Using 'Rubber-Edge' Technology in Self-Storage to Improve Profitability and Sustainability

No matter the size of your self-storage operation, technology has tangible and intangible benefits that will help you make more money and produce the results your customers deserve. This article introduces a new concept—rubber edge—that can help you use technology in a way that’s profitable and sustainable.

February 1, 2016

6 Min Read
Using 'Rubber-Edge' Technology in Self-Storage to Improve Profitability and Sustainability

By Rick Beal

No matter the size of your self-storage operation, technology has tangible and intangible benefits that will help you make more money and produce the results your customers deserve. A precisely outlined technological plan affects your business culture, efficiency and relationships. In today's storage world, it’s necessary for employees to interact with tenants quickly and clearly. When customers use technology to interact with a company, the business benefits because better communication creates a stronger public image.

In the past few years, self-storage has seen exponential growth in technology. It’s here to stay, so the sooner you understand it the better. Tech isn’t something from which to shy away. You need to understand that it will bring you more revenue, and it’s critical that you know when and how to implement it. If not, you might be paying for tools that give you little to no return. This article will help you understand a new way of using technology that could prove profitable and sustainable.

Identifying Opportunities

The purpose of technology is to improve productivity and workflow. For self-storage, the goal is to make the operation run smoother, eliminating “busy work” and increasing revenue. By taking advantage of technology, you can free up manager time to work on projects that move the business forward.

Look at your daily operation and see what tasks you can facilitate with technology. For example, at my company, we contact delinquent tenants three times before we overlock their units. With our previous software, it wasn’t easy to e-mail a large number of people, so we called them. It was an enormous waste of time. In a typical day, we would devote at least two hours to this task.

After researching other software platforms, we realized there were better products to suit our needs. Our current software allows us to send payment reminders via e-mail with one click. A task that took two hours can now be done in less than five minutes.

Do your research and look for chances to improve your self-storage business with technology. I cringe when I hear an owner use the excuse, “This is how we’ve always done it” or “My managers can’t do that.” If that’s your mentality, you’re missing out on some wonderful opportunities. Encourage your staff to look at what the industry has to offer. Continually challenge your own thinking on your business processes.

Riding the Edge

The tech industry uses the concepts “bleeding edge” and “cutting edge.” Bleeding edge refers to technology that’s brand new and hasn’t been tested and perfected on a large scale. It’s referred to by that name because if you jump in with both feet, you need to be prepared to lose some “blood,” often from tools that don’t work as promised, have bugs or require patches. Storage operators can get caught up with the idea of using technology for its own sake, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that’s unproven and may not even be necessary. Save the “cool” tech for next new phone upgrade, not your business.

Cutting edge is technology that’s had some time for testing and improvement. It’s been out in the market for clients to use, and most of the bugs have been fixed. It still isn’t bulletproof, but if you’re interested in new tech, this might be the category for you.

I’d like to introduce to a third concept I’ll call “rubber edge.” The name comes from the phrase “where the rubber meets the road.” This is technology that’s used every single day. It’s something you can rely on, that has been tested and helps progress your business. The rubber edge isn’t tech for the sake of tech. It’s what works for you and helps you in your daily operation to generate more revenue.

A rubber-edge point of view means you have a clear vision of where you want your company to go and how you want technology to support your business goals. For example, I’m writing this article on a third-generation tablet. I knew I wanted my tablet to have a certain amount of memory. The first two generations failed to provide it, but the third was perfect for my needs. Of course, there are now updated versions; but I knew what I wanted and I’m happy with what I have.

Choosing Technology

What are the standards for choosing a rubber-edge technology? Ask yourself these questions:

Are you adding technology for the sake of technology? What’s your motivation for purchasing? Are you a person who needs to upgrade your phone because there’s a new color available? It’s OK if you are; just remember the choices you make for your business are more important than choosing a new phone. You have employees and tenants who depend on you to make good decisions for their benefit. Don’t let your need for the latest and greatest cloud your judgment for business technology.

Do you know your audience? If you have a facility in a small town in Idaho where people still don’t lock their doors, you might have a different need than that of a facility in Seattle. When you understand who your general audience is, you can use tested technology when needed.

Is it worth it in the end? This is extremely important. If you decide to change to a new system or add more technology, you need to know the return. Are you doing something that’ll increase revenue? Keep in mind that switching to an operating system that takes less time to process accounts is increasing your revenue, as your staff will have more time to work on other more profitable projects.

Are you taking full advantage of what you currently have? If you’re not using your current tech to the extent of its ability, you’re missing out. Most companies offer manuals and webinars to help you learn more about their products. If all else fails, contact the company and ask to be put in contact with someone who can help you explore your options.

If you remember the rubber-edge criteria when choosing technology, you’ll always have a well-thought-out plan. Embrace what’s out there and challenge your current thinking. The world of technology has come to self-storage. Enjoy it and profit from what it has to offer.

Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage, an operation in Salt Lake City. He often takes a different approach to typical storage operation including demand, rates, staff involvement and technology. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” To reach him, e-mail [email protected].

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