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If your self-storage team is spending more time on facility upkeep than they are on sales and customer service, it might be time to get help. Consider these benefits of outsourcing your property’s maintenance needs, common myths and misconceptions about using such a service, and how to choose a provider.

Jamey Fawcett

December 9, 2022

5 Min Read
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Every self-storage property has maintenance needs. It’s inevitable. Door springs break or lose tension, the automated gate suddenly stops working, or a door hasp is damaged and the customer can’t get into their unit. These are just a few things you might experience as a facility operator. The list is usually much longer and also includes routine cleaning and upkeep.

As a self-storage owner or manager, you may be a Jack of all trades. With all these maintenance tasks to be done, how could you not be? But does it make more sense for you to spend time cleaning out gutters and repairing unit doors or serving customers and driving facility revenue? Perhaps it’s time to consider outsourcing rather than managing all chores in-house.

Never underestimate the value of trained expertise, particularly as technology plays an increasingly larger role in self-storage operation. Our sites have automated gate systems, elevators, HVAC systems, electronic locks, kiosks and other complex equipment. Therefore, the need for highly skilled maintenance technicians is greater than ever. If you hire a professional, they can fix your problem quickly and do things right the first time, allowing your facility to run at maximum efficiency.

A third-party maintenance provider can add value to your bottom line and reduce the liability that goes along with climbing ladders and taking other physical risks. You and your team may not even have the skills to handle some tasks such as setting tension on an overhead roll-up door or programming the access-control system. And hopefully, you’re all too busy renting units and helping your paying customers to handle day-to-day repairs anyway!

Benefits to Outsourcing

Beyond helping you avoid risk and keeping you free to actually manage your self-storage facility, a maintenance service often comes with certain economies of scale on the supply side, which is a cost-savings benefit. When you handle upkeep in-house, you must always ensure you have the right equipment and supplies on hand or pay for items as the need arises. This can be expensive. A third-party maintenance company buys parts in bulk and passes that savings on to you. You’ll no longer need to stock items like door hasps, for example, as they’ll keep many kinds on hand, just ready to be installed.

Another consideration is insurance. Third-party maintenance companies carry the required coverage and remove some liability from your self-storage business. No longer will you have to worry about a team member filing a workers’ compensation claim because they were on a ladder attempting to repair the roof and fell off.

The best maintenance providers will also help you identify potential problems at your self-storage facility before they become major issues. Their employees are trained to spot safety risks or failing parts so they can be corrected immediately. Catching a small leak with some mildew behind a wall is much less costly to repair than a bad leak that has flooded a unit and left mold.

Myths and Misconceptions

With benefits like these, why doesn’t every self-storage operator work with a third-party maintenance company? Because there are myths and misconceptions out there that discourage it. One of them is the notion that you save money by doing things yourself. Changing a light bulb or painting a wall is certainly something a manager can handle. However, when a task becomes more specialized and time-consuming, wisdom begs that you let your team do what they do best—drive facility revenue—and call in the experts. In other words, focus on the business of self-storage rather than the business of self-storage maintenance.

There’s also the unfortunate reality that not all contractors are honest. Over the years, some self-storage operators have hired bad apples that gave the third-party maintenance business a bad reputation. But most companies are legitimate and do solid work. They aren’t just fly-by-night contractors asking to be paid in cash under the table.

Another fallacy is that it’s less expensive to add a maintenance employee to your staff and call them as needed. These arrangements often lead to workers who take three times as long as necessary to complete a task just so they can clock more hours. Even if you hire an in-house worker to service several self-storage facilities, you’re faced with stocking parts and the liability issues mentioned above, which drive up the overall cost to hire for this position.

Choosing a Partner

Before hiring a self-storage maintenance supplier, ask for referrals from other industry members you trust and get references from the firms you interview. During the consultation, ask them what types of supplies they keep on hand and if they’re familiar with your property’s doors, gate, security system and roof.

Also, ask if the company hires its own employees or subcontracts the work. Third-party maintenance firms with in-house staff have more control over the way work is performed and usually offer better service and pricing.

In addition, seek industry expertise. Self-storage has become a specialized business, with many items that have been made solely for use in our facilities. Though many “generic” maintenance companies could perform many facility tasks, those well-versed in the unique needs of self-storage properties are a safer choice. Trust your gut! It’s important that you feel comfortable with the company with which you’ll be working.

Finally, if you want 24-hour service, ask if the company provides it because not everyone does. Also, ask about the turnaround time for a maintenance call. Does the company do emergency visits? Is it a 24-hour wait or three days? Three weeks? Smaller firms may get backlogs of service requests.

At the end of the day, the real question is where do you want your business focus to be? Outsourcing your maintenance needs allows you and your team to concentrate on what’s important—driving and collecting self-storage revenue.

Jamey Fawcett has been with Accent Building Restoration for 24 years, serving as president and CEO since 2011. The company is a nationwide provider of painting and maintenance services for self-storage and other commercial facilities. For more information, call 866.498.7391 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Jamey Fawcett

CEO and President, Accent Building Restoration

Jamey Fawcett has been with Accent Building Restoration for 24 years, serving as president and CEO since 2011. The company is a nationwide provider of painting and maintenance services for self-storage and other commercial facilities. For more information, call 866.498.7391 or email [email protected].

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