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Are You Making These 6 Mistakes in Running Your Self-Storage Facility?

The basics of running a self-storage facility might sound easy. Dig a little deeper, however, and there are many bumps that can come up in the road. Self-storage industry experts share six common mistakes facility operators should avoid.

April 1, 2015

3 Min Read
Are You Making These 6 Mistakes in Running Your Self-Storage Facility?

By Rachel M. Hartman

Reprinted with permission from "The Storage Facilitator" blog.

The basics of running a self-storage facility might sound easy. Dig a little deeper, however, and there are many bumps that can come up in the road. If these obstacles aren’t correctly handled, they can hurt your business. Below, industry experts share six common mistakes facility operators should avoid.

No. 1: Failing to Rent Units Over the Phone

It can be easy to view incoming calls as merely a way to answer questions. Instead, ask for the sale. “You can rent just as many units over the phone as you can to walk-in customers,” says Marc Goodin, president of Storage Authority Franchising, which provides a self-storage franchising opportunity for the Storage Authority brand.

Include a spoken tour of the facility during your conversation. Highlight the place’s best features, such as its convenient location or safety measures. When you rent over the phone, get all of the client’s information and take a full credit card payment. Then set up a time when the person can come to your office to complete the paperwork.

No. 2: Overlooking Your Facility’s Appearance

Visibility and curb appeal go a long way, says Jim Chiswell, managing partner at Chiswell & Associates LLC, a self-storage consulting firm. Take a walk around your property and evaluate the landscaping. Make sure the office is clean, bright and welcoming.

In addition, check the location of your office. You’ll want it to be in a spot where customers can simply walk in rather than have to pass through a security gate first. Be sure your facility’s sign is visible at night so motorists can catch a glimpse of your place in the evening.

No. 3: Failing to Update Insurance Coverage

When it comes to the value of the building, the coverage on the insurance policy often isn’t enough to replace the building after a fire or other loss, says Diane Vizzo, owner of Hillcrest Agency LLC, an independent insurance agency in Connecticut. One way to avoid this is to review your policy before renewing it. “Make sure you understand the coverage,” Vizzo says. If you don’t, ask your insurance agent to break it down. Also, revisit your insurance policy after any major improvements to your property. Some of the changes might require you to boost the amount of coverage.

No. 4: Ignoring Security Issues

It’s important customers feel safe at your facility, Chiswell says. If you have two floors, for instance, you might allow only those tenants who have units on the second level to use the elevator. In addition, maintaining a solid presence can make it easier to spot and resolve security matters. For instance, if a manager remains at the facility after dark, he might notice a particular customer who shows up every evening and stays in a unit for hours before leaving.

No. 5: Avoiding In-Person Sales

“You have to be a salesperson to be in self-storage,” Goodin says. Although you don’t need to become a sales guru, you’ll want to nail down the basics to run a successful facility.

Starting can be simple: Greet current and potential customers when they come in, Goodin says. “Shake hands. It makes a difference.”

Learn a person’s name if you don’t already know it and use it in conversation. Then look for something about the person that you genuinely enjoy or have in common, such as a local sports team.

Finally, ask for the sale in person. When you’re finished giving a tour of the facility or answering questions posed by a visitor, find out whether he’s interested in renting a unit.

No. 6: Failing to Make It Personal

The most important asset of any facility is the people on the other side of the counter who work with customers, Chiswell says. Potential clients often are going through a difficult time, such as a move or a divorce. “If your management style is set up to solve their problems, the units will take care of themselves,” he says.

Rachel M. Hartman is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to the SelfStorage.com and SpareFoot.com blogs.

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