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3 Walls and a Door: My Journey to the Self-Storage Industry

The path to working in the self-storage industry is different for everyone. An area manager turned consultant shares her winding story.

I’m not sure if anyone graduates from high school or college and says, “I know what I’m going to do, and I can hardly wait … self-storage!” (Unless, of course, it’s the family business.) It certainly wasn’t what I thought when considering my future once upon a time.

Like many young people, I attended college and took courses related to a variety of possible careers—psychology, business, criminal justice and others. I soon decided I preferred to work and make money then go to school full-time, so I began taking night classes. I was a hard worker and determined, which led me to graduate from the “college of experience” rather than an accredited university.

My first stop in the business world was in finance. I worked my way up the ladder in banking, but I didn’t enjoy the industry. I then landed in management at several top newspapers in various states.

When I became a mom, my path changed again. I wanted to work at home and raise our son, so my husband and I started a management company for vacation properties. It grew and did very well. Once our son was in middle school, we sold that venture, and I was ready to get out in the career world again.

By this time, newspapers were struggling to survive, so that old path was a dead end. I researched the industries that were thriving and had a positive future. That’s when I discovered self-storage. At the time, the only thing I knew about the service was from the consumer side. We had used it so much through the years and spent so much money on storage that I thought we should just buy a facility!

As I learned more about the industry, I discovered it had many similarities to property management. In fact, my husband and I would often say, “Wouldn’t it be great to just own and then rent out three walls and a door instead?” We understood the need for storage and the profitability, but not all the inner workings.

My first foray into self-storage was as an area manager in San Diego County. I enjoyed every minute of it, from the crazy tenants and long hours, to training and mentoring managers, and everything in between.

Then we decided to move from San Diego back to our first love—the mountains. We started another vacation-property management company. What can I say? We’re gluttons for punishment. It was then I realized how much I loved and missed the self-storage industry as well as my former employees and tenants. So, guess what? I’m back, but as a consultant this time! In addition to training managers, I’m auditing facilities and providing guidance to owners. I won’t be leaving the industry again!

If you’re thinking about jumping into self-storage, I strongly recommend it. No matter what role you pursue, it’ll be the best career decision you can make. It may be just “three walls and a door,” but there’s a lot that goes into making it successful. From every aspect, it’s a thriving and exciting business, and likely to stay that way.

Jenny Mead is a consultant for Haviland Storage Services, a provider of audits, third-party property management, training and more. She has years of experience as a business owner and manager in other industries including newspapers and nonprofits. She was formerly an area manager for San Diego Self Storage. For more information, call 760.401.0297; e-mail info@havilandstorageservices.com; visit www.havilandstorageservices.com.

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