Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Understanding Software Reports

July 1, 2004

4 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Understanding Software Reports

Understanding Software Reports

By Pamela Alton

When I first started in the self-storage business, in what now seems like the Dark Ages, a lot of facilities used the old peg board system of record-keeping. It was used to track numbers of units, tenant information, rental rates, late fees and letters sent. Letters were often just photocopied, and you filled in the tenant name, unit number and amount past due. All that changed when computers and self-storage software became available.

Today, we have more than a dozen self-storage softwareprograms from which to choose. Many of them provide the same information, justin different forms. One thing is for certain: With computerization, we are in amuch better position to maintain tenant information, and track income, latefees, move-ins, move-outs and transfers, along with financial information aboutour facilities. We can look at computer-generated reports and see at a glanceour occupancy level, monthly income, and how many units are rented, vacant, onreserve or past due.

The data, generated by software specific to our industry, canbe viewed and printed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The reportsthemselves may be called something different in every program; but this shouldntcause managers difficulty if they learn how to read the reports, and decipherand understand the information they contain.

Manual Tasks to Technical Understanding

I like programs that offer single-page summary reportsarecap, if you will, of a facilitys financial statistics. All of my sitemanagers use a manual end-of-week report that uses information from thecomputerized data. Wait a seconddid I say manual? Didnt I also saycomputers generate reports so we no longer have to do things by hand? Yes, I did!

I purposely have managers fill out their end-of-week forms byhand because I want them to read and understand the reports our softwaregenerates. Why? Because managers are the ones who operate facilities on a dailybasis andafter allthis is a business that can generate well over $100,000per month at some sites. Shouldnt the person who sits behind the counter andat the computer every day know what is going on at the facility he manages?

Know What You Know

Computer-generated reports provide a wealth of facilityinformation, such as how many units have rented, who rented those units, whentheir rent is due, if they are current or past due, how much is owed, and if andwhen to over-lock units. These reports also indicate how much income is receivedmonth- and year-to-date, as well as other necessary financial information.

I travel all over the United States visiting facilities andspeaking with managers. I ask things like, How many units do you have? andWhat is your current occupancy level? Most know the answers to thesequestions. But I am amazed that a vast majority of managers do not know how muchrentable square footage they have. This is when I know they have not beentaught, either by their owner, management company or software company, how toread reports and obtain this type of information.

If you are an owner, do you teach your managers how todecipher and understand reports, or do you bar them access to this information? How can a manager operate a multimillion-dollar investmentwhen he doesnt know how his facility is performing this year compared tolast, its occupancy level, or how much square footage is available? To effectively manage a storage facility, the on-site staffneeds to understand the facility reports.

We have come a long way since I entered this wonderfulbusiness of self-storage 13 years ago, and I see it evolve year after year.Facilities now have retail centers, which offer a whole new challenge ofrecordkeeping (cost of goods vs. retail sales price, collection of sales taxes,etc.). As years pass, our industry will become ever more sophisticated. There is no time like the present for site managers to learnto read and understand the reports generated by their management software. They offer information that can only help educate staff andmake them top-notch managers.

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

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