Restore, Rebuild, And Replace For Success

How To Bring In New Business With New Updates
By Rachael Wheeler Dempsey

Self-storage facilities in the Canadian market are just like any other business: They age! Albeit, sometimes not that gracefully. Everyday wear and tear takes its toll not only on the exterior of the facility building but also upon everything inside. When you’re operating one of these older facilities, the aging process and its effects can seem to slowly creep in without you realizing it; that is, until a serious problem occurs.

That’s why it’s so important to evaluate and take stock of your facility on a regular basis and turn a critically constructive eye toward the space you own. Here, we’re going to analyze a few of the most crucial elements to ensure the success of your facility, including restorations, rebuilds, replacements, security considerations, optimizing your space, and more.

Out With The Old, In With The New!
You know that one messy room in your house or apartment? The one that’s in a perpetual state of clutter, filled with piles of random junk that you just can’t seem to throw in the trash or donate? After a while, you probably stop noticing just how much of an eyesore this room has become. Humans are funny like that; if we see something day after day that needs to be replaced, we tend to eventually become blind to the problem that’s still staring us in the face.

That same principle can be applied to your aging self-storage doors. When you’re walking through the hallways of your facility, seeing these same doors day after day, the effects of both plain aging and wear-and-tear tend to creep in slowly, then seem to culminate all at once. A tough fact to grapple with is that your tenants most likely noticed the encroaching disrepair of your doors well before you did. As an owner/operator, it’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure that your self-storage facility is providing the best storage experience for every customer who walks through your door, and old, raggedy doors just don’t cut it in terms of exceptional service.

Another important consideration to keep in mind is that when these doors age, it’s not just the façade that takes a hit; the mechanics of the door itself slowly break down as well. Outdated doors are notorious for running off the tracks, not opening or closing properly, and even plunging to the ground unexpectedly. It’s difficult to overstate the threat this poses to both your staff and tenants! Not only can you expect to receive legal action over a tenant injury at your facility, but even worse, you could have unknowingly contributed to some serious bodily harm befalling your customer.

By engaging in a door replacement program, you can overhaul one of the most crucial elements of your self-storage facility in a short amount of time. The best part is that you don’t have to lift a finger. By hiring a team of installers, you can have an entire hallway of quality assured roll-up doors installed in about a day. That’s huge! Practically overnight, your hallways and exterior units can get a complete makeover with results that will last for years upon years.

Let’s say, for example, that a 500-unit, Class B self-storage facility with a 90 percent occupancy rate decides to undergo a full door replacement project. Before replacement, the income was $540,000; one year after replacing the doors, the income increased by 10 percent to a new total of $594,000. For operating expenses, the facility sees their annual cost drop from $189,000 to $184,000. That’s because they’re able to save 10 percent on their insurance, plus save three percent on repair and maintenance costs.

When it comes to net operating income (NOI), the facility in this example sees a significant jump from $351,000 to $410,000 in just one year! The overall value at a 6.5 percent cap rate also jumps from $5,400,000 to $6,307,692.31. This brings the net increase of value to a whopping $907,692.31. This type of bottom line increase elevates a self-storage facility to the leader of the pack where local competition is concerned. Looking at these numbers, can you really afford not to do a door replacement project?

Keeping Up Appearances
For better or worse, first impressions last forever –just ask your mother-in-law. Self-storage facilities often struggle with creating an exterior of their facility that reflects all the good design on the inside. It’s easy to see why this can be difficult: Your facility’s interior contains long and brightly-lit hallways, sturdy and functional doors, as well as staff members who make the storage process a breeze for tenants. That’s why it’s such a downer to drive past a self-storage facility that’s falling into disrepair on the outside. The exterior just isn’t matching the interior!

As the online marketplace has continued to exponentially grow, we know that most people are doing an internet search for self-storage before they actually travel to the facility. For instance, read this review from Yelp regarding a facility:

“They should have a zero-star rating because that is what they have earned. I have rented from this storage company for over two years. Last night I went to my storage to find all my beloved belongings destroyed and rats! Everything was covered in rat feces and urine. It has been two weeks since we last came. I called management to let them know and they came out and were super apologetic but did not offer to help us clean it out or any solutions.”

Can you imagine reading this type of review about your facility? Or, can you even fathom new customers renting from this facility after seeing this review online? A review like this will haunt a self-storage facility online for years, because these are the first results that pop up in search engines when you type in their name. That’s just one of the reasons why it’s so important to keep your facility in tip-top shape for your tenants and always make a good impression.

It’s also good to note that there will always be potential tenants who first discover your facility just by driving by. These folks may not know anything about your business before they pass your store, but you can be sure that their decision to rent from you will be influenced by your curb appeal.

Take a few minutes to step outside and look at your facility from the curb. Try to look at this exterior piece of your store with fresh eyes. Does it look inviting? Is the paint fading or the brick in need of a cleanup? Focus your gaze on the landscaping: Is the grass suffering? Do you have any flowers or greenery lining the walkway? When the snow starts falling, do you have a clear pathway for tenants? This may seem like a trivial exercise, but projecting a positive and well-kept image on the outside of your self-storage facility is a huge deal when it comes to attracting (and keeping) tenants. With women being the chief decision makers in many self-storage rental situations, you should always keep in mind that your job is to win over a discerning eye. Unkempt landscaping and a haphazard facility exterior won’t get you far when it comes to securing a new tenant.

While we’re talking about curb appeal, let’s also take a first step into the facility itself: the office/lobby area. This is another crucial part of your facility where appearances matter, and so does the overall presence that you project onto it. Think about an example of a lobby you’ve visited in the past. What are some details that stuck out to you? They can be good or bad, examples of what to do or what not to do, but just make a quick mental list. Usually, easy to operate coffee machines are a positive addition to any lobby, as are tasteful plants and comfortable chairs. Décor can go a long way in its appeal, too; no one wants to spend time in a lobby that feels like a discount brake repair shop.

The great thing about sprucing up your facility’s lobby is that you don’t necessarily have to pull a demolition-style renovation on it overnight. Over the course of a couple of weeks, you can slowly start to bring in new chairs, new accent pieces, and any other items you want to add to the space. Pro-tip: Bring in the cool new coffee machine first. It’ll always be a hit.

Consider A Security Retrofit
If a facility has fallen into a rut from the aging process, you can probably point to a few integral points that have fallen by the wayside. Even though the self-storage market in Canada is a bit younger than in the United States, it’s common to see facilities that can use a good security system retrofit. For some self-storage owners and operators, facility security is an incredibly important issue and occupies a significant portion of their budgets and time. For others, not quite so much; they might have outdated monitoring systems (or no monitoring system at all), ragged locks, or crummy doors that can easily be burglarized. Regardless of where folks might land on the spectrum regarding security considerations, there are some new opportunities available on the self-storage market that can help anyone’s facility go from merely functional to spectacular.

But here’s the thing about self-storage security these days: It’s not just about locks and keys anymore. With the smart entry systems within reach today, facilities can now offer a better customer experience to their tenants, while simultaneously securing their facilities like never before. These systems take the traditional notions of self-storage security and expand those ideas into an entirely better way of operating a facility.

So how does a smart entry system do that, exactly? It’s through a combination of a few different elements that work together in harmony to create a user experience that’s up to speed with the 21st century. First off, smartphones (or key fobs if the tenant doesn’t have a smartphone) give customers the ability to enter your facility’s exterior gate, their units, man doors, operate the elevator, and other important elements of the rental experience. As part of implementing a smart entry system, your facility will have its own customized app that tenants will download, and their settings will allow them access only to the unit(s) they’re paying for and the entry points they need to get there. Smart entry systems can also include motion sensors inside every unit, so there’s no threat of intruders in the facility hopping over interior unit walls.

By installing a smart entry system at your facility, you’re offering tenants a much better storage experience than they’ve ever encountered before, and you’re definitely outpacing your competition down the street. Here’s the thing: Overall, people are usually willing to pay more money for better products or experiences, and they’ll definitely pay extra for added convenience–just look at how Amazon Prime has worked its way into our lives with next-day delivery! A smart entry system brings the convenience of mobile unit entry to the table and eliminates traditional pain points of old-fashioned self-storage models. By offering these premium units outfitted with a smart entry system, you can charge higher rental rates for your tenants and know that they’re having the best storage experience available today.

Smart entry systems also bring an important factor to the table for managers: They make everyone’s lives easier! Whereas managers used to be obligated to remove the yellow lock before renting a unit, constantly running around the facility to help customers who forgot their keys, and more, they can now spend their time doing more productive things at your store. With a smart entry system, tenants are now in the driver’s seat when it comes to moving into their unit, sharing digital keys, and controlling their overall storage experience.

If all of this sounds a little too high tech for your facility, don’t worry. It’s not. Smart entry systems can easily be retrofitted into older self-storage buildings, and they definitely aren’t exclusive to dazzling new construction projects. The bottom line is that every facility deserves to offer an extraordinary rental experience to their tenants, an efficient working environment for their employees, and a profitable bottom line for owners. Smart entry systems are a great way to enhance the offerings of a facility you’ve been investing in for years.

Remix It Up!
If it feels like your self-storage facility’s layout has turned a little stale, it might be time to think about doing a unit remix. This option can be a great fit for you if there’s not quite enough budget available for a full-scale renovation, but it’s still in need of a change.

Look at your facility’s layout plans and jot down a few things: How many larger units do you have (such as 10-by-40s)? How many lockers are installed? What about swing doors and smaller traditional units? When you’re done with that, do a cross-examination and see which varieties of units are occupied and sitting empty. Are there any unit sizes backed up with a wait list? Jot that down. All this information can give you a good idea of which unit sizes are in high demand and which sizes aren’t quite so popular.

If your facility is located near a university, there’s a high likelihood that you can gain seasonal student tenants who need to store an assortment of items from their dorm rooms during summer breaks. This demographic probably won’t have a large budget to spend on self-storage, but likely only needs a small space to rent. Installing locker units can be a great option for attracting these tenants. Lockers don’t require much installation space and can be stacked on top of traditional units; this means you can open your facility up to extra revenue without much overhead cost.

What if you’re located near a retirement home? Then you can consider adding larger units designed to fit bigger items, such as beds and sofas. There’s usually a need for the children of retirees to find space where they can park all the items that can’t quite fit into their aging parents’ new living arrangements. If your facility can provide families with a convenient and large enough storage space to fit these types of items, you’re sure to gain their business as well as their gratitude.

Insert Photo 5 Copia Caption: Adding moveable storage units to empty parking spaces or other idle land can bring in extra revenue without requiring more building permits.

Monetize That Additional Space
We’ve all seen those self-storage facilities that have huge, spacious parking lots that never quite fill up with cars during business hours. What you’re looking at there is a missed opportunity! By adding moveable additional storage structures to unutilized parking lot spaces, a facility can easily increase their monthly revenue with little to no overhead.

These types of units can withstand the serious Canadian winters, too. While they function as normal storage units with traditional roll-up doors, they’re also built to thrive in exterior conditions and can handle snowfall on their roofs. Having exterior units also means that customers can drive right up to the door and unload their items without a long walk inside your main facility and down the hallways. They can also be climate-controlled, which is a huge plus if your main facility currently doesn’t offer that option.

Moveable exterior units live up to their name: They’re moveable with a forklift. That means you can arrange several sets of them in a row or place a pair by themselves. They’re also a wonderful option for tenants who need to unload those larger recreational items from a trailer, such as snowmobiles or ATVs. Whatever the storage need, these exterior structures can come through with a strong solution.

Renovations Of All Types
However you decide to bring a breath of fresh air to your self-storage facility, you can be sure that the results will be well worth the investment. Today’s Canadian tenants have high expectations when it comes to their storage experience, and it’s important to keep the happiness and satisfaction of your customers at the top of your priority list when making these upgrade decisions. Whichever project (or multiple projects) you decide to pursue, it’ll all be worth it when the last door is installed and your tenants get to see your newly-refreshed facility for the first time.

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Rachael Wheeler Dempsey is a copywriter for Janus International Group, a global manufacturer of turnkey self-storage building and security solutions, including roll-up and swing doors, hallway systems, portable-storage solutions, door-replacement programs, and the Nokē Smart Entry system.

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