Using Business Intelligence and Analytics Tools in Self-Storage

Today’s self-storage businesses are faced with intense competition and looking for ways to generate new business, reduce operational costs, increase margins and streamline processes. Growing market saturation and economic downturn has resulted in high pressure on companies’ bottom line. Self-storage operators are being more conscientious than ever, taking a closer look at their business data to make effective decisions.

Given these grueling challenges, it’s vital that the information used to monitor operational performance be accurate and timely. Access to business information is critical for self-storage operators to make informed decisions and react quickly to market conditions. Decision-makers should be able to view data in various formats, analyze information at an aggregate and detailed level, and view facts and figures as graphs, tables and other performance indicators.

The key to achieving this is business intelligence (BI) and analytics, which provide a holistic view of information with powerful viewing capabilities that help storage operators acquire a better understanding of market behavior and commercial context by extracting, analyzing and reporting data in the underlying operational systems. BI and analytics tools provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations.

A manager’s ability to make quick, informed decisions to improve the bottom line is accelerated with use of BI. The functionality provided includes reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), analytics, digital dashboards, data mining, business-performance management and predictive analysis. Some BI and analytics software vendors include MicroStrategy, BusinessObjects, QlikTech, Cognos and Microsoft.

To provide readers with views and insight from the self-storage industry perspective, the following two interviews demonstrate how storage operators are using BI and analytics software and how they expect to benefit.

Case Study: Stor-All

With more than 29,000 units spread over 44 locations in five states, Stor-All is one of the largest privately held self-storage companies in the United States. The company has a dominant presence in the Southeast market and a growing presence in several other regional markets. Stor-All conducted a thorough evaluation of some of the leading BI and analytics tools available in the market today.

Rolly Curtis, director of IT at Stor-All, elaborated on the thought process that went into making the decision to implement a BI and analytics tool, and how Stor-All is aiming to reshape its business based on the trends and analysis divulged by using the software.

What is the main objective in implementing BI and analytics software for Stor-All?

The first objective was to have a single SQL database containing all our stores’ information at our headquarters in Deerfield Beach, Fla. This was accomplished by converting our existing management data to a new management-software application.

Once the conversion was completed, we were able to start analyzing the data to show performance trends on specific stores―stores grouped by geographical area or those in a specific portfolio. It became apparent that while having access to all this information was awesome, we would have to build custom reports to take full advantage of it. At this point, we decided to look for an easier and more visual reporting tool that could be easily customized to analyze the different aspects of the information.

What approach did you take when it came to evaluating BI tools?

Our management-software vendor introduced us to QlikTech, a Swedish company that created an application called QlikView. QlikView provides an interactive reporting tool that allows us to create dynamic, visually appealing reports very quickly. We looked at some similar offerings but soon realized QlikView was the only product on the market that was cost-effective for a business of our size.

What advantages is Stor-All looking to leverage by implementing QlikView?

QlikView's interactive reporting provides us with a window into the operation and performance of our company on a daily basis, as well as a comparative view of the past and present. Stor-All now has the ability to see exactly what is happening at the facility level and make rapid adjustments to current market conditions. Back-office analysis of facility performance was labor intensive, transposing data to spreadsheets then creating charts and tables for review. With QlikView and a self-storage manager, our information is now always available, up-to-date and in a format that is informative and visually appealing.

Case Study: Mini-Pac

Mini-Pac is one of the largest self-storage operators in California and Hawaii. Locations in San Pedro and Honolulu have more than 3,000 units. Mini-Pac is part of the Decurion Corp., which also operates swap meets and has various other business interests. Andrea Hughes, general manager, shared her thoughts on how implementing a BI and analytics solution could make a difference to their business, and why she’s considering implementing one in the near future.

Why does Mini-Pac feel the need for a BI and analytics solution?

Measuring, monitoring and reviewing the business performance will provide clarity for change. We want to be able to look at information from different perspective and facets to give us a clearer viewpoint of business trends, and the answer to this lies in making use of a business-intelligence tool.

How do you foresee implementation of a BI tool driving your business growth?

By implementing a BI tool, we intend to get insight into whether our business strategy is successful. Also, by using this tool, we believe new opportunities for growth will be realized through better alignment of the execution of the four Ps—product, price, promotion and place.

What aspects need to be considered while evaluating a BI and analytics solution?

The most important aspect is a provider that will provide a complete overview of the product to help you decide whether it offers all that you are looking for in a BI solution. In addition, look for provider that will offer a host of products and options for varied business requirements since one size does not fit all. Finally, the cost involved in procuring the solution should make business sense.

Case Study: R.A.B. Management

With more than 250,000 square feet of rentable storage space under management and new buildings under construction, R.A.B Management is continually expanding and rapidly becoming one of Pennsylvania’s leading providers of self-storage services. Owner Ray Bartolacci III shared his thoughts on implementing a BI and analytics solution and his views on how such a move could help propel his business.

What's the benefit of a BI tool in self-storage?

It depends on the number of sites operated and the size of the individual locations, as well as whether use of a BI tool would reduce the time to react and improve occupancy when adjusting to market conditions in the current competitive environment.

What factors should storage operators consider when implementing a BI tool?

The first and the foremost question they should ask is if the basics of the program work correctly. Next, operators should evaluate the benefits of implementation. It also makes sense to look at the type and amount of competition they are they facing in their area.

Corporate America has made rapid progress in implementing BI tools. Why does the self-storage industry seem behind in embracing them?

The lack of competition in the beginning years of the industry meant operators could take a laidback approach when it came to looking beyond the scope of day-to-day operation. Until the big national chains came, there was no reason to implement anything like this. With the competition heating up, the self-storage industry is beginning to take notice and embrace new technologies such as BI and analytics that will help them stay ahead of the competition.
 
Kat Shenoy is the president and CEO and Sachin Bhakta is the vice president of development for E-SoftSys, a global provider of software, website design and development, and search-engine optimization to the self-storage industry. The company can also integrate online payments and call-center reservations into a company’s website. For more information, call 800.469.1740; e-mail sales@selfstoragemanager.com; visit www.selfstoragemanager.com.

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Daffodil Storage Breaks Ground in Tacoma, WA

Daffodil Storage broke ground last week on a new self-storage facility in Tacoma, Wash. The groundbreaking was attended by more than 30 people, including company officials, neighbors, Daffodil customers from other locations and community leaders.
 
The 100,000-square-foot, four-story project will comprise more than 800 climate-controlled units. It will also feature large elevators for upper units, and a 35-foot drive aisle passing through the ground floor, providing customers with a safe, dry loading area. Daffodil officials announced that during the next eight to 10 months, the company will likely spend more than $7 million and use more than 100 construction workers.

The facility will also offer truck rentals, packing and moving supplies, mailbox rentals, shipping, and conference and office space for lease. 
 
Source: South Sound Business Examiner, Daffodil Storage breaks ground in Tacoma

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Locks Cut at Pax Self Storage in Baltimore, OH

Locks were cut off of 33 units at Pax Self Storage in Baltimore, Ohio, last week, according to a report from the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office. The incident occurred between 2 p.m. Sunday and 3 p.m. Monday. At the time the report was written, it was not known if any items were taken from the units.
 
Source: Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Police Beat

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Couple Finds Box of Cash at Southwest Self Storage

Two Yucaipa, Calif., residents found a box containing thousands of dollars in $100 bills at Southwest Self Storage last week, and neither of them will give it up to authorities, according to an article in the Yucaipa-Calimesa News Mirror. Deborah Rodger, 45, and her 53-year-old male companion may be charged with misappropriation of found property.
 
The couple, who rents a unit at the storage facility, pronounced their finding to the facility manager, who said she would hold the money and contact the police about identifying the rightful owner. The pair said they would keep the money and fled the scene. When Yucaipa deputies arrived at the couple’s residence, they were told that a lawyer had been contacted and the money hidden. Rodger and her companion do not intend to turn the cash over to law enforcement.
 
Yucaipa detectives are investigating the money’s owner and charges against the couple.
 
Source: Yucaipa-Calimesa News Mirror, Two residents find a box full of money and refuse to turn it over to police

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DUX Real Estate Advisory Group Launched, Forms Alliances

DUX Real Estate Advisory Group LLC, a new private company that provides turnaround services for the real estate and financial industries, has been launched. Denise Nunez will serve as the company’s CEO, leading it through initial plans to focus on the Southwest markets and a 12-month strategic plan to expand across the United States. In the days ahead, DUX will announce strategic alliances that will allow the company to provide local services in its target markets, Nunez said.

In April, DUX reached a strategic-alliance agreement with Dynamic Management to provide asset-management services for clients in Arizona. Dux will provide feasibility studies, design and engineering, construction, asset management, bank and creditor negotiations, and turnaround services for Dynamic Management customers.

Nunez has more than 20 years of experience in leading teams, most recently serving as a division president of MiniCo Inc., an international self-storage service provider. She is also founder and CEO of a strategic marketing firm. Prior positions include asset management, fundraising, strategic planning and new-product development for several mid-size companies.

Other company officers include:

  • Chairman Gregory Kreizenbeck, with an extensive background in real estate turnaround operations. He is the former president and chief operating officer of a publicly traded real estate company, as well as the president and a board member of the Arizona Self-Storage Association.
     
  • Chief Turnaround Officer Dennis Metzler Esq., who has been involved in business, real estate, restructuring, asset acquisition and disposition for all of his adult life. He began his career as a lawyer practicing in general corporate matters.
     
  • President Hugh Kreizenbeck, with more than 12 years of management experience. As a vice president of Buchanan Storage Capital in Washington, D.C., he is skilled in operations management, strategic business planning, organizational restructuring and interim management. His experience also includes the development and lease-up of an institutional-class self-storage facility in Phoenix. 
     
  • Chief Financial Officer Tara Palmquist, responsible for managing the financial aspects of the company. She has more than 14 years of experience as a certified public accountant and corporate accountant for a variety of business entities.

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He Said, She Said

It’s another case of self-storage he said, she said. Distraught about water damage to their unit, a couple contacted a local news station to put the pressure on a self-storage facility in Oildale, Calif. Beverly Stewart and Todd Lee rented a unit at A-American Self Storage for more than a year, but had fallen far behind on payments. They had also lapsed on their renters insurance.

As the collection process progressed, the couple pulled together the self-storage past due amount and once again had access to the unit. But they found their stuff, including photo albums, heirlooms and a family bible, had been seriously damaged by water and mold.

While A-American claims the roof had been repaired, the couple insists the water had been seeping into the unit for a while. A-American reps said when they took a picture of the unit, they found no water damage.

While there’s no way to know what really happened, the damage has been done, and I’m not just talking about the couple’s stuff. There will definitely be damage to the self-storage facility’s reputation as well. Their name was negatively splashed across the evening news. Words like “family heirlooms and bible” tend to stick in peoples’ minds. So even if the facility was in the right—down to the letter—it doesn’t really matter. What’s an operator to do?

First, be sure roofs and doors are in mint condition. For more on maintenance and repairs, check out the extensive ISS article archives. Second, insist on renters insurance and make it easy for your tenants to obtain it. Many insurance companies writing self-storage insurance now have policies covering losses due to mold and dampness. Even though a priceless family heirloom, like Aunt Sarah’s homemade book of poetry, can never really be replaced, a few bucks from an insurance policy might ease the sting a bit.

Lastly, check your  insurance coverage. Lawsuits happen. Make sure you’re covered before they do.

Have a similar story? Share it with us by posting a comment below, or visit Self-Storage Talk, the only online forum for self-storage professionals.

Brown's Self Storage of Nova Scotia Adds U-Haul Truck Rentals

Brown’s Self Storage in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada, recently added U-Haul truck and trailer rentals to its palette of services. It will now offer customers the use of moving vans, open trailers, closed trailers, furniture pads, appliance dollies, furniture dollies, tow dollies and auto transports. The business, owned and operated by Leigh and Janice Smith, also provides fire and flood restoration services, contracting services, and packing and moving supplies.
 
"U-Haul is proud to be associated with quality, independent business owners such as Leigh and Janice," stated Bruce Bennett, president of U-Haul Company of Atlantic Canada. "Successful business relationships have been instrumental in helping U-Haul build and maintain a strong network of more than 14,000 convenient, independent dealerships throughout the United States and Canada."
 
Source: Yahoo! Finance, Brown's Self Storage Builds a Business by Adding U-Haul Truck and Trailer Rentals

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Fire Destroys Extra Space Storage in Carson, CA

A fire at an Extra Space Storage facility in Carson, Calif., last week raged through the buildings and slightly injured a firefighter. The blaze, which burned for more than four hours, began at about 11 p.m. on Friday as a two-alarm fire and was upgraded to three alarms about around 1 a.m. Approximately 160 firefighters assisted in suppressing the blaze, which gutted most of the storage units. One firefighter suffered a shoulder injury and was treated at a hospital. The fire’s cause has yet been determined.
 
Source: Examiner.com, SoCal storage facility destroyed in 3-alarm fire

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Self-Storage Auctions on the Rise in Florida

On the Treasure Coast of Florida, self-storage auctions are on the rise, and while participants hope to find treasure, they usually find trash.
 
Local auctioneers and self-storage operators say they’re seeing more customers abandon their units due to the poor economy. Melissa Layton, manager of U-Store-It in Stuart, Fla., told Stuart News that customers simply can’t afford their storage anymore.
 
Auctioneer Jerry Mahaffey said more people are attending self-storage auctions, and the volume of goods sold through these sales has increased. On the Treasure Coast, there are 15 to 20 people who regularly attend these sales, with more in Orlando and South Florida.
 
June Nash of Storage Protection Auction Services, which holds auctions at 81 different self-storage facilities each month, said the self-storage industry has held steady.
 
Jimbo Watford of Okeechobee, who participated in an auction at U-Store-It last week, has been attending storage auctions for 14 years. He estimates that about 90 percent of what he finds in the units he wins is trash.
 
Source: Stuart News, Someone’s trash is gold for others on Treasure Coast

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Marietta Commissioners Approve Self-Storage Project

The Board of Commissioners of Marietta, Ga., approved a rezoning application for a 100,000-square-foot, climate-controlled self-storage facility on Tuesday in a 4-1 vote. The application had been on hold since November while the county reworked the ordinance regarding self-storage. The new ordinance was approved by the board in March.
 
The self-storage developer, Cooke Enterprises, wants to build a three-story, brick facility on the site of a former Chevron gas station on Johnson Ferry Road. From the street, it will appear as only a two-story building due to the type of construction.
 
The project was opposed by District 1 Commissioner Helen Goreham and David Hong, a member of the East Cobb Civic Association. To lessen the building’s impact in the community, District 3 Commissioner Tim Lee reduced its floor-area ratio and added a reversionary clause so the property will return to general commercial zoning if Cooke does not complete the project.
 
Source: Marietta Daily Journal, Commissioners OK Self Storage Building

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