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Disaster Recovery: Pogoda Thanks Industry for Its Support

Maurice Pogoda is the president of Pogoda Cos. in Michigan. One of his facilities recently suffered a natural disaster. Below is his brief recount of the tale, including photos, and a thank you to the thoughtful industry that supported him with advice.

On Saturday, April 25, my wife and I were seeing a Broadway play when, during intermission, I checked my cell phone and had an urgent message from my VP of Operations, Tom Berlin, to call him ASAP. When I reached him, he informed me that one of our Michigan properties had been devastated by severe storm winds that topped out at 90 mile per hour. He didn’t know the exact details, but he thought that we had “lost” several buildings. He said he was on the way to the property and would keep me informed. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the second act very much. 
 
It turns out that we had two buildings completely destroyed with damage to six other buildings. The roofs, walls and doors from the two destroyed buildings settled on top of other buildings and tenants’ belongings were strewn throughout the store and the fields beyond. Fortunately, I am proud to say, we have terrific people in Pogoda Management Co. Everyone stepped up admirably and pitched in. Our first call was to a security guard company to ensure the safekeeping of tenant’s belongings; the second call was to a disaster/restoration company; the next call was to our insurance company.
 
Over the next week, the store returned to some semblance of order. Debris was removed, temporary buildings were built to house goods from the destroyed buildings, we called all the tenants, and we met with the insurance adjustors. We began the long, arduous task to put our store and business back together.
 
While I could go on and on about the challenges we encountered, my purpose in writing this letter is two-fold. One is to urge everyone to review your insurance coverage and make sure you have the best self-storage coverage available. I will surely never take my insurance for granted again.
 
Second, in the couple of days after the disaster, I contacted many of the friends I have made in my 22 years in the self-storage business. All are active members of the Self Storage Association and/or the Self Storage Association of Michigan. I cannot tell you how selfless and helpful their advice has been. Since we never had a disaster of this magnitude, I sought the experience of those who had. We received numerous e-mails and calls with terrific thoughts and suggestions.
 
I have to give a special thanks to the folks at Watson & Taylor Management from Texas. They spent hours on the phone with us and shared their knowledge and expertise in disaster mitigation.  The SSA was also very gracious and gave us a copy of its Emergency Preparedness Manual, which we have found to be invaluable.
 
I want to publicly thank everyone who so kindly helped us. It is very comforting to be a part of an industry that is so willing to help others in need.

 

 

 

Bug Juice Insecticide Paint Additive

Walla Walla Environmental has released a new economical solution to unwanted pests at self-storage facilities: Bug Juice Insecticide Paint Additive, a contact pesticide. Bug Juice controls insects in storage units, restrooms and garbage areas. It mixes easily with latex and oil-based paint, stains or sealers, and lasts the life of the coating (two years minimum). Bug Juice is the only product of its kind to receive an EPA registration for interior and exterior applications. It kills cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, silverfish and many other crawling/flying insects. Bug Juice smells only of fresh paint and works 24/7.

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The Bugman Cometh : How to choose a pest-control company 

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Keep Competitors Close: Knowing Neighbors Can Boost Self-Storage Business

Most of us know the source of our self-storage customers. We also know, roughly, what percentage of them is using storage for business or personal reasons. But how do you know what marketing strategies are working and which are not?

Maybe you track your marketing with coded coupons, or you offer specials through different types of advertising. Do you simply ask customers how they found you? Many marketing methods will work, and there are several ways to collect data about their effectiveness. The question is, are you collecting and analyzing this information? How close do you keep your customers?

Most of you take care of your customers and listen to what they have to say. In fact, some managers learn about their tenants by initiating productive conversations with them when on site. Others implement surveys for existing renters and even move-out questionnaires. All of this is helpful in gathering market data and other information that can help a facility improve.

We can use this information to make changes in our policies, renovations to our facilities or adjustments to our marketing budgets, spending money in the areas that work best. This is all achieved by keeping customers close. I would go so far as to call our customers our friends. And though I wouldn’t call competitors enemies, I suggest you get to know them better, too. 

Know Your Competition

What can you learn from your competition? Are they providing services you don’t? Do they charge additional fees for these services? Do their customers stay longer than yours? Have you ever wondered what the occupancy level is at the facility down the street or what your competitor across town is charging for locks? How do you uncover this information, and how can you be sure it’s accurate? How do you benefit from it?

There are essentially two strategies for researching the storage facilities in your area and becoming the educated professional in your market. The first is the direct approach. Simply visit the facility, introduce yourself as the facility owner or manager from down the street, and get to know the team. After a few visits, you’ll learn who the owner and employees are, how long they have been operating the site, the type of customers they serve and much more.

Chances are, if you plan to visit all your local competitors on a regular basis, you won’t need to ask specific details about their operations. You’ll learn it from listening to them serve customers in your presence. This way, you’ll know the information is accurate. If you ask what they charge for a 10-by-10, they might not tell you or may give you the wrong information. But if you hear them tell it to a customer, you know it’s right.

Approach competitors with caution. If you start asking questions right away, they might get defensive and be wary of the reason behind your visit. Keep your conversations friendly and casual. Let them tell you specifics if they want, or just listen to an incoming sales call or a walk-in customer. Don’t interfere with their business, and don’t promote yours in front of other customers. Keep in mind the main goal for your visit is to gain trust and build a relationship.

To initiate the conversation, say you want to get to know some of the other facilities in the area because you are new and thought it would be nice to put some faces to the names. If you’ve been around for a while, you can simply say you are near full occupancy in many sizes and wanted to visit some local facilities to see what they were like and refer business to them. 

Keep your visits short, no more than 10 to 15 minutes, but stop in once a month. On your second visit, ask where they purchase their moving and packing supplies and how they like the service. You can offer to trade supplier secrets to help each other out but, again, stay clear of operational specifics. Implementing competitor visits into your routine will give you valuable information on what you can offer customers and how you can improve your operation. 

The Mystery-Shop Advantage

Another angle is to mystery shop your competitors. The owner or an employee can visit or call a competitor’s facility and act as a potential customer inquiring about storage. This type of research will give you a firsthand demonstration of how other companies are serving their customers. Use a combination of visits and phone calls on a quarterly basis to keep you up-to-date with any specials offered in your market.

Using a combination of direct visits and mystery shopping is by far the best strategy. You can be the direct visitor and befriend your competition and schedule time to complete the mystery shopping every few months. Discuss any information you gather during team meetings. Implementing these strategies will help you discover the many benefits of keeping your competition close.
 
Cory Parrow is a consultant with Your Storage Team, a management company based in Southern Ontario, Canada. Your Storage Team has been involved in the development of self-storage facilities for more than a decade, specializing in management services. For more information, call 519.868.1982; e-mail [email protected].

Door to Door Storage Supports University Trash2Treasure Event

Door to Door Storage Inc., a national provider of portable-storage containers and moving services, has teamed with the Husky Energy Action Team (HEAT) at Northeastern University in support of the school's first annual Trash2Treasure event. The company is providing the free use of storage containers, related transportation and warehousing for items donated by students during the campaign.

Door to Door has five storage units on the campus to collect donated items until May 9.The items will then be stored at a warehouse for the summer and brought back to campus in the fall for a large garage sale.

Trash2Treasure is organized by HEAT in coordination with the campus Residence Life team to reduce the amount of reusable items that end up in the landfill every spring during move-out week. 

Source:  PRWeb,  Door to Door Storage Partners With Northeastern University for Trash2Treasure Event 

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'Think Green & Give' Campaign Supported by Door to Door Storage

Door To Door Storage Offers Summer Storage Package for College Students

Storage Express Opens in Bedford, Ind.

Bloomington, Ind.-based Storage Express recently celebrated the grand opening of its newest facility in Bedford, Ind. Storage Express is excited to be the first to offer heated and cooled spaces and high-tech security in this small Midwestern community. The 25,000-square-foot facility is also the first in the area to offer a 24-hour automated rental center. Storage Express owns and operates 70 properties in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

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Registration Opens for Inside Self-Storage World Expo, Washington, D.C.

Registration is officially open for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5-8. Created for self-storage industry owners, managers, developers, investors and suppliers, the event comprises four days of educational seminars, product and service exhibits, and networking opportunities. It will take place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
 
With a theme of “Today’s Challenges Are Tomorrow’s Profit,” the expo focuses on strategies for generating revenue and perfecting business branding in a demanding economic environment. Participants can attend seminars as part of three comprehensive educational tracks: 

  • Facility Marketing and Promotion
  • Day-to-Day Operation and Facility Management
  • Construction, Development, Real Estate and Finance

They can also choose from a diverse palette of add-on intensive workshops. Options include the Developers Seminar, Marketing and Sales Boot Camp, Legal Learning Live and the Management Workshop. Featured speakers include self-storage experts such as Jim Chiswell, Jeffrey Greenberger, Mel Holsinger, Joe Niemczyk, RK Kliebenstein, Tom Litton and others.
 
The ISS Expo is the industry’s leading conference and tradeshow. Produced by Inside Self-Storage magazine, the show features an extensive educational program tailored for the storage-industry professional. The exhibit hall includes suppliers from every facet of the business as well as exceptional networking opportunities.

For details or to register, visit www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.

Self-Storage Insurance in Canada: Understanding the Hard and Soft Market Cycle

Have you ever wondered why the cost of your business insurance fluctuates so much? If so, you’re not alone. The fact is the insurance industry historically experiences what is referred to as the “hard and soft” market cycle. This article will help you understand the influences of this cycle and how it relates to your insurance costs.
 
Soft Market vs. Hard Market

A soft market is reflective of aggressive underwriting along with favorable investment-income results over a period of time. The market started to soften in the latter part of 2004, and continued to soften into early 2009. At the time of this writing in February 2009, most people in the industry believed the current economic crisis would force insurers to focus on underwriting profit, not investment income. With this in mind, it is expected that the current soft market is nearing the end.

The hard market, on the other hand, is the result of poor underwriting and investment income over a period of time, with insurers increasing rates/premiums and, at the same time, adopting a more cautious approach when setting premium levels on new business and renewals. Insurance, in effect, becomes “hard” to place within the insurance marketplace.

Other factors that can influence the cost of insurance include re-insurance and the increasing costs involved in settling claims. During this time, some insurers may withdraw from insuring specific industries, which, due to the laws of supply and demand, drives the cost significantly higher for those businesses. The most recent hard market spanned from 2002 through the end 2004, and we expect the next hard market may have already begun.
 
Why the Cycle?

Why does this cycle keep occurring? Insurance is a fairly complex industry but, in simple terms, competition and the desire to grow can be blamed for market swings. Insurance companies become more aggressive during a soft market, offering unsustainable premium levels and insuring certain industries they abandoned during the last hard market. Combine this with a sharp drop in the stock market or investment income, and rates will rise and the vicious cycle continues.   

The self-storage industry generally fairs better than most during the hard market, due in part to programs that focus on the industry. Industry-specific programs reduce the impact of price increases during the hard market while continuing to make broad coverage available.

This is especially true when a program has been in place for a long period of time and has significant participation and premium volume. Another relative factor is the risk level of self-storage, which is considered relatively low when compared to other industries. 
 
Considering Change

The premium for a single-policy term should not be the only factor when buying insurance. Here are some critical elements that should also be considered:
 

  • Where is the insurance market relative to the cycle outlined?
  • Is the insurance company committed to your industry, regardless of the market cycle?
  • Are the insurance company and broker financially viable?
  • Is the broker familiar with your industry, and does he understand your specific needs?
  • How broad or restrictive is the coverage?
  • Is industry-specific coverage provided or available?
  • What is the relationship between the insurance company and broker?
  • What types of value-added services are provided?
Most insurance brokers dislike the market cycle. However, a broker does play an important role in reducing the impact of the market cycle by understanding your industry and having strong relationships with insurers. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what drives it and how it may affect you as a self-storage operator.
 
Toby Struewing, commercial account executive for Cowan Insurance Group, is a specialist in Canadian self-storage business insurance. To reach him, e-mail [email protected].
 
ISS Blog

Self-Storage Embraces Social Networking

If you're a private person, the social-networking revolution taking the world by storm probably terrifies and/or disgusts you. Part of that reaction likely lies not in the media themselves but in the grossly viral way they have slinked into the nooks of our lives. In the course of a day, it is nigh impossible to avoid having a conversation, visiting a website or seeing an advertisement that doesn't scream, "Follow us on Twitter" or "Join us on Facebook."

Personally, I'm intimidated—and a little turned off. Technology does not frighten me, people do. Big Brother does. The destruction of privacy. The inability to keep separate a personal and professional life. There is no more boundary between work and play, or work and family, or family and friends, or any of the other compartments into which most of us like to separate our relationships. Now it all hangs out, like a giant jiggling beer gut.

OK. Let's pause here. I don't want to get hung up on the sociological implications of sites like MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and Linked In. Someone could write a dissertation on the potential long-term effects and evolution of these tools (and I'm sure many people will). They're here, and they're not likely going anywhere, so let's focus on how they're being used in the business of self-storage.

Here's what I'm seeing: The industry that has been notoriously lackadaisical and reticent about embracing technology is taking to social media like a duck to water. Why? I can only speculate, but my guess is that it's because social-networking sites are deceptively friendly. I say deceptively because they are as dangerous as they are seductive, and for many reasons. But let's face it: Even to a technophobe, Twitter and YouTube can be fun, easy and provide immediate gratification.

I attended a meeting this morning about using social networking in conjunction with corporate branding: if we should use it, how to use it, the intent of using it, the best way to manage it. Building community is going to emerge as possibly the most effective marketing strategy you have in the years ahead. As a facility owner/operator/manager, you are going to have to grapple with social media and how they relate to your business.

So ... This is a big conversation, and it will continue to unfold. For now, following are links to a few places where you can read and/or participate in conversations about using social sites in conjunction with self-storage. Let me know your thoughts. Are you Twittering? Are you on Facebook? Do you have a MySpace page or YouTube video? Share your experience in the blog. Big Brother is already watching, so give him something to watch!

Galveston Self-Storage Re-Opens After Hurricane Hiatus

Watson & Taylor Self Storage has re-opened its Galveston, Texas, facility after a six-month hiatus cause by severe damage from Hurricane Ike. The company rebuilt the facility with upgraded construction and technology, including climate control and security systems. It is offering several promotions over the next few months to celebrate. Local businesses and residents are encouraged to tour the new facility.
 
Watson & Taylor, based in Dallas, operates 43 self-storage facilities throughout Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee. The company has been in business for more than 30 years.

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Steel Storage Europe Earns ISO 9001 Accreditation

Steel Storage Europe, which manufactures, designs, supplies and installs self-storage buildings throughout Europe, has been awarded ISO 9001 quality accreditation from the British Accreditation Bureau. The company hopes that by achieving the ISO standard, it has raised the bar for the self-storage industry.
 
Steel Storage worked with Nick Maurice Jones from the Bureau to document the company’s internal procedures and quality systems. The company formally began the ISO process in July 2008 and announced its official accreditation in March 2009.

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Steel Storage Group : A global player  

Words of Wisdom : An Australian entrepreneur discovers the pitfalls and challenges of self-storage opportunities in Europe