Our nation has demonstrated our resolve to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles through tireless innovation and hard work. Over the last several months, our economy, way of life, and industry have experienced seismic pressure as a result of COVID-19. While the economic and civilian carnage resulting from this pandemic are hard to comprehend, there is an ever so slight silver lining beginning to emerge within the self-storage industry. It seems the natural response to retrench and simply weather the storm has been overpowered by creative thinking, problem solving, and innovation. As a part of this effort, automation technology is quickly being pushed to the forefront as the most viable path to building a more dynamic and resilient storage business, which is a great change for owners and managers, as well as the communities and customers we serve. Since the emergence of COVID-19, numerous articles and automation related opinion pieces have been circulated throughout the industry. Most of these articles have described the various solutions that are available to owners to facilitate touchless rentals or unmanned management. While covering these products and services is helpful, owners need to better understand the process of transitioning from traditional on-site management to an automated business model. Hopefully, the following can serve as a basic roadmap to owners and operators who are contemplating a transition to partially or fully automated management. Start With Software Cloud-based management software serves as the backbone for any automated self-storage operating platform. Remote access capabilities give managers all the tools necessary to monitor and control their business, while API (Application Programming Interface) integration allows for seamless connectivity to the various customer touchpoints such as a website or kiosk. There are a variety of cloud-based self-storage management software options; investing the necessary time to understand the various features of each program to select the one that feels intuitive, while supporting your specific operational needs, is extremely important. Since management software plays such a critical role in automated ...
August 1st, 2020
A self-storage operational model that involves a single manager handling all tasks at each property is outdated and risky. An owner proposes a new approach that leverages automation and separates customer- and facility-focused tasks for better business resilience, productivity and tenant experience. How can we forget February 2020? The global economy was riding a long wave of expansion, the S&P 500 was at an all-time high, and unemployment was near a record low. With the exception of some market-specific supply concerns, the self-storage industry was healthy, and owners were approaching a decade with relatively few headwinds.Little did we know that within a few weeks, the coronavirus would turn our economy and way of life upside down. As our industry now faces a whole new set of challenges, there’s never been a better time to automate our operations. Technology and an updated, two-silo approach to facility management creates business resilience, greater staff productivity and a better customer experience. I’ve seen the proof in my own facilities. Here’s how it works. Customer vs. Facility Management Self-storage managers wear many hats; but they’re primarily responsible for two workstreams: Customer management: Tasks that require direct interaction with new and existing tenants such as inquiries, reservations, rentals, payments, collections, account updates, gate codes, etc. Facility management: Any hands-on work at the property such as unit overlocking, auction prep, building repairs and maintenance, landscaping, cleaning and sanitation, etc. Automation meets several needs in the customer-management category. Tools like kiosks, video cameras, live chat, online rentals and other technology make it possible for a single remote manager to support five to 10 self-storage properties, depending on their size.If you break all your operational tasks into these two silos and channel all customer-management tasks to a remote manager, your onsite manager now has the capacity to focus on things like fixing latches and gates, sweeping out vacant units, sanitizing surfaces, picking up trash, replacing light bulbs, etc., which are critical in maintaining curb appeal and a superior customer experience. Like the customer manager ...
June 28th, 2020
Since starting Red Dot Storage in 2013, I have been a vocal proponent of automated management solutions in the self-storage industry. For Red Dot, automation created a highly scalable management platform that facilitated rapid growth from a single property to over 180 locations, throughout 16 states. Red Dot’s ability to quickly integrate assets into the platform to create a consistent and standardized customer interface was critical in supporting the company’s growth trajectory. During my position as CEO of Red Dot, I benefited from economic expansion, low unemployment, and strong wage growth. Given these factors, I had the luxury of focusing almost exclusively on growth and gave little thought to defensive management. Unfortunately, those favorable market conditions have changed in the blink of an eye. As a result of COVID-19, our nation has been challenged with some extraordinary circumstances. Unlike the Great Recession of 2008-09, which was rooted in our financial system, we are now facing a threat to health and safety. In an attempt to mitigate the impact of this pandemic, our nation has been tasked with social distancing, which presents a myriad of obstacles and challenges as evidence by the temporary closing of all “non-essential” businesses, along with schools, museums, sporting events, and so on. The pain being inflicted on small businesses across the country is unfathomable. This new challenge requires storage operators to utilize a different set of tools and strategies. By implementing social distancing, owners must rethink customer interaction. For the time being, office hours are essentially non-existent, which means rentals, payments, and customer communication are being forced into a remote format. Furthermore, owners must be prepared to rethink the role of their facility managers, the tools they need to do their job, and how to measure their success. This could prove to be an almost insurmountable challenge for operators that have relied on a traditional on-site manager model, however, I encourage every storage owner to consider incorporating some level of automation into their operations as a solution. As the COVID-19 ...
April 27th, 2020