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Articles from 2001 In May


The Criminal

The Criminal

My father, who lives on the East Coast, comes to visit me in Phoenix each spring, just before the temperature skyrockets. He enjoys hiking about the Superstition mountains, sunning himself by the pool and taking day trips to Sedona or Lake Mead. But mostly, he enjoys his morning ritual of sipping coffee and reading the paper out on my sunwashed patio. This past April was no different.

During this last visit, he managed to lock himself out one morning. He went to the patio for his cup of joe, pulled the door shut and heard the dreaded click. It wouldn't have been a problem if I hadn't already left for work, or he had a cell phone with him, or he was dressed in something other than a pair of shorts (no shirt, no shoes). But all those things considered, he took the most reasonable action: He smashed my front window and broke in, of course!

The thing that most frightens me is not just the ease with which he broke and entered, but the fact that not one of my neighbors stirred. No one called the police or came out to inquire. When someone can break in to your home in broad daylight by throwing a rock through your window, you know you have security issues. Thank goodness, on this occasion, it was my father and not a criminal--but next time I might not be so lucky.

Self-storage operators face a slew of security issues daily. Not only must they worry about potential break-ins or other criminal activity commited on their property by tenants, they must be watchful of employee dishonesty as well. As a consequence, there are important decisions to make regarding security hardware--such as access gates, door alarms and video-surveillance cameras--as well as software that makes it operational and cooperative with management functions.

This issue examines the key elements of a sound security system, from security-minded site design to the technical aspects of hardware and software. You'll read about the lastest digital technology for video surveillance, the benefits of individual door alarms, wireless vs. hardwired systems, communications systems including intercoms and music, and master-keyed lock systems. Whether you're in the devolopment phase of a project or retrofitting an existing one, you'll find ample suggestions here to keep your facility safe and secure.

We hope to see you this month at our annual Trade Fair. This year's event takes place at the beautiful Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., June 7-8. Please come by the booth and share with us any comments or suggestions for the magazine, or just to say "hello." We love to hear from new and seasoned readers.

Wishing you a safe summer,

Teri L. Lanza
Editor
[email protected]



For a complete list of references click here

Potential

Paris, France

By R.K. Kliebenstein

I recently returned from the annual conference and tradeshow of the Self Storage Association of the United Kingdom and Europe, held in Brussels, Belgium. While on the east side of the "big pond," I met with clients in France to learn more about the self-storage market in Paris. I'd like to thank Isabelle White of Shurgard and Peter Measures for their significant contributions to this market profile. Without their input, this article could not have been written.

In a word, wow! For anyone who has been there, Paris certainly brings opportunity to mind when it comes to self-storage. Peter Measures, a consultant turning developer, helped me put into focus the elements that best define the self-storage market in Paris and France in general:

Potential

  • There are approximately 50 self-storage sites open or under development in France to accommodate a total population of 58 million.
  • In Paris, approxiately 35 sites are currently open or in development to serve the city's population of 11 million.
  • Many cities of 200,000 population and some of 600,000 population have no self-storage sites.
  • While it is true that French people are less mobile than their American counterparts, this is changing. (For example, on the radio this morning it was reported that in the 3rd arrondissement [district] of Paris, 70 percent of the voters have moved during the last decade.)

In any event, if the potential for self- storage is even only one-third the capacity of that in the United States, there is room for 440 sites in the Paris area (Chart 1). How is that for opportunity?

Chart 1

     
Region/Country Population Number of Facilities Population per Facility
United States 260,000,000 30,000 8,700
United Kingdom 58,000,000 300 193,000
France 58,000,000 50 1,160,000
Other Western Europe 254,000,000 30 8,450,000

The Players

The French Self Storage Association currently has four members and was able to share the information in Chart 2:

Chart 2

             
  Number of Stores Percent Stores Square Meters Square Feet Percent Feet Number Spaces Percent of Spaces
Shurgard 14 38% 71,000 764,238 50% 10,000 48%
Access 13 35% 45,000 484,375 32% 6,000 30%
Une Piece en Plus 6 16% 13,000 139,930 9% 2,500 12%
Homebox 4 11% 13,000 139,930 9% 2,100 10%

Isabelle White was able to share how Shurgard is faring in Paris. "Shurgard is currently the largest self-storage operator and developer in France, with 16 stores (mostly in and around Paris) that represent approximately 80,000 square meters of net-rentable space. Shurgard began operating in France in 1997. Since then, we have developed a fully integrated development and operating team. Based upon our experience and success to date, we have gained a lot of confidence in the French market and plan to continue to aggressively grow our presence here."

Access, which is one of the market leaders in the United Kingdom and Europe, is owned by Security Capital of Chicago, through which it is reported to have ties to Storage USA. Access has five sites in Paris, and seven in suburbs close to the city (Nanterre, La Defense, Gennevilliers, St. Denis, Montreuil, Charenton and Gentilly). The company is planning more sites in France this year and as many as eight in 2002 (not all of which may be in Paris). Some of these sites are leasehold interests, which is a common European occurrence--especially in central Paris.

Une Piece en Plus was developed by private French property developers, and the group was taken over in September 2000 by Mentmore Abbey, a self-storage operator from the United Kingdom. In the last three years, the company has created four sites in or very near Paris, two of which are approaching maturity. Two other sites, slightly farther from the city, are under development. It is expected that after the recent purchase by Mentmore Abbey, there will shortly be more stores underway.

Homebox is the last of the players and, in Paris, is similar in size to Une Piece en Plus. Homebox has been in the self-storage business for less than five years. It tested the market in Paris with three sites on leased premises and has since built a chain of some 10 sites. The Rousselet family has essentially financed the growth with equity. I understand they are soliciting a U.S. financier to roll out nearly 50 sites in a Europe-wide expansion. At the present time, the company's sites are all in France.

An American Perspective

While in France, I visited all the players except Access. What I saw was a typical self-storage product mix. The Shurgard property looked like any other Shurgard-built store in the United States. It was a large conversion building with halls and walls from a U.S. supplier. The store was not significantly different from its major competitor, Homebox, located just across the expressway.

The Homebox office was more difficult to find as they were located in a building with many other offices. The route to enter the property was rather circuitous and, once inside, it would have been difficult to tell it was a self-storage property had the loading door not been open.

Une Piece en Plus was located in what looked to be a converted parking garage, more in the heart of central Paris (the old part). The store was more of a first- generation facility, typical of an older U.S. conversion. Signage was difficult to find at best, and I am assuming its success was based on the neighborhood knowledge of where it was.

All three stores' managers were very cordial, and all spoke as much English as I speak French, so I was glad to have a couple "locals" along with me. Growth in this market seems to be constrained by a lack of access to capital. At the time of this writing, I am attempting to find U.S. capital (equity and/or debt) for a French operator. It has been interesting to speak with U.S. capital sources about Paris, and their reluctance to even discuss capital infusion into Europe. I am working hard to better educate some U.S. sources as to the tremendous opportunity that exists in Europe, but most are nervous about the long lease-up time (it takes approximately 48 to 60 months to reach stabilized occupancy), and the fact that site selection does not rely on competitive markers (there are so few) as much as the availability of sites.

The ratios of business customers to residential users is just about opposite than that of a typical U.S. storage facility, with as many as 70 percent commercial users. I am glad to be home, and want to leave you with just one thought: The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an industry is immense in Paris, but it would be a difficult (if not impossible) task without a Parisian partner.

R.K. Kliebenstein owns and operates Coast-To-Coast Storage, which is in the process of evaluating a European partnership in an endeavor to open an affiliate office in the United Kingdom. Coast-To-Coast Storage has clients from Mexico, France and other European countries who are seeking U.S. capital partners. For more information, call 561.367.9241.

Inside Self-Storage 06/2001: Wireless 'Issues' That Sell Records Management

Wireless 'Issues' That Sell Records Management

By Cary McGovern

An issue is "something that should be considered" within a customer's records-management program. It is not always a problem--it could be a pointer or indicator of a problem. It is a key to resolving a customer's "pain." For the person selling records management, it indicates an opportunity to make money. This article discusses how to identify issues and turn them into profits.

Selling records management is never the same as selling records storage. Records storage is a commodity anyone can offer if he has space to rent. Records management is a system that includes value-added features that benefit the customer and create revenue opportunities for you.

Finding Issues

Records management is essentially inventory control, which means knowing what you have, where it is, how to find it when you need it, and when to get rid of it. There is always much more to the system than just putting records out of site and out of mind. Records management embodies four processes:

  • Indexing includes identification, classification and description of the records.
  • Packaging includes selecting the method, mode and media of filing.
  • Locating includes an automated system for tracking and action prompting.
  • Disposing includes retention, approval, processing, migration or destruction, and proof of that destruction.

Issues abound in these four processes. Let's look at them more closely.

Indexing

The only reason we file anything is so we can find it later. Finding the record later is always made easier through appropriate indexing. Indexing is simple. The person most knowledgeable about a record should index it when creating the record unit. The most important part of the index system is standardization--always naming a record series (homogeneous grouping) the same way.

There are seven key identifiers for a box of records: record name (series), dates from and to, sequence from and to, record owner (department or work unit) and destruction date. Almost any record can be found if identified to this index. File indexing can be different for each filing system. Legal files include client name, matter description, billing attorney, date opened and date closed. Medical records include patient name, patient number, date of treatment, date of birth and social-security number. Insurance-claim files include claimant name, claimant number and date of claim. Others can be quite different from these. Simply index based on how you would best find the records.

Packaging

Using the correct box is crucial to records-management systems. Customers tend to use the closest box at hand--a shoe box or an old copy-paper carton. These are single-use boxes that cause havoc in records-management programs. Boxes need to be made of double- or triple-wall construction. Generally, the standard letter/legal box is the right size. There may be exceptions, but only for odd-sized files such as engineering drawings or X-rays.

Files should be placed in these boxes in the same order they were in the office filing system. It is always wrong to file randomly. There must be some method to the madness. Where possible, files should be maintained in their original filing jackets or folders.

Locating

Barcode systems are the best choice for records management. These systems generally require two barcodes, a "what it is" barcode and a "where it is" barcode. The "what it is" barcode references the index of the box. The "where it is" barcode references the location of the record unit.

This system facilitates the two processes that ensure control. File tracking is the check-in and check-out mechanism that assigns a file to a location and updates it when it is changed. The file-action prompting mechanism periodically asks for a removed record unit to be returned to its home location. This is much like a library's method of asking for a book when it is past due. A record that is out of inventory for long periods of time is the one that is most likely to be lost or missing.

Disposing

Getting rid of records promptly is the key to litigation avoidance. Of course, setting up a legitimate retention schedule that is researched and validated is the first step in the destruction process. That step requires proper identification, packaging and location mapping. Disposal can either mean destruction or migration to another media for long-term storage, such as scanning and archiving records on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. Destruction requires authorization, appropriate methods and authentication.

Identifying Issues

The survey process I have described in past articles uncovers the issues. The process includes the questionnaire, customer interview and "walk-about." The questionnaire is always preliminary to the survey and asks the customer 15 leading questions simply answered by a check-off. The interview seeks answers to the prime questions: who, what, when, where, how and why? The walk-about visually displays the problems encountered in the questionnaire and the interview. The key question during the walk-about is, "why?"

Issues as Revenue Opportunities

In the last few paragraphs, I have disclosed the primary revenue opportunities in selling records-management programs. Remember: Selling storage is only the tip of the iceberg. Surveys disclose the pain of the customer. In most surveys, you can uncover dozens of issues, the resolution of which is always a revenue opportunity for you.

Next month, we'll talk about closing the sale.

Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan and FIRMS Services, which offer full-service records-management assistance for commercial records-storage start-ups within self-storage operations. For assistance in feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, call 877.FILEMAN, e-mail [email protected]; www.fileman.com.

Digital Video Surveillance

Digital Video Surveillance
New visual technology means better protection for you

By Tom Chmielewski

It can ruin a perfectly good day. You drive up to your self-storage facility on an otherwise glorious morning, and there are the telltale signs left by an intruder: vandalism, open doors, renters' property strewn about. It's your worst nightmare, but there is one minor consolation: You have a video-surveillance system, which means there's a chance of catching the responsible party, if...

And that's the problem. There are some big "ifs," especially when you're operating a standard analog video system. You might catch this guy IF the quality of the tape (which you've been using and reusing for a year now) is still good enough to make a positive identification. And IF you remembered to change the VHS tapes, as you must do every day. And IF you're willing to spend hours sifting through miles of tape to find the scene you need. That's a lot of "ifs." The truth of the matter is, your chances of catching the jerk who messed up your beautiful day are greatly improved if you have one of the new digital video-surveillance systems now on the market.

A digital system--in case you've been in a Tibetan monastery for the past five years--essentially uses no magnetic videotape. The video camera converts light directly into electronic signals, which are stored on a hard drive. This may not seem like a major advancement, but in the short history of video surveillance, this is like the invention of the transistor--very big.

A Historical Survey of Surveillance

It's hard to believe that just 15 years ago a complete video- surveillance system consisted of a camera, monitor and VCR. The old tube camera was only useful in daylight and the VCR could only store eight hours of footage, tops. The next major advancement was the CCD (charged coupled device) camera that was the first to use chip technology. The new cameras made low-light recording possible (a crucial factor if you want to catch bad guys at night), but there were still drawbacks, namely the inability to record on more than one camera at a time

The advent of the digital multiplexer was a major step forward. In the mid '90s, when the prices came down to the popular range, this revolutionary unit allowed recording on up to 16 cameras simultaneously. Now it was possible to cover the entire facility with a single system. Furthermore, with the use of the time-lapse and motion-only features, an entire month's worth of surveillance could be captured on a mere 30 videotapes. It seemed we'd found the ultimate crime deterrent but, in fact, we hadn't seen anything yet.

Going Digital

Two key factors brought on the popular use of the digital video recorder. The first was an advancement in compression capability, allowing more information to be stored on a hard drive. (Round-the-clock surveillance produces a lot of information.) The second was the cost of a hard drive, which has dropped dramatically in recent years. Digital has arrived.

"The digital video-surveillance system is a vast improvement over its analog predecessors," says John Locke, sales and marketing director at Digitech International, which provides complete on-site security and risk-management systems. "When it comes to clarity, flexibility and convenience, digital recording systems have relegated the multiplexer to the horse-and-buggy days." Is the digital difference really that earth-shaking? Let's go back to the scene of the crime.

Clarity and flexibility. In the break-in described earlier, it does no good to video a scene if you can't tell what you're looking at. "Clarity is the first issue," says Bert Denson of Brundage Management Co. Inc., an operator of 40 self-storage properties in the San Antonio area. "That's the major advantage of digital." In the crime described, you might find the scenes you need, but could you positively identify the culprit, or read his license plate? Chances are you couldn't. "You also have more options to do more things with the picture," Denson goes on to say. Digitally stored images can also be enhanced in various ways (add light, change colors, reverse black and white) to make crucial determinations. With videotape, what you see is what you get.

Storage. No matter what anybody says, dealing with a month's worth of videotape is a hassle. You need at least 30 tapes and you have to load a different one each day. If you forget on the day of the crime, you've got nothing. Furthermore, the tapes are pretty much worn out after a year's use. Go much longer than that and the picture quality suffers. With digital, on the other hand, you can put a full month's surveillance on a single 60-gigabyte hard drive (and you can easily add storage capacity if you need it). Digitally stored information virtually never loses picture quality. When a hard drive is full, you can store it on an external medium, or simply leave it alone and the software directs the oldest information to be replaced in favor of the latest. And you're all through buying videotapes or replacing expensive recording heads that wear out each year.

Intelligent recording. What a digital system records is important, but so is what it doesn't record. In an effort to reduce the miles of tape required to cover a single day, analog systems employ a time-lapse feature.

"The time-lapse feature on these systems typically records in one-, five- or 10-second intervals, whether there's something going on or not," says Sven Christiansen, marketing communications manager at Integral Technologies Inc. "It's a real pain to go back and find what you need." Worse yet, time could be lapsing just when an unwanted guest offers his best mug shot.

Indeed, flexibility is a major advantage with digital. The system typically operates 16 cameras at once, but an individual camera only records when motion is detected. Cameras can be programmed to perform unique functions as well. For instance, you can program a camera to capture an image of each license plate as cars enter your facility. If 200 cars entered in one day, you could review a whole day's worth of entries in just 200 seconds.

Retrieval. Again, digital wins by a mile. Our intruder was probably on screen for only a few seconds. Finding those scenes in all that slow-moving videotape can take hours. With motion-sensitive digital, not only is there less information to review, but desired scenes are infinitely easier to find. "You can check an eight-hour day in seven to eight minutes," says John Arsement, head of the security division at John E. Hall Electric in Portsmouth, Va. "When reviewing past activity, the on-screen date and time entry lets you go right to the scenes you want. Once you've found the images, you can print them out in full color or save them to a floppy disk to hand over to the police." And, unlike a multiplexer, most digital systems continue to monitor and record your property even while you're replaying last night's action.

Remote viewing and control. This is a whole new aspect of video surveillance. "Now you literally can mind the store without being there," says Digitech's Locke. "Remote viewing software means you can operate the digital video-recording system from anywhere you have a computer, including a laptop, which you might want to call 'video to go.'" Password-protected access can be gained using a modem on standard telephone lines, ISDN modem, local-area network or wide-area network.

"Remote access would be particularly useful to chain operators," says Olaf Kreutz, product manager for digital video at Pelco. "From a central office, managers can respond to alarms, check to see if the store is tidy or even make sure personnel are on the job when and where they're supposed to be." With the functionality of the higher quality devices on the market, operators at the remote viewing location can take remote control of certain functions in addition to just viewing. Having what's called a control output means a remote operator can actuate devices at the site. Examples that extend operational flexibility include activating a gate operator or electrical lock, turning on lights or sounding an alarm.

Fool-proof. OK, nothing's fool-proof, but digital does go a long way in eliminating the "human" factor. Once the system is installed, it's pretty self-sustaining. Nobody has to change tapes. There are no complicated set-up procedures like those required by video multiplexers (a great relief for those of us who never quite mastered programming the home VCR). Recording and playing back are simply a matter of point and click. And humans can't intentionally mess things up, either. Many units feature a digital watermark, a feature that prevents tampering, making evidence from a digital recording much more useful in court.

Price. Now the bad news, right? Get ready for a surprise. The cost of a digital-recording system is roughly comparable to the combined costs of a multiplexer, VCR and a stack of industrial-grade tapes. Factor in the high maintenance costs of analog, and going digital can actually save you money.

Digital Delivers

What is the real value of video surveillance in the self-storage industry? That's an interesting question. "Mostly, it's a marketing issue," says Chris Arnold, construction manager with Metro Storage Construction. "If a customer can choose between a facility with full-blown video and door alarms and one without, it's a no-brainer."

"It's not just a comfort to customers," asserts Brundage's Denson. "It's also a deterrent to crime. Many thieves will back off when they spot video cameras." But is that enough to warrant an investment in digital? Indeed, if the purpose of security systems is primarily to comfort customers and scare off mischief-makers, one could say these showy gadgets are promising a level of protection that doesn't exist. John E. Hall Electric's Arsement would disagree.

"Digital is the only thing we push," says Arsement. "Recently, our digital system recorded a break-in. The camera captured the suspect's van and a faint glimpse of his license plate. We were able to zoom in on the plate. We adjusted the light from night to day. We adjusted contrast and brightness. Eventually we made out enough digits on the plate for the police to make an arrest. There's no way we could have done that with videotape. This is a technology for now. It works." Locke believes in the technology, too. "Our focus is on comprehensive security programs for the self-storage industry. We believe digital video surveillance is an effective part of the total package."

When all is said and done, security systems are a reflection of the real world we live in. As our customers become more security savvy, they will demand real protection for their property. The new digital video systems have raised that security to a new level. They'll make our customers feel good. Scare off a few troublemakers. And those who do try to beat the system face a far greater risk of getting caught. And that makes you feel pretty good, too.

Tom Chmielewski writes for enjoyment, satisfaction and occasional monetary rewards from a word processor in Weaverville, N.C.

Digitech International Inc. is a supplier of crime-proofing access-control and security systems manufactured especially for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.523.9504; www.digitech-intl.com.

A-Lert Building Systems

A-Lert Building Systems
Providing quality, service and performance

A-Lert Building Systems, a division of Centurion Industries Inc., is a San Antonio-based manufacturer, supplier and erector of pre-engineered self-storage and commercial buildings. Bringing considerable knowledge of self-storage design, planning, fabrication and construction to its customers is the ongoing goal of this diverse company.

Diversity in Construction

Centurion Industries Inc., based in Garrett, Ind., entered into the storage-building business as a complement to its other operating divisions, including:

  • A-Lert Construction Services, a supplier of millwrights and other general construction services, specializing in the agricultural processing and refining industry;
  • TFC Canopy, a manufacturer and installer of metal-roof canopies in the gas- station, convenience-store and rental-car markets;
  • A-Lert Roof Systems, a manufacturer and installer of retrofit, standing-seam, metal roofs in the commercial market;
  • M&M Electric, an electrical contractor in the food-processing industry that specializes in pneumatic conveying systems; and
  • A-Lert Fire Systems, a provider of fire suppression systems for commercial buildings.

The company also has an independent safety department that audits compliance on all divisions in accordance with OSHA guidelines.

Benefitting from the wealth of resources provided by this network of knowledge and expertise, A-Lert Building Systems is a fast-growing supplier in self-storage. By building relationships within the company and the industry, A-Lert provides its clients a diverse base of construction services with one simple philosophy: Supply the customer with a quality product, unending customer service, and scheduled performance in design and construction.

This is accomplished by following a few of the company's fundamental principles:

  • Keep the customer involved in the overall process, listening to his needs and providing for him.
  • Select quality products and utilize quality-control measures to ensure the best finished product.
  • Utilize the divisions' assets to ensure performance to the customer in the construction of his project.

Strength in People

When asked for the biggest factor in the company's success, Jimmy Anderson, divisions president, says, "being a single-source supplier, from design through construction" would be near the top of the list. "The financial strength and stability of our parent company provides comfort for new and potential customers," he adds.

Flexibility in design and construction are also beneficial to A-Lert's clients. "This allows us to think outside the box with the owner whenever an odd situation arises, such as a not-so-perfect piece of real estate," Anderson says. However, he does not hesitate to point out the company's most valuable asset is its employees. "We have been very fortunate to put together a group of professionals in all phases of our organization--manufacturing, sales, construction purchasing, administration and engineering. We also chose not to segregate customer service into a separate department, instead training all our people to be customer-service representatives and get involved with our clients. To steal a phrase, 'People make it happen,'" Anderson adds.

For the Future

So what does the future hold for a fast-growing supplier such as A-Lert Building Systems? Strengthening current client relationships, building a new base with the national and regional chains, and continuing to grow the employees are all key factors. Product development will also be instrumental in the growth.

According to Anderson, "We are continuing to see more requirements for buildings that are aesthetically pleasing. We have several new products we are looking at within the scope of our building. Probably the most exciting is a product we are currently using at TFC Canopy. It is an architectural composite of metal and plastic that can be rolled, curved, bent, routed, milled and formed using special equipment we have at our Indiana facility. The flexibility of the product and varied availability of finishes makes it very attractive. We are currently exploring potential applications in the storage industry, and we are very excited by the possibilities."

For more information on A-Lert and the services it provides, or to get quotes on a self-storage project, call 800.210.5375; www.centurionind.com.

Effective Security Management

Effective Security Management
Creating a plan for protection, prevention

By James Biesterfeld

The security program at your self-storage facility should be managed like any other special project, but when is the right time to start planning? By far, the best time to start is prior to construction, when the plans are still "wet," so to speak. This way, you won't have to worry about retrofitting your facility, which can involve more cost in the long run. If you must retrofit, then so be it. Whatever phase of development you may be in, it's never too late to think about security management.

So, how do you proceed? You have three options: First, you can organize your own security program, but be prepared for a serious time commitment in research and planning. Or you can hire an alarm company that would be responsible for providing and installing the bulk of your technical security equipment. The upside to this option is dealing with professionals; the downside is those professionals have a vested interest in selling you a specific product--theirs. Your third option is to hire an independent consultant, the benefit to which is you have a professional who should be able to handle all aspects of your program. On the other hand, consultants are generally more expensive, and you will still have to find contractors to provide equipment and installation. Whatever option you choose, get ready, for it is now time for you to develop The Plan.

The Plan

In developing your security plan, you must first identify your threat. What is it you want to protect? What are your biggest security concerns? Once you have answered these questions, visit your local police department's crime-prevention representative and learn about the nature of criminal activity in your area and how it may apply to your facility. This information will be critical.

Every good program has a plan, and security is no different. Your plan should include each of the following:

  • Policies and procedures
  • Access controls
  • Physical security

You must develop solid policies and procedures to operate your security program. These should include such things as client contracts, hiring/termination procedures, training programs for employees, fire safety, etc. Once you have completed this task, you have the solid foundation on which your security program will rest. Conducting pre-employment background checks, facility inspections and even background checks on prospective clients will all be a part of your policies and procedures. Strict adherence to those procedures must be practiced in order for them to remain effective.

Your access-control system will provide the manner in which employees, clients and visitors will enter your facility and move around within it. You will have policies regarding the flow of people and vehicles into the facility, and your physical security program will have the technology to enforce it.

Your site's physical security is the hardware of your program. Fences, gates, lights, locks, closed-circuit television and even your landscaping all mesh together to provide the protection you require for your site. Your technology needs will be based on where your site is located, the level of crime in the area, etc.

Once these aspects have been evaluated, you may then determine the level of technology required. You may opt for high, tubular, steel fences supported by superior lighting and cameras at integral locations. You may choose to augment this formidable perimeter with landscaping of natal plum or bougainvillea, or hearty bushes with long, pointed spines, along the interior of your fence line. Use of "beam" systems inside your perimeter is another technology option. Access into the facility through the use of an electronic keypad system or proximity card system is also beneficial to access controls.

Take all these elements into consideration, put your plan together, then implement it. As you can see, no one aspect of The Plan stands alone. Each part is important and supports the other pieces of the whole. Once your plan is complete, put it to work for you. Review it every so often so it remains a viable part of your business structure. Make changes as they are required based on new or improved data.

The security of your facility is no small undertaking and could result is major capital expenditures. But in our modern world, a security program is essential in reducing your liability potential across the board. The better your program, the lower your risk.

Planning is the key. Training keeps it going.

James Biesterfeld is a retired special agent (counterintelligence) for U.S. Army Intelligence, where he specialized in counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. Presently, he is the owner of Sovereign Executive Services, a California-based security consulting firm. Interested readers may contact him at 888.50.THREAT.

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 06/2001: Security From the Inside Out

Security From the Inside Out

By David Fleming

Inside Self-Storage has dedicated this month's issue to the topic of security. You will be reading about the latest technology. There will be advertisements for everything from computer-controlled access gates to video surveillance and individual unit alarms. All of these devices are very effective security measures. But what can we as managers do to ensure are our facilities are secure?

There seems to be no limit to the creativity of the criminal element. They seem to find a way to get around just about any type of security measure. Gates can be bypassed very easily by tailgating. Fences can be cut. The office is only open eight to 10 hours of a 24-hour day, and the manager has to sleep sometime. To some criminals, self-storage may seem like a golden opportunity. That's why it is so important to do everything you can to deter criminal activity. There is a multitude of security options on the market today, ranging in cost from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. We managers might just be the single best deterrent to criminal activity at our facilities.

The question should not be, "What one thing will stop crime at my facility?" but "What combination of things will deter criminals?" The fact is there is very little you can do to stop someone who is intent on wrongdoing. But these types of individuals can be deterred. Criminals are opportunists. They prey on people and businesses they feel provide them with an opportunity to get some type of financial or material gain with relatively little effort.

Our Best Lines of Defense

Let's start at the last line of defense: the padlock. Most facilities use a latch system that requires the occupant to secure it with a padlock. The harder this is to bypass, the more a criminal will be deterred. Most locks are easily cut. I have even seen locks that were so flimsy it looks as if you could just pop them open with a screwdriver. I suggest disk locks. As the manager of a facility, you have a lot of say in what type of lock you offer for sale. I give my customers a choice: the big disk lock or the little disk lock. If they have their own lock, they are allowed to use it, but I advise against it. I have even heard of facilities that require disk locks. These locks are not uncuttable, but they are difficult to cut or drill quickly and effectively. Remember: We are just trying to deter the criminal. If the theft takes too long or too much effort, that is a great deterrent.

The other thing we can do as managers is make ourselves highly visible throughout the facility. Besides our morning lock check, we should be out and about the grounds on a regular basis. When we are out showing a unit, we should do our best to pass by other individuals on the premises. This will do two things: First, it gives you an opportunity to say "hello" (and get a peek at what is in his unit), which promotes goodwill with your customer. It also shows your prospective customer there are other people using your facility to meet their needs. And you don't need to be showing a unit to do a "walk-by." There are several reasons you might be walking past a unit--if you need a reason, just grab a broom.

I make it a point to meet every one of my customers during their move-in just to say "hello," make sure everything is OK with the unit and see if there is anything else I can do for them. They love that I am so concerned, and I get to see firsthand what is going into my facility. There are other types of criminal activity beside theft, such as the storage of stolen or illegal goods, hazardous materials and waste. It's better I catch these things right off the bat. I do these "walk-bys" with everyone, but especially if a customer doesn't seem quite right. As a manager, the best thing you can do is trust your gut feeling. If something doesn't sit right with you, investigate. Trust your instincts.

Tailgaters, or "gate crashers" as we refer to them, are always a problem. If you have a gate system that requires everyone to register with the office before entering--whether by keypad, card swipe or manual sign-in log--it needs to be strictly monitored. Most problems will come from customers who are just too lazy to stop and execute the required procedure or are in a hurry. They still need to follow the regulations of the facility. Make sure the entry procedure is outlined in your rules and regulations, and post a sign on the gate or by the keypad. This way there is no argument when you come out of the office, stop them and ask them to go back and follow gate procedures.

Remind them that this is for their protection as well as yours. Not only do you have a log of everyone who has been on site and for how long, but if there were a problem, you could exclude them from the list of possible suspects. Nobody gets through the gate without registering. I have actually gotten on the golf cart and driven to the far end of the facility to make sure a person comes all the way back to register at the keypad. There are no exceptions.

Finally, the first line of defense comes at the time of rental. By requiring a government-issued photo ID at the time of sign-up, you will automatically send a message that you run a secure facility. You may even want to consider requiring ID before you even show a unit. Anyone with less-than-legal intentions will be hesitant to show ID. And those who didn't intend to do anything illegal but later consider it may be deterred from doing so when they remember their ID is on file. And that they are registered as being on site because the manager stopped them and made them punch in when they tried to run the gate. And the manager may just be walking around the corner at any time, like he so often does. (You get the picture.)

Statistically speaking, the majority of crimes committed at storage facilities are committed by customers of the facility or someone they know (and has most likely been there before). By showing a strong managerial presence, and by putting as many deterrents in their way as possible, you will greatly reduce the odds of being targeted by criminals.

David Fleming is a manager and manager trainer for Premier Self-Storage Inc. of Amherst, N.Y., which plans to build 20 state-of-the-art facilities over the next five years. After having managed facilities in three states over the past 10 years, Mr. Fleming now resides in a Buffalo suburb with his two children and his co-manager and wife, Tina, who will also contribute to this column. David has won awards from industry publications, including the Inside Self-Storage award for Manager of the Year. To contact the Flemings, call 716.688.8000; fax 716.688.6459; e-mail [email protected].

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 06/2001: Generating Referrals

Generating Referrals
An inexpensive way to acquire new customers

By Fred Gleeck

By far, the cheapest customer to recruit is the repeat customer. A very close second is the referral customer. The reason the referral customer is so inexpensive is his low "cost of capture." Even if you give the person who refers the new customer a small incentive, it is still infinitely cheaper than searching for prospects in the sea of humanity through other marketing methods.

So, how do we go about getting referrals? It sounds simple, but few people do it. The question then becomes: When and how do we ask for referrals to maximize our effectiveness? There are three key times to ask a tenant for referrals: when he initially signs his rental agreement; when he comes in to pay his monthly bill or move things in and out of storage (but wait until at least three months after he has moved in); and when he moves out. Let's cover these opportunities one at a time.

At the Signing

When someone is just moving in, he has obviously weighed the factors and selected your facility. Asking for a referral at this time is a good idea. Why? He obviously feels he made the right decision in storing with you. Why shouldn't he want to share this information with a friend?

The key to asking for the referral at this point is to remember you are just starting your relationship with this person. That being the case, it is important to ask the question subtley--without changing the inflection or tone of your voice--as he signs his move-in paperwork. We don't want to make it obvious that we are about to shift our focus to sales. We want to execute a seamless shift from guiding the new tenant through the paperwork to asking for the names of three or four referrals.

Here is some actual verbiage that might be helpful: "Mr. Smith, I'm glad you're going to be storing with us. Now would you mind also giving me the names of three or four people you know who would appreciate receiving our free report, 'When to use storage and what to look for'?"

The key here is to have something of value that doesn't look like a sales- propaganda piece but will still get your name in front of the prospect. Customers will be reluctant to give you the names of people strictly for the purpose of sending a flier or sales brochure.

After Three Months as a Renter

After you have established a relationship with a renter, you should have a follow-up system (manual or computerized) that will alert you to the fact it has been three months since he signed his rental agreement. You then need to crank up the referral machine again.

At this point, when your renter comes in to move belongings in and out or pay rent, engage him in conversation. Get him to tell you how things are going and whether everything is satisfactory. If he says everything is great, you can proceed. Don't be concerned if he does have a concern or two he voices to you. Clear up the problem and ask if he is satisfied. When he says he is, that's when you jump in and request the referral. Here's what you say: "Mr. Smith, since you've been happy storing with us, can you think of two or three people to whom I should send our free report, 'When to use storage and what to look for'?"

When They Move Out

Hopefully, the majority of people who move out of your facility are doing so because their need for storage no longer exists. This is the time to ask them if they were happy with their experience and if they would store with you again should the need arise. A positive answer to that question is your signal to ask for referrals.

In an ideal situation, you have established a good relationship with your tenants during the time they have stored with you. Even if you had a disagreement in the course of their stay, if it was properly addressed, you are still in good shape. Customer-service data tells us customers actually feel better about companies who have righted a wrong than those that have never made a mistake. So, they are moving out. Make the standard chitchat with them as they are about to leave, then ask them for some names.

Here's what to say: "Miss Jones, I'm glad we had the chance to help you with your storage needs. Now, would there be any reason why I shouldn't send some of your friends our free report, 'When to use storage and what to look for'?" Notice in this case I used the "why I shouldn't" approach. This can only be used in a situation where a strong relationship has been established.

Remember: These are only suggestions. When you actually ask for the referral, be sure to make the words your own. They should not sound scripted. Stick to the main idea even if you do change some of the verbiage.

The main reason you, as an owner or manager, might not get a referral is because you didn't ask! You might be afraid someone will say "no." And I guarantee you they will--at a considerably higher rate than those who say "yes." But those who do say "yes" will make the whole exercise profitable and worthwhile. What if just 10 percent of those tenants you asked gave you two or three names? How much would that be worth to you? Convince your managers to do the same and reap big rewards.

When You Receive a Referral

When you get a referral, you need to reinforce the behavior and show your gratitude. First, send the person who gave you the referral a handwritten note of thanks. Then, send him something of low cost--but of high perceived value--that he will use or see regularly. A great source for these types of items--magnets, pens, coffee mugs, etc.--is close-out merchandise catalogues. I recently saw a four-piece designer luggage set with a retail price of $99 on sale for $8. Talk about something your customer will remember! Some people would recommend you send him money or give him a discount on his next rental. Not me. I want to give him an item he will see or use, and remember my facility every time. Money discounted off a rental will be quickly forgotten.

An Additional Technique: Fliers

A number of my clients are using fliers very effectively to generate referrals. They slip them under the doors of all the units on their property. They also leave fliers on the office counter. The beauty of using fliers is they are extremely inexpensive to produce and the returns are substantial. The only way to know if they'll work for you is to test them. There is no downside to giving them a try.

To make the most effective fliers, you have to design them correctly. First, you have to print them on bright-colored paper. Bright yellow, orange or pink are great colors to use. Whatever you choose, don't use dark colors that make your type difficult to read.

The headline is the most important component of your flier. It should read something like: "How to get $25 off next month's rent." Put the headline in quotes--this is always more effective. Keep the text of the flier short and to the point. Print a coupon on the bottom of the flier for people to fill out--that way you can be sure to give credit for the referral to the appropriate individual.

In Conclusion

Asking for referrals should be as natural to you as collecting rent--you just won't do it quite as often. Some of my clients now demand their managers ask for referrals and meticulously record the results. The numbers have been impressive. Remember: Using referrals is like planting seeds, and they may not bear fruit immediately. But you won't know how successful they can be if you or your staff don't try them. The only drawback is a potentially bruised ego from some people refusing to cooperate. Don't worry, that will heal. I know from personal experience!

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.

Inside Self-Storage Magazine 06/2001: Avoiding Manager Burnout

Avoiding Manager Burnout

By Pamela Alton

One of the biggest problems I see operators and managers experiencing at their facilities is employee burnout, which occurs especially in resident managers, since they not only work at the facility but live there. When a manager resides off-site, burnout happens less frequently but still occurs. How can an owner and his manager(s) avoid this common problem?

Hours Worked

I know some of you owners out there are not going to like what I'm about to say, but it must be said and I have broad shoulders to take the heat. Some of you are not aware of this well-known fact: Slavery was abolished more than 200 years ago! I see some owners expecting their managers to work five-and-a-half or six days a week, closing the office only on Sunday, while paying them the same as others who work only five days a week. Not only are these owners violating wage and labor laws, they are single-handedly contributing to manager burnout and turnover at their facilities.

It is short-sighted for an owner not to hire at least one relief manager to cover the facility on the full-time manager's days off. Why not be open seven days a week and let a relief manager work the extra two days? Sunday is usually a shorter work day. If you relieve your full-time manager of his duties on Sunday and Monday, you'll pay far less in relief manager's wages than it might cost you to have the office closed.

When you don't give your managers the necessary time they need to rejuvenate and handle their personal business, your are setting yourself and your managers up for failure. They will burn out easily, lose interest in their job and lose motivation. Their attitudes may change, and they may become more negative in their thinking. Your facility will suffer in the long run. Is it worthwhile? Only you can answer that question.

Time Away From the Facility

When a manager resides on site, it is difficult for him to get time away from his daily workload. Most managers are very territorial, which can be an excellent attribute; however, it might also mean they feel no one else is capable of doing the work they do. These managers need to "let go," and train their relief managers to handle daily operations in their absence.

I have seen tenants and relief managers stop the facility manager on his way out--to the store, to go on vacation, to run some errand, etc.--to ask a minor question. The manager always drops everything to deal with the question or situation, but what remains is an uncomfortable feeling that he can't take time off. Can you blame him? It is important the manager takes the steps necessary to feel comfortable leaving the premises on a regular basis.

If your managers like to camp, they should plan to go at least once a month to their favorite campground. If they like to visit local resorts like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, they should plan a trip and go. If they have grandchildren they miss, they should visit them. Even a drive in the country or a picnic lunch, a movie or dinner out with friends can go a long way in helping them maintain a relaxed, positive attitude during the work week.

Mini Vacations

Every few months, the manager might want to make arrangements for a "mini vacation" by taking off an extra day or two for a long weekend. One of my managers recently purchased a mobile home with some land in the state he is from. He plans to retire there and wants to open an RV- and boat-storage facility. Every chance he gets, he flies over there and works on his little place. He enjoys working on his future, and he returns to his job in a great frame of mind.

Rewards

Some owners I work with make great efforts to pay their managers well, and respect them and the jobs they do. These owners also make certain their managers get time off by rewarding them with pre-paid vacations, trips to conventions or simply extra days off. In return, the owners are rewarded with refreshed, relaxed and motivated managers, making the self-storage operation ultimately more profitable. Can you see where this might be a win/win situation? Take the time now to sit down with your managers and make arrangements for them to get that much-needed time off. You won't be sorry.

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.

Chop, Chop--Meat-Cleaver Management

The Importance of Income Management

By Harley Rolfe

The measure of success for any business is its income. That tells how apt the enterprise is at attracting customers. Many would say profitability is the measure of success and, ultimately, it is. But profit begins with income. So why don't we better manage it? Surprisingly, we seem to have the least information on that aspect of our operations.

The typical businessman has excellent data about his expense picture. There are separate accounts for each important category. Known as a chart of accounts, it meets the need to have timely information available to control critical operating expenses. But when it comes to income, the self-storage manager may not have a clue. Accounting programs provide little or nothing about the composition, hows and whys of profits.

Chop, Chop--Meat-Cleaver Management

Empirically, the owner may have an inkling about his profits, but to know precisely and over time what the various market areas are producing is more difficult. He doesn't see month-to-month trends for the 20 or so categories of uses/applications that make up the overall tenant base. Usually, the attitude is that if the total is going up, that's a good thing. If not, then you do what you can--chop expenses some more, chop rates. Chop, chop, chop--you can hear the cleaver.

The option of deliberately attracting the type of users you prefer and improving revenue in an analytical and deliberate manner is generally not considered. Managers focus on expenses and hope for the best on income. But it doesn't make sense to not define and detect activity that pushes the whole upper half of everyone's profit-and-loss statement, does it?

You need an early-warning system. You need to know which market segments are growing or waning, or if a rival is swiping one of your prized categories. If an expense is out of control, it quickly triggers inquiry and evaluation. You make a remedial response. But that approach is simply not possible for changes in income. Most operators lack the requisite market-driven information.

Management

You are not alone. Very few commodity operators have such data. The main management emphasis for commodity operations is often cost control. Since managers don't think they have control over the income side, they devote little effort to setting up an income-information system. The result? Little amounts of market information result in little control of income.

"Management" means responding to information about the operating particulars of your business. That basic idea is the foundation for the design of business- information systems. If information is not generated about a vital part of your operation, the manager cannot control that area effectively. You manage what you have information about. Doesn't that make sense?

What Is Step One?

In this column, I usually extol the virtues of operating a marketing program in response to competition. Competition is usually what spurs operators to make the jump from a commodity to a product operation. And most feel that when the competition bell tolls, they should start using advertising and other promotions. That might work, but the first step should be to install an income-reporting system that is as useful and refined as the system they use to monitor expenses.

Expense reporting is ingrained in all accounting programs. It's inescapable. Every time you write a check, you are required to identify the expense account or category. The accounting profession has very precise definitions for the various expense categories. Much of that is for the benefit of the IRS, but it forces all of us to a degree of uniformity when analyzing and expressing our financial results.

There is no such enforcer when it comes to income reporting. You can make deposits all year and never know much about where or why that income is occurring. You won't know that the retail- distribution segment is disappearing or that remodelers are starting to use self-storage. As your market situation heats up and some kind of action is required, you may have only a modicum of income information. Monitoring your income means constant frustration because you must guess about so many things.

When you are troubled by a competitive challenge, guessing is risky. If you aim and miss on a remedial program, several things happen--all bad. The market threat you attempted to address persists. You may well have incurred media expense to little avail. You lose confidence that you know how to manage this part of your operation. So at a time when decisive action is required, you hesitate. The threat is still eroding your market position and you must do something. Many will resort to the obvious answer: chop something.

It's There for the Asking

An integrated marketing program spares you such an experience. You need an ongoing income-source system. To start the process, send questionnaires to your existing tenants. Enclose a little goodie (candy, key-chain, pen, etc.) to thank them in advance for helping you. If you are gracious when making your request, and if you have a good relationship with your tenants, they will respond.

You don't want to know much--just what happened in their lives that prompted the need for storage and why they choose your facility. That will help you determine what your segments are. Once you know what prompted your previous tenants to seek you out, you can make a checklist. Then you use the checklist to regularly collect data as each new tenant signs up. Make room for the addition of new categories. That's how you expand your market.

Because there is usually high tenant turnover, in a few months, you will begin to have a profile of what causes people to need storage. I hope you realize how valuable this information is. It is the basis for forming a sales-promotion appeal for the various segments using your facility. Most businesses have to speculate on who and where their prospects are. You have a yard full of tenants who are satisfying their needs by using your facility. The information you need for your income-source system is there for the asking.

So, are you fully managing your business? Yes--if you know as much about your income as you do about your expenses.

Harley Rolfe is a semi-retired marketing specialist whose career includes executive-level marketing positions with General Electric and AT&T. He also owned lodging and office facilities for more than 20 years. Mr. Rolfe holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Wabash College and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Indiana. He can be reached at his home in Nampa, Idaho, at 208.463.9039. Further information can also be found in Mr. Rolfe's book, Hard-Nosed Marketing for Self-Storage.