with the FTC's Mail Order Rule. It applies to online sales as well. It requires you to update customers on when goods will be shipped and gives them the chance to cancel their order if they don't like the delay.

Clearly state warranty and other contract terms.

When you sell goods, provide services or present information online, you may want to limit your liability. Off-line, you might do this with a written contract or a sign posted in your business place. Online, you need to find another way. Consider the following issues: Just what does your warranty cover? When can a customer get a refund? Are you soliciting customers in certain states only? Do customers have to be older than a specified age? Whatever your answers to these and similar questions, post your terms clearly on your site.

You might require customers to acknowledge, by clicking, that they accept your terms. These "click-wrap" agreements probably are legally binding on the customer. We'll know for sure in a few years when judges have had a chance to rule on such agreements.

The age of e-commerce is upon us, and will continue to rise to more sophisticated levels. Following these simple guidelines will help ensure the success of your online business--and keep you out of legal hot water.

Fred S. Steingold practices law in Ann Arbor, Mich. He is the author of The Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business and The Employer's Legal Handbook, published by

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 04/2001: Designing a Yellow Pages Ad Double your response rates

Designing a Yellow Pages Ad
Double your response rates

By Fred Gleeck

I've seen a lot of mistakes made in the design of Yellow Pages ads for self-storage businesses. Many operators have been misled in this area. I'd like to give you some cold, hard facts about what works and what doesn't in the design of a Yellow Pages ad.

If you just renewed your ad, you're going to be upset with me. I apologize in advance. Unfortunately, graphic designers--not marketing experts--have probably assisted you in the past in designing your ad. But this is like asking an interior designer to design your buildings. Designers know how to make them look pretty, but the architect knows how to make them structurally sound.

First, we need to define what makes an ad successful. The only way to tell if a Yellow Pages ad is effective is to measure the number of calls it produces. That's the only job of such an ad. It's your manager's job to "sell" people once they call. So, you first have to collect data on the number of calls you receive. Without this data, you have no way to know if your ad is really working.

How do you do this? You should make sure your manager records every call. Each call should be coded based on what produced it--Yellow Pages, a referral, a flier, the Internet, etc. At the end of each month, you'll know what percentage of your calls came from each marketing method. These numbers won't be perfect, but they will certainly work for the purpose of comparison.

Your Headline

The most important element of your ad is your headline. Many storage owners put their facility name at the top of the ad. This is misguided. Your headline is the "ad for your ad." Although it may be gratifying to your ego to see see the name of your facility at the top of the ad, it makes no logical sense. Think about it: Do people flip through the storage section of the Yellow Pages and stop at the ad with the name they like best? I don't think so. But by putting your name in the coveted headline position, that's what you're saying you believe.

Instead, you should use your USP--unique selling proposition--as your headline. Highlight what you do that no one else in your market area does. If you don't have something like that, then you're in trouble, and you need to develop such a feature. But that's another article.

Let's say you're the only one in your market who offers 24-hour access. State that fact in your headline, and make sure to word the ad in a compelling way. You might use: "Why you must have 24-hour access to your goods." You might also go with: "The only facility with 24-hour access!" Remember, the headline is the single most important element of a Yellow Pages ad. It will stop people in their tracks if you use it effectively.

Using Features/Benefits

The majority of potential renters reading your ad have not rented storage before. This being the case, you can't assume they have a working knowledge of the storage business and the terminology we use. It is, therefore, critically important that you attach a benefit to every feature you list.

Here's an example: Let's say you list the feature "individual door alarms." You must then attach the benefit: "These allow us to know when an unauthorized person has attempted to enter your unit." If the feature was "24-hour access," the benefit would be "so you can get to your belongings at any time, night or day." Make certain every feature you list has a benefit attached to it. We might know why a certain feature is important, but we must spell it out to our potential customers.

Storage Hotline

Every Yellow Pages ad should list a "storage hotline" number in addition to your regular office line. This is a separate number accessing a recording that highlights all of your features and benefits--especially your USP(s). To get people to call your storage hotline, you must give it a compelling title, for example, "The seven things you must know before renting a storage facility."

This separate number should be attached to a machine or voice- messaging system that operates as a "greeting-only" device. Do not allow people to leave messages here. The hotline becomes your 24-hour electronic salesperson. This salesperson works 24/7 and only gets paid a flat monthly fee. People will call the hotline before they call your regular office number because they know that no one will try to sell them anything. It's a nonthreatening way to get information.

My data indicates more than 50 percent of all calls made to this hotline number take place during non-business hours. The keys to making the hotline work are how you title it, the message you use and how you promote it.


A small but readable map should be included in every Yellow Pages ad. It must provide your major cross streets to give people a good idea where you're located. Rarely will a person drive to your facility without calling first. The purpose of the map is to show people what area you're in.

The map should also highlight well-known landmarks in the area, such as the local Wal-Mart or other popular retailers close by. And position the map toward the bottom of the ad. Some operators have their map taking up virtually their entire ad. This makes no sense. Your map shouldn't be larger than about a sixth of the size of your ad.

Credit Cards

You must let people know in your ad if you accept credit cards and which ones. The average renter who pays by credit card stays twice as long, so if you aren't yet accepting credit cards, you should start. At a minimum, you must accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express. When shopping for companies to provide you credit-card services, be sure to compare rates of several different places before you sign up.

Web Address

Every Yellow Pages ad must have a web address prominently displayed at the bottom. This is no longer an optional item. If you don't have a website yet, again, this is something you should pursue.


You now have a roadmap for success in Yellow Pages ad design. Follow these suggestions and you can probably do most of the work yourself. If you do get someone to assist you with your ad design, be certain to use someone who has a marketing background with proven results.

Fred Gleeck is a self-storage profit-maximization consultant. He helps storage owners before and after they get into the business. He is the author of Secrets of Self Storage Marketing Success--Revealed! and numerous other training items for self-storage operators. To get regular tips on self-storage, send him an e-mail at [email protected]; call 800.345.3325.

Computer Backups

Computer Backups
Preventing a customer-relations disaster

By Michael Richards

Have you seriously considered this scenario? It's Sunday morning and the phone rings. It's your manager. "Hey, boss, the office was broken into and the computer is gone. What do I do?" Do you know what to do? Do you have a contingency plan? A written one? Have you tested it? Practiced it? Be honest: If you are like most small businesses, you haven't.

The key to surviving any disaster is planning, and planning for your computer to break or disappear is essential. Your computer is a key tool in all of your day-to-day functions--especially customer service. Without it, how will you give receipts, provide statements or answer inquiries? Often, the computer controls the security system, which in turn determines who is allowed through your gate. And without your accounting data, how will you know who has paid and who is delinquent?

Recovering from a computer loss is not difficult if you have planned for it properly. Obviously, you must be able to replace or repair the lost computer, and you absolutely must have good backups of your data.

Replacing or Repairing Your Computer

Your replacement or repair strategy must be well-planned in advance. Is your computer under a warranty service? Is the service on-site or carry-in? What is the turnaround time? While you can always buy a computer to replace your broken one, this could be expensive and unnecessary if a repair will do. Therefore, you should consider plans for a backup computer. This could be your home computer, a rental or a loaner from your computer technician. If you will rent or borrow a computer, make sure you have made arrangements in advance, and that your staff is aware of your backup plan for repair and temporary replacement.

Ensuring You Have Good Data Backups

You must have backups of your data in order to recover from a loss. You also need backups to recover from potential errors. These may include human errors (for example, you accidentally add an extra late charge to every account), machine errors (the data is corrupted or erased), or errors caused by viruses or software bugs. Most software programs for self-storage come with built-in backup utilities that make it easy to back up your data. Disk drives such as the Iomega Zip come with their own backup utilities. Use the one that comes with your software if at all possible. Check these procedures and be sure all key personnel understand them thoroughly.

A good backup is not enough. You must rotate your backup tapes or disks. I strongly suggest using five backup sets: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual. Permanently mark each tape or disk with its place in the rotation (i.e., days of the week, months, etc.). Leave a space on the label where the actual date of the backup can be written in pencil, then erased and replaced the next time it is used. See the chart below for a suggested backup rotation.

The next important thing to remember is you must store the backups off-site. Storing the backups next to the computer is useless, and yet people make this error all the time. If you cannot store the backups off-site, then at least store them in a different building. If you cannot do that, then purchase a fire-proof safe (rated for computer backups) and store them there. If you are the owner, I recommend you store all the backup sets except the daily set (see chart) at your home, in a safety deposit box or other secure location.

You must also test your backups. At least once a month, test your backups by restoring them to another computer. This is usually done by a) installing your software onto the test computer and b) restoring the data from the backup disks to the test computer. Look in the help file of your software or contact your software vendor for specific instructions on how to test your backups. Make sure you know how to restore your data and have written step-by-step instructions for your staff to follow.

Backup-Rotation Schedule

All backup sets consist of multiple tapes that are "rotated" in the following schedule. (Note: "Tapes" can be backup tapes, Zip disks, CD-RW disks or any other backup media.)

A New Alternative

A new and exciting alternative to tape or disk backup is to backup your data over the Internet. Typically, your data is sent to a secure computer located in a data center. Multiple copies of your data can be stored, so you have the ability to restore from a previous backup anytime by retrieving your data from the data server. There are a number of advantages to doing backups this way: The process can be automated (for example, to run at midnight every night); you don't have to worry about the tapes being lost or stolen; you don't have to move the tapes off-site; and you don't have to worry about whether your staff is doing the backups each day. Really the only downside is that if you have a large amount of data, this option may not be viable until you have a high-speed Internet connection.

Set # of Tapes in Set A Backup is Done Description Replace Every
Daily 7 At the end of every day the business is open. One for each day of the week you are open. Rotate so each tape is used once per week. 1 Year
Weekly 5 At the end of the day every Friday (or other selected day) One for the each Friday (or other selected day) in the month. (There will be four or five each month.) 2 Years
Monthly 2 At the end of the day on the last day of the month, except the last day of a quarter. One for the first end-of-month in the quarter, one for the second end-of-month in the quarter. 3 Years
Quarterly 3 At the end of the day on the last day of the quarter, except the last day of the year. One for each of the first three end-of-quarters of the year. For a calendar-year business, this would be March 31, June 30 and Sept. 30. 4 Years
Annual 1 per year At the end of the day on Dec. 31 or the last day of the fiscal year. These tapes are archived permanently and never reused. You can use one of the tapes that you are about to remove from rotation. Most tapes have a write-protect tab on them that should be set. Never

Who Is Responsible?

The ultimate responsibility for proper backups rests with the self-storage owner. While it is perfectly OK to delegate the job of creating the backups to other staff, I strongly recommend that the owner personally verify the backups are being made and tested on a regular basis. If at all possible, the owner should do the testing himself.

Without a proper backup plan, you may find yourself facing the worst-case scenario: a disaster. You would not be able to tell who your customers are, who has paid, who owes what amount, who should be allowed into their units and, for that matter, who should be allowed to come through the gate. You most likely will find your system doesn't accept customers' codes and your accounting records are lost. In contrast, with a proper backup, your worst-case scenario is a few hours of downtime. Unfortunately, too many people learn this lesson the hard way. Don't wait until it's too late. Create your computer-disaster recovery plan today.

Michael Richards is the president of HI-Tech Smart Systems, maker of RentPlus® and Mini-StoragePlus® software for self-storage. Mr. Richards has been involved in the self-storage industry for more than 20 years, and has been a frequent speaker at industry events and a contributor to industry publications. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]; phone 800.551.8324. HI-Tech plans to begin offering an Internet-backup service starting April 1. For more information, visit

Everbrite Inc.

Everbrite Inc.

Faded, dull doors and metal buildings are a universal problem in the self-storage industry. But they can be refinished to look like new and guarded from the elements with a protective coating offered by Reno, Nev.-based Everbrite Inc. Preventative maintenance pays--owners should seek to protect their self-storage investment. It isn't just a question of aesthetics, it's a matter of maintaining a professional image.

Everbrite coating is an easy-to-apply, one-part, self-leveling, clear coating that refinishes faded and dull surfaces to look new again, bringing out the original color and finish. It also protects surfaces from sun oxidation, fading, salt-air oxidation, acid rain, moisture and other damaging elements.

How It Works

Everbrite can be used to refinish original baked-on paint or repainted surfaces, making faded, chalky doors, metal buildings and signs look like new again. While some repainted surfaces don't show as dramatic a difference as original paint, once they are sealed and protected, they look much nicer and are virtually maintenance-free. Paint that is not baked on will oxidize much faster, and can crack, peel, blister, chip and ruin doors, especially when in multiple layers. Repainted doors generally need to be painted every four to five years.

Dust may settle on Everbrite-coated doors, but it will not penetrate the paint and will rinse off easily. Everbrite's smooth envelope protection prevents the adherence of dirt, fingerprints, diesel carbon, algae, bird droppings and other substances to self-storage doors. Coated doors can maintain their appearance for as long as eight to 15 years, depending on atmospheric conditions. When the gloss begins to dull, all that's needed is to rinse off the doors and reapply. The Everbrite process does not even interrupt day-to-day business operations--the coating dries very quickly, allowing tenants access to their units in just minutes.

How Much to Use

For approximately 1,200 square feet or 17 to 20 large roll-up doors

  • 1 gallon Everbrite protective coating
  • 1 quart concentrated deoxidizing cleaner
  • One building-cleaning brush

For approximately 6,000 square feet or 90 to 100 large roll-up doors

  • 5 gallons Everbrite protective coating
  • 5 gallons concentrated deoxidizing cleaner
  • One to two building-cleaning brushes

For approximately 12,000 square feet or 180 to 200 large roll-up doors

  • 10 gallons Everbrite protective coating
  • 5 gallons concentrated deoxidizing cleaner
  • Two building-cleaning brushes

For approximately 24,000 square feet or 400 large roll-up doors

  • 20 gallons Everbrite protective coating
  • 5 gallons concentrated deoxidizing cleaner
  • Three building-cleaning brushes

Everbite vs. Paint: A Cost Comparison

Before and After

Even though paint's cost per gallon is less than that of Everbrite, due to coverage, its cost per square foot is actually greater. The cost of labor for prepping surfaces for the application of Everbrite coating or paint are about the same--chalking must be removed for proper adhesion of either. However, the cost of labor is higher for painting because of the necessity for masking. Subsequent applications of paint can have a much higher cost because that paint will chip, crack and peel, creating the need for sanding and other additional prep work. The application of coating requires no masking--and causes no overspray problems or risk of damage to customers' goods. When all is said and done, paint costs 12 to 18 cents per square foot in materials, while Everbrite costs only 10 to 13 cents per square foot in materials--or about $8 per large roll-up door.

Check It Out

For a free copy of a demonstration video, which shows the various Everbrite applications, call 800.897.9629; e-mail [email protected]; visit or A starter kit is available for $40 plus $5.50 for shipping and handling. The kit includes the video, 8 ounces of deoxidizing concentrate and 1 pint of Everbrite (enough to refinish approximately 150 square feet or three to four large roll-up doors). Referrals and testimonials are available upon request.

Everbrite Inc. has recently entered into an agreeement with Minico Inc. of Phoenix to market its product to the self-storage industry. Everbrite protective coating can also be purchased through Minico at 800.562.7900.