By Andy Kelly, Principal and Broker of A B Kelly Realty, LLC (Self Storage and Commercial Property Management) and Principal of Sierra Self Storage Consulting, LLC
I started in the storage business in 1992 as an area manager. The industry had very little, if any, technology compared to today. The basics included using ledgers and carbon paper, handwritten monthly reports, using the ticker tape from a security entrance system that had to be reconciled to the ledger, old tube cameras, and a barrier gate arm that now seems light years ago. The storage industry has come a long way in the last 25 years with technology and manager training. As a matter of fact, if you had told me in 1992 where we would be today, I would have taken the bet as I’m sure many storage people never thought it could get easier by working smarter and not harder.
Today, technology continues to improve the industry with new and improved software, intelligent security systems, online rentals, Bluetooth app door openers, and social media marketing. Technology and improved manager training alone have accelerated this real estate class asset into what it is today.
In the early 90s, the typical managers were second career couples or retired. They served as more of a gatekeeper compared to today’s site managers. In fact, when storage software first came along with computers, many of the older generation managers were unhappy and left, while others stepped to the plate realizing technology made jobs easier and created less frustration than computing reports by hand. Today’s managers are a proactive generation that grew up with technology. They come from diverse backgrounds with technology experience: high school and college graduates, military officers, retail, multi-family, and customer service jobs versus the original retired manager model. Today’s managers are excited about learning new ways to use technology and social media to improve themselves and their company’s revenues without resistance.
In my travels across the country, it never ceases to amaze me that many storage owners are short-sighted when it comes to embracing new technology and manager training, focusing on the expense instead of improved revenues. These two areas alone can make or break a site in competitive markets vying for every rental. Many of these owners want “A class” rents with “C class” properties and wonder why they are being left in the exhaust of proactive owners. I come across sites that refuse to use storage software and, worse yet, are still using ledgers and carbon paper for accounting. Proactive owners invest in the training of the mangers, attend their national/state association events to better their managers’ production, and consistently invest in new technology to improve their storage brand and managers’ lives.
As technology improves operations, so must the manager’s knowledge and understanding of those improvements; one area cannot exist without the other for success. Owners need to be proactive and invest the time and dollars needed to professionally train managers and embrace helpful technology. If you want to be competitive, then it’s time to invest and stand out from the crowd! Where will the next 20 years take the industry?