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Articles from 2014 In July


ISS Blog

Self-Storage Website Design: Going Beyond the Aesthetics to Be a 24/7 Sales Tool

Rent Now on Keyboard Button

The first thing most people notice when visiting a self-storage website for the first time is how aesthetically appealing it is. Because of this, a lot of emphasis is put into building the website. However, there’s so much more to having a quality website. Yes, you want to make a good first impression, but if the functional features of your website are not well-thought-out, the storage business the website represents is missing out on a huge opportunity.

A website can be a very strong marketing tool for self-storage operators. Here are some ways to look past its initial appearance to ways to make it truly profitable.

Features

Websites are capable of doing many things, and usually include features to make life easier for self-storage operators and their customers. Convenience and simplicity can go a long way. Some features that can accomplish this include adding unit rates, sizing guides, and rental and payment capabilities to the website. With information on sizing and pricing, customers can answer common questions on their own. Rental and payment capabilities will save facility operators time during normal business hours and can also double as a 24-hour sales tool.

Visual Hierarchy

It’s incredibly important to show website visitors what they need to know about your storage facility quickly. Figure out what will benefit your company the most, then make that very visible and easy to find. If a first-month special is what motivates people to take action, make it too obvious to miss and easy to get from that point to your rental page. This isn’t to say that specials are the only thing that can drive people to take action. It could be different for each facility. Figure out what it is, then make it as simple as possible to find it on you website and for customers to act on it.

Navigation

This is another incredibly important element to a strong website. When your customers are ready to rent or looking for more information about your facility, the navigation should require no thought on their part. This seems simple, but often we understand our own navigation while others might not. Make the terminology simple to understand and organize your website’s dropdown menus appropriately.

Websites can do so much more for storage operators than just look good. They can help generate revenue, save time and make the process of finding the right facility, renting a unit and making payments easier for your customers.

In addition, all of these are features that more self-storage customers are expecting when doing business with you. In some instances, a potential tenant might even leave a website if he can’t easily find what he’s looking for or conduct his business, such as reserving a unit. Instead, he’ll find an operator who does provide this online benefit. Take your website and operation to another level by focusing on your website’s functionality.  

Nick Bilava is the director of sales and marketing for Storage.com. He has been an active member of the self-storage community for more than seven years and can be found at various industry events throughout the nation. Nick’s goal at Storage.com is to help self-storage operators market their business more efficiently and effectively.

Zoning Approved for Proposed River Avenue Self Storage in Patchogue, NY

Developer Pinelake Properties LLC received zoning approval from the Patchogue, N.Y., Village Board this week for a proposed River Avenue Self Storage facility. The 1.7-acre property along River Avenue consists of several street addresses and will have its zoning changed from three different zoning designations to D-5 Business District, which includes car washes, drive-in restaurants, gas stations and self-storage.

Owner Ralph Fuccillo said the proposed facility would be built on his family’s property and comprise about 34,000 square feet in 207 storage units. The plan includes the demolition of some existing structures in favor of single-story storage buildings but would preserve a home that belonged to Fuccillo’s grandparents.

“This is the old homestead of the family,” Fuccillo said. “We kept the house, so that’s the first thing you see. We think there will be a need, especially with the new apartments [at New Village]. You’ll have security gates. There will be a manager on site, and there’s an upstairs apartment.”

Traffic concerns voiced by nearby residents will be addressed in the project’s final site-plan review, according to the source. Fuccillo said the facility would have limited hours and the upstairs apartment in the family home could be rented by the facility manager.

Due to the multiple zoning designations on the property, several other uses for the land were considered before settling on self-storage, the source reported. “The key here for me is, nobody that I know of has spoken against the concept,” Fuccillo said. “By us being neighborhood-considerate, I think it will be fine.”

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SpareFoot Partners With AAA to Offer Self-Storage Discounts to Consumers

SpareFoot, an online marketplace for self-storage consumers, has partnered with the AAA Discounts & Rewards program of the AAA (American Automobile Association) motor club and leisure-travel organization to create a nationwide network of storage facilities approved to offer discounts to club members. AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. It also offers discounts through more than 114,000 businesses on products and services including moving and storage, hotels, restaurants, and retail.

To participate in the program, self-storage operators must be a member of SpareFoot and meet a set of benchmarks that demonstrate a commitment to AAA’s customer-service standards. This includes a minimum of five customer reviews on the operator’s SpareFoot listing and an average customer rating of more than four stars. Operators must also have unrestricted integration with self-storage management software platforms from Centershift Inc., QuikStor Security & Software, or SMD Software Inc. (SiteLink).

In addition, eligible facilities must have an onsite manager. Appointment-only and unmanned storage properties will not be considered, according to the SpareFoot website.

“Only the best facilities in the SpareFoot network will qualify for the AAA program,” said Chuck Gordon, co-founder and CEO of SpareFoot. “Since the AAA brand is so respected and trusted, these facilities will have to meet and maintain strict quality criteria to be affiliated with AAA Discounts & Rewards.”

Approved facilities will be promoted across AAA marketing channels and designated on the SpareFoot website with a special icon.

AAA members who use SpareFoot to reserve a self-storage unit at approved facilities will receive their first month free from the participating storage company and a $20 Amazon gift card paid for by SpareFoot.

“AAA is pleased to unite with SpareFoot, the nation’s largest aggregator of self-storage,” said Scott Denman, vice president of AAA Financial Services and Member Benefit Programs. “Partnering to offer AAA Discounts & Rewards at premium facilities that meet high service standards further affirms our commitment of helping members save on everyday expenses.”

Founded in 2008, SpareFoot helps consumers find and reserve self-storage units, with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals. With a network of more than 7,000 storage facilities ranging from mom-and-pop operations to real estate investment trusts, the company reaches prospective storage renters though partnerships with brands including SelfStorage.com, ForRent.com and Penske Truck Rental.

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The Dos and Donts of Filing an Insurance Claim: A Guide for Self-Storage Operators

Insurance Claim Form

By Don Sedlacek

Property damage. Bodily injury. A lien auction. The list of things that could go wrong at your self-storage facility is so diverse that it’s probably inevitable one day you’ll find yourself faced with filing an insurance claim. Skilled claims professionals can go a long way toward resolving issues quickly and efficiently. However, there are a few important do’s and don’ts for self-storage owners that may help ensure the best possible outcome for your bottom line.

Don’t Delay in Notifying Your Insurance Agent or Carrier

Ask any claims professional, and he’ll tell you emphatically that one of the single most detrimental actions a self-storage owner can take regarding a claim is to wait too long to notify his insurance agent or carrier. In general, you should make notification as soon as possible after you experience a significant insurance-related event at your facility that could result in a claim or lawsuit.

The three most time-sensitive events are bodily injuries, property losses and lawsuits. Delaying notification to your insurance agent or carrier may reduce or eliminate the claims adjuster’s ability to effectively investigate the incident. For example, if a tenant slips and falls on an icy walkway in January and you wait until June to report it, it’s impossible for the adjuster to investigate the weather conditions at your property at the time of the incident.

For lawsuits, immediate notification is absolutely critical. Your insurance carrier can provide a great deal of support, but time is of the essence. In the majority of jurisdictions, you have either 20 or 30 days to respond to a summons and complaint. Failure to notify your insurance carrier in time to meet this deadline may be a violation of your insurance contract and may void the insurance carrier’s responsibility to provide coverage.

If you’re served, immediately fax or email a copy of the summons and complaint to your insurance carrier’s claims department. Note the date and time of service and the name of the person served on the cover sheet. Also send a copy of this information to your insurance agent.

Do Document the Incident in Detail

In the case of property damage (assuming no one has been injured), the first priority is to document the incident. Photograph the scene and any damage to document the extent and severity of the loss. Take detailed notes of your observations, conversations with witnesses, telephone conversations and contact information for everyone you speak with about this matter. If you need to make emergency, temporary repairs to prevent further damage or to address safety concerns, keep a detailed record of your expenses and save your receipts.

When a tenant or visitor complains of an injury, complete a detailed incident report that includes the person’s name, address, telephone number, names of witnesses, an in-depth description of the circumstances, and as much identifying information about the injured person as possible. It’s a good idea to take photos to preserve a record of the scene as it was at the time of the incident. Also consider taking a photo of the injured party, if he agrees to one.

As soon as you have completed the report, fax or e-mail a copy to your insurance agent or carrier the same day. This allows him the option of conducting a preliminary investigation. It’s important to understand that an incident report should be completed for any and all injuries reported to the facility or witnessed by an employee, no matter how minor the injury appears at the time.

Don’t Try to Handle the Situation Yourself

The premium you pay to your insurance carrier includes the services of the claims department and its experienced professional adjusters. They represent your interests and will work with you to resolve the claim quickly and with the best possible outcome for your operation. Notify your insurance agent or carrier quickly of any incident and stay in close communication with him throughout the claims process. With that in mind, there are some corollary don’ts to remember on this topic:

  • Don’t give out information to others before reporting the claim to your insurance representative. This includes tenants, visitors, witnesses or another party’s lawyer or insurance company. If someone contacts you seeking details about the incident, the claim investigation or potential settlements, don’t offer information on your own. Advise the person to contact your claims adjuster directly.
  • Don’t admit liability. If a customer’s belongings are damaged from rain coming through a leaking roof, don’t say things like, “I knew we should have had the roof inspected” or “I’m sure our insurance will take care of this for you.”
  • Don’t make volunteer payments. For example, if your security gate closes on the back of a tenant’s vehicle, don’t offer to make a deal with the tenant to pay for the damage yourself. Making volunteer payments without consulting your insurance agent or carrier could nullify your insurance coverage and leave you on the hook to pay for any resulting claims, legal fees or court-ordered damages, which could be financially devastating to your self-storage business.

Do Review and Save Relevant Video Footage

Video is an excellent tool for claims investigation. Whether you’re faced with an incident of property damage or bodily injury, it’s important to review the security video footage from the time of the event, save it electronically and forward it to your claims adjuster. This suggestion underscores the importance of reporting incidents to your insurance agent or carrier in a timely manner. Since many security systems record over old video footage periodically, it’s critical that you work with your adjuster to begin the investigation as soon as possible after the incident and capture relevant video footage before it’s lost forever.

The circumstances surrounding an insurance claim can be upsetting and frustrating. Your insurance carrier’s claims department is staffed with experienced adjusters who can guide you through the process as efficiently as possible. Your adherence to the important do’s and don’ts of insurance claims combined with your adjuster’s expertise and advice can help to resolve the claim quickly and with the most positive outcome available for your self-storage operation.

Don Sedlacek is vice president of claims for Phoenix-based MiniCo Insurance Agency LLC, a provider of specialty insurance programs for self-storage businesses in the United States and Canada. For more information, call 800.528.1056; visit www.minico.com.

Man Arrested in Connection With Attempted Rape of Self-Storage Manager in White Plains, MD

Jeremy Ralph Dudley, 28, was arrested last week in connection with an attempted rape at Outback Self Storage in White Plains, Md. Dudley is suspected of assaulting the female resident manager on July 8, allegedly striking her on the head from behind and pushing her into a storage unit. After a struggle ensued, the victim freed herself by kicking the attacker in the genitals, according to the source.

The woman then fled to her apartment on the property and called 911, the source reported. By the time police arrived, the attacker was gone. The victim described to police a car she believed was the assailant’s and later provided details used to release a sketch of his face to the public, according to the source.

Police said anonymous tips identified Dudley as the suspect, and the victim later identified Dudley by photograph, the source reported.

Dudley faces first-degree sex-offense and assault charges. He was released from Charles County Jail on Monday after posting a $10,000 bond.

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Guardian Mini Storage of St. Helens, Ore., Updates Look and Services

Guardian Mini Storage of St. Helens, Ore., which has been under new ownership and management since September 2013, has updated its curb appeal and expanded its services to be more customer-friendly. The 15,000-square-foot, 123-unit self-storage facility at 2035 Old Portland Road has been renovated to modernize what was previously a drab and outdated building, according to a company press release.

"How the place looked didn't represent the brand we are trying to build here," said Guardian Mini Storage Manager Dennis Falomon. "The facility is now bright and airy, and much more welcoming." The renovation included new roofs, siding, lighting and paint, according to the facility website.

The business has also added U-Haul equipment rental. "What a great business advantage it is to be aligned with U-Haul," said Falomon. "Now the residents of St. Helens no longer need to drive to Portland to rent U-Haul equipment."

In addition, Guardian has improved its customer service, creating a more personalized customer experience, according to the release. Part of the new service approach includes fresh coffee for morning customers.

Falomon said he's seen results thus far, namely increased income and decreased expenses; but he's not really focused on short-term gains. He sees a bigger picture where he can build his customer base over time. "With the credibility and brand awareness U-Haul provides, and our remodeled facility and improved customer service, we're looking to build something sustainable here," Falomon said.

Situated across the street from the Columbia County Justice Facility and Sheriff’s Department, Guardian Mini Storage features perimeter fencing, 24-hour keypad access, climate control, a management office and an onsite manager’s apartment, according to LoopNet, an online listing service for commercial real estate. The facility also sells packing and moving supplies.

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Ex-Manager Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Self Storage Services for $1M

Self Storage Services Inc., which operates 20 self-storage facilities in three states and Washington, D.C., is being sued for $1 million by a former facility manager. Jennifer Dandridge, who is black, claims she was racially discriminated against by being underpaid, fired and replaced by a less-qualified white man, according to the source. Dandridge filed the federal suit last week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md.

According to the suit, Dandridge managed the company’s two Waldorf, Md., facilities for four years and worked for Self Storage Services for 16 years. She claims to have never received an unsatisfactory performance report and once won a company award for facility of the year. The two Waldorf facilities combined serve about 900 tenants, the source reported.

Dandridge also claims she was ordered to train her replacement before she was fired on July 16. She was the company’s only black manager at the time of her firing. Allegedly, others had previously been fired and replaced by non-blacks, according to the lawsuit.

While employed, Dandridge said she was paid less than other non-black managers and those who managed only one facility. She also alleges the company failed to pay the employer portion of her health-insurance premium from February through July. She is represented by attorney Jimmy A. Bell, according to the source.

Ron Kitzmiller, who now manages the Waldorf locations, told the source Self Storage Services would not comment on the suit.

The storage company operates six self-storage facilities in Florida, eight in Maryland, five in Virginia and one in Washington, D.C. It is headquartered in Rockville, Md.

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Self-Storage Finance Firm The BSC Group Sponsors Boy Scouts Adult Kickball Tourney

Self-storage finance firm The BSC Group LLC is sponsoring the Potawatomi Area Council Boy Scouts of America (PACBSA) for its adult kickball tournament. The event is scheduled for Aug. 1, 4:15 to 10:30 p.m., at the Helfaer Field in Milwaukee. It will include a special appearance from the Milwaukee Brewers Famous Racing Sausages, a tailgate party, and other activities including a social hour, kickball games, and an award and raffle ceremony.

“We are happy to support the Potawatomi Area Council Boy Scouts of America Annual Kickball Tournament. Their ethics and mission to cultivate future leaders based on participation in civic-minded and outdoor activities closely resembles with our business practices and personal passion for the outdoors,” said BSC Vice President Noel Cain.

BSC Group has a connection with the Boy Scouts of America, and it is the company’s goal to give back to the organization in which its employees believe, according to a press release. Cain himself was a Boy Scout. “This was a way to continue supporting the organization that taught me so much in my youth. I am thankful for the opportunity,” Cain said.

The mission if PACBSA is to help youth “mature into adults exhibiting traits of participating citizenship, character and personal fitness founded upon the moral and ethical values expressed in the Scout Oath/Promise and Law,” according to the organization’s website. The group aims to cultivate future generations of leaders to serve their communities by increasing the number of youth in Scouting.

Formed in 2009, BSC provides financial and loan advisory, mortgage brokerage, and loan-workout solutions to commercial real estate owners and investors, with a special emphasis on the self-storage market. Through its capital source network, the company provides access to debt and equity financing for commercial real estate investments nationwide.

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Inside Self-Storage Parent Company VIRGO Acquired by Informa PLC

Inside Self-Storage parent company VIRGO, an information-distribution company focused on business-to-business markets, has been acquired by global information provider Informa PLC, subject to receipt of U.S. antitrust clearance, and will be part of Informa’s Global Exhibitions Group. Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed, but the acquisition is expected to enhance group earnings in its first full year post acquisition.

The purchase will provide the Global Exhibitions Group with a similar platform for expansion of its exhibition activities in the United States. Until now, Informa’s U.S. activity has been predominantly focused on conferences and learning.

VIRGO has a portfolio of six major tradeshows and conferences, including the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, designed for the self-storage industry, and SupplySide West, a leading U.S. tradeshow in the health and nutrition market. SupplySide will complement Vitafoods, Informa’s leading exhibition brand within the health and nutrition sector in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

The companies expect there will be some attractive synergies by bringing their health and nutrition assets into the same portfolio and creating a global brand proposition, according to a press release.

“We continue to expand organically and by acquisition. Today’s announcement of the purchase of a U.S. exhibition business complements our existing position in the health and nutrition market sector through Vitafoods, creating a strong, global brand proposition in this attractive vertical,” said Stephen A. Carter, Informa’s group chief executive, in a release summarizing the company’s half-year results for the six months ended June 30. “It also provides us with an established base on which to build our presence in the important U.S. exhibitions sector. The strong performance of our Global Exhibitions business in the first half further confirms the growth potential of this market.”

“The opportunity to align VIRGO’s events, Web and media programming within the Informa business offers an incredible amount of scale to everything the company has accomplished. At the same time, the ability to lever VIRGO’s position and infrastructure in the United States to bring Informa’s global exhibitions to the U.S. will be a game-changer in the market,” said VIRGO CEO John Siefert.

Founded in 1986 and based in Phoenix, VIRGO produces six tradeshows and conferences, publishes nine national trade websites with six affiliate magazines, offers online training and accreditation programs, and operates three branded online stores that offer paid content. The company leverages its events, publications, digital and other media to provide integrated solutions for professionals in industries including self-storage, healthcare, natural products and telecommunications.

Headquartered in London, Informa creates and delivers specialized information through publishing, events, training, market intelligence and expertise, providing knowledge to individuals, businesses and organizations worldwide. With more than 6,000 employees in more than 100 offices in 25 countries, the company has three divisions: Academic Publishing, which produces books and journals with more than 55,000 titles; Business Intelligence, which offers structured databases, subscription-based services, real-time news, research and business-critical information; and Global Events, the world’s largest publicly owned organizer of exhibitions and training.

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East Cherokee Storage in Woodstock, GA, Supports Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program

East Cherokee Storage, a self-storage operator in Woodstock, Ga., is supporting the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program (YRSPP), an international initiative dedicated to education, training and public awareness surrounding youth-suicide prevention. Property managers Melissa Emert and David Moore are working with the Georgia chapter to raise awareness and collect donations to continue the program’s Yellow Ribbon Card Program in the state.

“The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program is based on the premise that suicide is not about death, but rather about ending pain, and that it’s OK to ask for help,” according to the YRSPP Georgia chapter’s website. “Yellow Ribbon cards are distributed and carried as a simple, effective tool to use and ask for help when feelings of suicide arise. The cards have proven to be lifelines because they are a reminder to young people that they have permission to ask for help. It helps them talk when they may not have the words, and it tells the recipient of the card how to help the suicidal person.”

Founded in 1994, YRSPP has been implemented in schools and communities in all 50 states and 47 countries. The international office has letters and e-mails documenting the program has saved more than 2,500 lives, according to the website.

East Cherokee decided to work with the Yellow Ribbon campaign after Emert noticed a YRSPP decal on a car. She contacted Judy Merritt, who started the Georgia chapter in memory of her son, Connor, after he committed suicide in 2010 at age 17.

East Cherokee Storage, at 125 Highland Village Drive, comprises 100,000 square feet in 625 units. The indoor facility offers 16 different unit sizes, video cameras and keypad access. It is managed by Absolute Storage Management (ASM).

Founded in 2002, ASM owns and manages self-storage facilities throughout the Southeast, operating more than 75 properties in 11 states. The company is actively seeking to add additional properties to its portfolio through traditional third-party management relationships and joint-venture/acquisition opportunities. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., it has regional offices in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jackson, Miss.

Sources:

  • East Cherokee Storage: Website
  • Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, Georgia Chapter: Website