The Times They Are A-Changin’!

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Tom Garden – Owner of Syrasoft Management Software and co-owner of Catskill Self Storage in Leeds, N.Y.

A dozen years or so ago, while hiking in Lake Louise, Banff, Manitoba, I came across a French couple who were attempting to take a selfie with the lake in the background. I offered to take it for them, and they reciprocated. The woman immediately turned and said she was sending it to her mother in France.

I was taken back that a photograph snapped an instant ago in Canada would likely be viewed within a minute in France. Thinking back, I’m amazed things were that different only a dozen years ago.

The astonishing change in our lives by a small device in such a short time is unprecedented in our history. The fact that I cannot go virtually anywhere without my smartphone is somewhat disturbing. Besides replacing or augmenting my calculator, watch, alarm clock, and so many other gadgets in my life, it has become my phone and camera, neither of which I ever needed to have with me at all times. As they say, “technology” is a useful servant but a dangerous master.

As both an owner of a management software company and a self-storage facility, I see the changes from two perspectives. Now I can’t even do lock checks without my smartphone. The days of printing 11 pages of unit status information are over. “Walk arounds” are mostly “ride arounds” on a golf cart with my phone. The ability to perform real-time updates to unit statuses while physically looking at the unit makes my life not only convenient but, given my tendency for distraction, much more accurate.

The difference in what owners are demanding of their software from just a few years ago is astounding. The integration of so many devices, from iPads and tablets for electronic signatures, credit card chip reading devices, internet enabled access control keypads or devices, mobile devices for the manager’s freedom, and all of the gadgets that customer facing applications might run on, is incredible. We spoke about the “paperless office” for years, but people are actually implementing it now. Customer convenience is now king throughout the rental process, from initial reservation to automatic or internet on-demand payments. Millennials want minimal human interaction in their business dealings, and our job as owners is to let them do it the way they wish.

No one can predict where our technology will lead us, but I can assure you it will likely be very different than most of us predict. The important thing is that we take the time to learn and apply the useful portions that help our customers and our businesses. Albert Einstein said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Let’s hope he was speaking of nuclear weapons and not us staring at our smartphones!

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