By Donald Jones, president of Donald Jones Consulting & Services LLC
“Do unto others …” or “Treat others like …” are the great beginning phrases of principles of days past. Within the storage industry specifically, managers are accountable to owners, and owners are accountable to investors. Does your organizational chart include tenants? As you read through real life examples from the past 90 days, I hope you can reflect on your own operations.
In a property management capacity, we are working with an owner who will not release capital funds to make necessary repairs. As the property condition deteriorates, over 25 years now, at what point is an owner responsible to begin investing in their asset? When occupancy is down, and revenue is down, this owner looks at the managers and wonders if they are stealing. Tenants pay their rent; in kind, we should use a repair and maintenance budget to allocate funds back to the property—not just mowing the lawn or replacing a bulb but making real changes that are appreciated by our tenants.
During a recent acquisition, we began visiting with existing tenants. Why? Because we had no contracts, no payment history, and no rent roll. The property is in full disarray. Tenants are generally apprehensive with new owners, but in this scenario, tenants were so very grateful to have a person on site who genuinely cares about their experience. Imagine a tenant thanking you for a receipt or being appreciative for a gate code. Imagine a tenant seeing a contract for the first time or wondering why he/she can no longer stay on the property at night. Now imagine how grateful we were when a tenant wrote a $4,800 check to pay one year in advance to help us make facility improvements. New lights were installed within seven days.
We visited with a manager from an organization with over 200 facilities. She was amazed that I was able to tell her every challenge she has with her hierarchy before she shared them with me. She only acknowledged with frustration. I have no doubt that her tenants love her, but when she gives the second or third rate increase in 12 months, the owner will not hear those complaints. Why do we penalize our tenants who stay with us? Why do we challenge the manager with questions they can’t answer? Why do we accept preventable turnover? Rate increases are normal, but if my cable company gave me two different rate increases in the same year, I would leave.
Lester is an owner of 22 years in a population city of 6,000. Buyers and investors would fall over themselves trying to purchase his “under managed” property. However, the hard truth is this: I cannot think of another owner who treats his tenants with more respect, has impeccable housekeeping, manages maintenance, and knows his 585-unit facility by door—not by report. He is simply amazing!
It all boils down to The Golden Rule: Treat others like you want to be treated.