1. What is your name and what is your position?
Lee Cameron, Managing Director of Australian Mobile Storage
2. How/why did you first become involved in self storage?
I stumbled into storage industry when I was involved with a few guys doing property development back in 1989 in Brisbane. We planned to build a storage facility on land we had bought the DA with to build in Cannon Hill, Brisbane. We proposed we would let it up and sell it. But after operating it for a few years, even during the recession we had to have, decided it was a great business and had great growth potential so restructured the ownership and then went on the develop 2 others over the next 10 years.
3. What do you think has been the biggest change to self storage since you first entered the industry?
I think the 2 biggest changes would be making use of the land volume much better by going up and a lot better technology being introduced into the industry to help manage the people and facility.
4. What is your best tip for managing staff in self storage?
I try to work together with the staff, making decisions collectively and so they have “ownership” of any decisions, so choosing carefully the right type of person to work with is so important. The people in self storage have to be able to relate to such a variety of types of customers so it is very important they are people oriented even if they don’t have the technical skills to start with. Experience in the industry is probably not the most important attribute they need. It can sometimes be a hindrance.
5. What is your message to members of the SSAA?
ALL members must go to a conference, especially owners. I have been attending Conferences since 1990 when we had the inaugural meeting in Sydney. I have missed about 3 since then but I find that you can always learn from not only the meetings and presentations but from fellow members. Early days it was a lot more closed to sharing ideas and facts but it has gained a lot more openness as the industry has developed.
The next best thing to do is attend regional meetings. A more collective voice can then be heard and taken back to the Association for the good of all.
6. What do you see as the biggest threat to, or competition for self storage?
The biggest threat to the self storage and the Association is always bad operators. They want to have the protection of the Association and all that it offers but then not uphold any sort of standards of operation. They could have disregard for the reputation of their own operation or the reputation of the Association.
Competition is healthy but the biggest problem will always be discounting, especially during tough economic times which we have endured for some years now. Seems no matter how many times we hear the reasons why we should not resort to discounting at conventions and from experts, it seems operators know only one way to get more business in tough economic times. The bottom lines of all operators gets affected and to claw values back to where they should be will unfortunately take a while before they see net “growth”.
7. What do you think are the opportunities for growth in self-storage?
Unfortunately I don’t see many opportunities for growth in self-storage until more confidence starts to build within the housing markets and within business generally. We have endured a government who were more concerned with trying to pad their own political nest and touting to the unions rather than genuinely helping business and the economy. Maybe this new pro-business government will make a difference. At least it is saying all the right things so far.
8. If you could look into the future, what do you see for self storage?
I think Self Storage will become more user-friendly for the customer. Ease of signing up, electronic document management and who knows where technology will take us in the next 10 years. I think the best thing we can do is keep up with these changes and make it work for us and the customer. But besides all this most people do want to still know a person, a face, that they are dealing with rather than a computer or some faceless person. It has moved this way for the past 10 years but customers will get sick of this, like they are Facebook, and turn back to older communication ways which are more genuine.
9. Describe your ideal holiday destination.
Relaxing and exploring the Amalfi Coast in Italy or Cruising the Mediterranean. Would be great to mix some golf in there too but the wife would not be that keen on it.
10. Finish this sentence – “Nobody likes…
An arrogant person.
11. What is your guilty pleasure?
Golf on a week day.
12. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Dog person but don’t have either.
13. What ‘life advice’ would you give to a younger version of yourself?
Value advice from wiser, older people who you trust.