Marcus Trufant, Self-Storage Owner/Investor and Retired NFL Cornerback for Seattle Seahawks

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Similar to winning a football match, making a successful self-storage investment requires knowledge of the game, a well-thought-out strategy, personal dedication, a driven team, and expert coaches.

For Marcus Trufant, former cornerback for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, applying his experience as a professional athlete to his venture into the self-storage industry was an appropriate approach to doing business. It’s been a prosperous tactic for Trufant as well.

Despite having no previous business education, Trufant, who majored in communications and broadcasting at Washington State University, has become a successful, young business man by tackling his investments with the same fervor that he utilized during his 10-season career with the Seahawks.

NFL – “Not For Long”
Knowing that his days in the NFL wouldn’t last forever, Trufant, now 37, began contemplating his post-NFL game plan a few years prior to his retirement in 2012.

“As I became an NFL veteran, I was always one of those guys—a realist,” Trufant says. “I knew the shelf life for an NFL player. A lot of people say NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’.”

And he refused to allow himself to become another statistic.

“The failure rate of players coming out of the NFL is over 70 percent,” he says. “This, as we all know, continues the myth of the dumb athlete. I know my fellow athletes better than that. They are proven, driven winners. We needed a new play book and I sought to find it. I want to do my part in changing those dismal statistics.”

Noting that approximately 80 percent of athletes end up broke after leaving professional sports, Trufant was determined to find a solid investment that would enable him to continue to thrive after walking off the football field. 

“I wanted to get some type of business going, some type of income before I was done with the NFL,” says Trufant, who had considered restaurants, apartments, and even casinos before investing in self-storage in 2012.

Self-Storage Rookie
After researching the various real estate options, Trufant decided to take the advice of his peers, lawyers, and financial advisors. “I chose self-storage over other investments because I felt like it was a safe place,” he says.

During his last season with the NFL, he purchased an existing self-storage facility in Tacoma, Wash.

“Everybody said it was a great investment,” says Trufant, adding that his self-storage investments have made the transition from the highlife of the NFL to retirement and reality a productive one filled with both personal and financial growth.

“Self-storage isn’t sexy, but it’s a solid investment,” he says. “Self-storage is a particularly attractive investment because it has inflationary protection through rent increases. Another selling point is the lack of wear and tear on self-storage properties.”  

Since joining the self-storage industry, Trufant has been doing research, attending trade shows, and networking with industry professionals to obtain as much knowledge about the business as possible. “I was coming in as a rookie,” he says, “but I’m trying to learn the game.”

For Trufant, entering the self-storage industry was like going back to school. “In the transition from athlete to self-storage l was back to being a student,” he says. “I had to learn from the bottom up.”

Although Trufant admits that the learning curve has been a challenge, and that he’s still new to the industry, he has managed to expand both his portfolio and his purpose. Over the past six years, Trufant and his team constructed one ground-up facility; that property was managed by and later sold to Salt Lake City, Utah-based Extra Space Storage, Inc. He has a ground-up facility in the pipeline in Lakewood, Wash., that will be built soon. He’s also purchased a former medical records warehouse in downtown Tacoma that is in the process of being converted into a self-storage facility. While Trufant and his team still manage their first acquisition in Tacoma, they’ve hired Extra Space to manage the Lakewood and downtown Tacoma locations.

“It makes things tough if you own your own [facility] when leaving a profession you have done your entire life to one you know little about,” he says. “You’re not going to be Superman. You’re not the strongest guy on the field all the time, and you’re not the fastest guy on the field all the time. So, I think that transitions over to business. It’s good to have good teammates around you who have your back. If you don’t have somebody you can lean on, eventually you’re going to burn out or make bad decisions.”

As for his partnership with Extra Space Storage, it’s a choice that Trufant has come to enjoy. “Working with Extra Space is great,” he says. “I felt it was smart to let a big-time company like Extra Space do all the work. This is what they do. I’ll do my job—a visit to the mailbox to collect the check.”

Goals For Growth
In addition to his own ambition, working with Extra Space Storage, the industry’s second largest self-storage operator, has inspired Trufant to increase his presence within the self-storage sector. He plans to continue investing in self-storage and encourage others to invest in the asset class as well.

“I’m on the look out for properties,” he says, adding that he wants to “keep this rolling” and someday become a top operator like Extra Space. And, eventually, “a ways down the line,” Trufant would like to have his own brand.

Trufant also plans to one day become a consultant or advisor to others like him. He wants to help his fellow athletes prepare for their retirements and manage their money through safe investments like self-storage. Trufant aims to be a trusted voice of reason for them when they end their careers, stating that self-storage is a great option for guys in his situation—not just for athletes but for African Americans as well.

“A lot of guys aren’t as lucky as I was to have the option to get into a business like self-storage,” says Trufant, noting that it’s not uncommon for athletes to lose their fortunes from following bad investment advice or being “treated like cash cows”. “I want to do my part in changing that.”

He goes on to say, “I’m not a salesman. I want the proof to be in the business I’m doing. I want to get my hands dirty and set a good example. I want to do every aspect and be able to show [them] my portfolio.”

And according to Trufant, it may be an easy sale. “Everybody I know says if they would have the opportunity to get involved in self-storage that they would,” he says. “I know NFL players and athletes, and when I say I’m in self-storage, they get very interested.”

Inside The Huddle
So what advice does Trufant give to his NFL brothers and other athletes who are seeking to invest in commercial real estate? “Look at the big picture,” he says, noting that self-storage continually out performs other real estate asset classes, has the lowest foreclosure rate, and doesn’t involve high re-tenanting and remodeling costs. “Don’t look for glitz and glamour. Offer a good product and you’ll make money. It’s not about the sexy part of business, like having your name on the door of a restaurant.”

Moreover, Trufant is adamant that investors should do their homework before making an investment. “There are tons of self-storage facilities out there, but there’s a lot to the due diligence side of it,” he says. “Always ask questions. Check things over and over again, and partner with people with proven track records.

Live At AZSA!

To learn more about Marcus Trufant’s unique self-storage story, join the Arizona Self-Storage Association (AZSA) at its 20th Annual Conference. He will be the special guest speaker for the association’s 2018 Owners Summit.

Per the AZSA’s website, he will be talking about “his decision to invest in the self-storage market; how his self-storage investment strategy grows the wealth he accumulated as an NFL star; the partnerships he has formed to acquire, develop, and manage properties; the benefits available to others interested in investing in self-storage; and more.”

In addition, he will join AZSA for the reception among the exhibits, giving attendees the opportunity to network with him and his team.

Date: Sept. 26, 2018

Time: 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Location: Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Ariz.     

Website: www.azselfstorage.org/aws/AZSA/pt/sp/conference

Call 1 (800) WIN-GILA and mention the Arizona Self Storage Association to reserve your room for $119.

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.

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