OK so you have a facility and you are interested in taking it to the next level? Here are some key things you should do to increase the value.
1. Get your systems down in writing – I often come across business owners that know how to run their facility themselves, but when they head away on holidays the stand-in owner just does not deliver, the sales suffer and the owner has multiple problems to deal with when they get back.
Action Step 1 – Create basic check-lists for opening and closing the facility and use these on a daily basis. This will allow anyone with a bit of training to deliver the exact result for you. Also with a check-list you have immediate accountability and a system that can be checked.
Action Step 2 – Create a detailed customer service system that documents how the phone is to be answered and how to convert an inquiry into a sale. Also write scripts for moving a new person in and moving someone out. Link these scripts to Check-lists that you have created so the entire contact with a customer is seamless.
Action Step 3 – Create Position Descriptions for everyone that works in the business and detail what their roles and responsibilities are so that there are no grey areas. You should link this in with a team member handbook that is given to all staff when they first start with you and this will help maximise their productivity and decrease drama.
If you set up quality operational systems in your business, you will allow yourself more time, less avoidable issues will arise and your team will be happier knowing they have the job under control.
2. Computerise or Die – Yes, you might have gathered that I’m a bit of a computer advocate. I must admit that I have never seen a business these days be super successful without one. Plain and simple if you don’t have a self storage dedicated management program then get on the phone and get one in. From my experience these systems easily integrate into your day-to-day operations and once you get over the fear you will wonder why you did not do it earlier. A well-managed computer system will add a massive amount of value to your business as it will allow you to easily measure the vital figures to make strategic decisions that will add extra money into your bank account. JUST DO IT!!!
3. Create a strong brand and a good web presence – This doesn’t mean just having a pretty website but also being found in on-line searches. You do this by Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and it means Google likes you. If you type in self storage in a particular area you will see that the big boys like Kennards, Storage King, National and Fort Knox have this sewn up with Pay Per Click advertising but if you spend the money and the time you will be able to compete and drive extra business to your facility.
Action Step 1 – Get on the Internet and type in search engine optimisation and get a few quotes from companies on how they can help you or research how you can improve it yourself. Always remember to watch your costs and measure your returns.
4. Maintain your facility in tip-top condition – Whether you are planning to sell or just want to keep storers then you must present your facility in the best possible light. Plan every week to do a visual audit of the facility. It is often good to produce a check-list that has the facility broken down into sections with individual items to check off so that you know nothing is missed e.g. over locks, light bulbs, gardens, cobwebs etc. This will add real value to the facility and give customers a real sense of cleanliness and security.
5. Regular appointments with your accountant – Once again if you are not watching your numbers then you can’t expect to know how you are going! If you are thinking of expanding or selling then going over your numbers regularly is vital. Always keep up to date financials at hand so that you can easily present them to your bank, broker or prospective buyer.
I look at budgets, cash flows and profit and losses all day and see a lot of trends coming through. It is a good idea to run your figures by an industry professional so they can give you their take on how you are going and opportunities for improvement.
Action Step 1 – Don’t go and get a valuation from your accountant on your business We find this to be one of the most inaccurate forms of advice you can get. The best people to talk with are qualified industry based valuers and industry based brokers. Often when an accountant gives and appraisal to a client they are quite biased depending on the situation. If you are selling, the appraisal is often quite high, however if you took the same figures to the same accountant with your name taken off the top and said you were going to buy the business then the appraisal would often be much lower.
6. Automate your facility to higher levels of profitability – I have always viewed self storage as high security jail and I don’t want to let anyone in or out unless I give the say so. The technology these days is amazing and gate security links with individual shed security which integrates into management software to deliver a cohesive automated business. Whilst this all comes at a cost, you can pick and choose the technology that will deliver you the most amount of freedom while also giving you the most amount of profit.
Action Step 1 – Go to the SSAA website and check out the suppliers in the security category and ring them for a demo and quote. It can’t hurt to see what’s out there.
7. Expand, Expand, Expand – Obviously only do this if there is demand! However if your occupancy is consistently rising steadily each month then you should consider expanding when you hit the 85% occupancy mark. It will often take you quite some time to get quotes, obtain funding and start construction. By the time you reach capacity you will hopefully be ready to fill your new extension. A strategic approach to expansion will bring massive amounts of value to your business as rental income and profitability increases.
Action Step 1 – Go to the SSAA website and check out the suppliers in this category and ring them for a quote. The lead times are often months away so don’t leave it to the last-minute.
Your job now is to combine all the action items above and implement a strategic business plan. Good luck!
Ian Horne is a multi-award winning business broker and a business management guru who specialises in the sale of self storage facilities across Australia.
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of its Author, Iain Horne, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Self Storage Association of Australasia. This advice is intended to be of a general nature. SSAA Members should have regard to their personal circumstances, including seeking professional advice where deemed necessary, prior to making business decisions.