Do you even need to MANAGE a self storage property?
I've never utilized a full time manager and quite frankly, I think most properties that do are wasting money. One of the key components of maximizing the profits (and value) of a self storage facility is controlling expenses. You want to spend enough on management to properly serve your customers but not so much that you have to raise rental rates or eat into your profits. I've learned that properties can be run with far less on site management than I ever would have guessed.
Here's how that played out. When I bought my first facility, I basically did everything myself. I swept out garages, answered the phone, moved people in and out, took payments. If it had to be done, I was the one to do it. I worked IN my business everyday instead of working ON my business. For a long time, almost 18 months, I drove to the storage facility everyday and spent 6 hours there whether I had anything to do or not. I justified doing these $10-15 per hour jobs by saying things like “It Doesn't hurt enough, to hire it out.” and “It's a small price to pay for not having a boss!” I also had a limiting belief that this 30 hour per week schedule was NECESSARY. As time went by though, I realized that I was spending atleast twice as much time on site as I needed to. I had become well aware of how much time I spent twiddling my thumbs. With that, when the time came for me to stay home with our first born son, I did hire a Part Time Manager to come in for 16 hours per week and then work by appointment. This worked well for a while and if you had asked me, at the time, I would have again insisted that this was the MINIMUM management structure NECESSARY to properly run the property. Fast forward another a couple years to when I decided to build my own house. In order to do so, I moved my 8 month pregnant wife, our two year old son and our dog into my in-laws basement for 6 months....and this wasn't the kind of basement that you might appreciate living in full time. Think concrete floor and exposed copper pipes and duct work! As such, I worked 12-14 hours per day 6 days per week to get the house built on time (and almost on budget:). During that time, my manager had an accident, broke her ankle and needed 3 surgeries. Clearly she couldn't work and my highly questionable living quarters meant that I was not available to fill in for her. I had to finish the house and couldn't drive the hour each way to manage the storage joint. You've heard the saying, "Necessity breeds competence"? So, i cobbled together a ramshackle remote management strategy using email, scanners, desktop sharing software etc to make something work. It wasn't pretty but it worked to bridge the gap until my manager could come back. Far more importantly though, it was the seed that ultimately lead to the three pronged remote management strategy that I use at ALL of my properties today!
I now have got a company that handles all of the day to day storage stuff for me. They take the calls, they move people in and out, they take payments. They have an online portal that allows customers to rent and pay for a storage units right online without ever having to see my ugly face...and they do so for far less than you would ever guess. It's freaking awesome and makes investing in self storage so much more approachable for folks who might have plates that are already pretty full. The only other piece of the puzzle needed to round out the system is finding someone to serve as "boots on the ground". I hope to cover that in more detail in a post sometime soon so be sure to subscribe to this little Blog if that's something you'd like to learn more about!
I'm also happy to share details about the vendors who make up my remote management strategy but this is meant to be a sales pitch on their behalf. I just wanted to share the experiences that brought me to where I am today. The system described above has allowed my student partners and I to buy multiple properties (currently ten properties in 7 states--and counting) throughout the country. Feel free to reach out if I can help you in anyway as you pursue self storage!
I hope you are finding some value in my storage musings and would love it if you'd post comments or questions below. And please be sure to subscribe below so you don't miss out when the next post goes live!