Starting a new business can be tough, and as many as 90% of startups fail, according to Forbes. This isn’t to discourage you if you have a great business idea, but to suggest another angle if you want to make a living by running your own business.
You can always look for existing businesses that are for sale. Perhaps the owners have been running it successfully for years and are ready to retire, or perhaps they want to go into a different line of work. If the business is doing well and you’re able to purchase it, you can step in, keep it going, and do well for yourself.
We happen to think that going into the self storage business is a great idea, especially if you’re able to take over an existing facility or two.
If you’re new to the self storage industry, you’ll have a lot to learn. The first thing you should know is that the industry continues to grow. If a facility is doing well, you can expect it to keep doing well as long as it’s managed properly.
As you’re in the process of purchasing your new facility, learn what you can from the sellers. Who were their business partners? What sort of advertising and community outreach did they do?
Yes, you will learn this and more from business records, but it doesn’t hurt to learn what you can before escrow closes. This will give you time to familiarize yourself with your partners and competition. However, we advise you to wait until you’ve taken over the business fully before introducing yourself to those other business owners.
Once you own the company, you’ll want it to keep running smoothly. However, you may have some ideas for improving business. Take a couple of weeks or so to observe, and to talk to your new employees. Start with the facility manager, and learn what a typical day is like. You’ll get to see how they handle new and existing tenants, how they do door checks, and how employees handle customer service, cleaning, and more.Talk to some employees next. Find out what they think of how things run, and if they have any ideas for improving efficiency. If they’ve been at the facility a while, they may have some great suggestions.
Learn about what types of software the company uses. Yes, it’s important to know what sort of email system the company uses, but beyond that, you’ll want to know how the facility keeps track of customers and payments, how employees keep track of tasks, what runs the cameras and arm systems, how the manager keeps track of door checks, and how maintenance is called in when needed for repairs. Does the facility have automated self storage? If so, what software is used to run it? Can tenants pay their bills online? What is the website backend? What sorts of security systems are in place?
You don’t have to be an expert in every computer and software system the company uses, but you should know how to use it yourself and you should be aware of alternatives.
Once you have a good idea of how the facility runs and what ideas your employees have for improving it, create a plan for the business moving forward.
Write down what you like about the business and what you think should not change. Also, write down what you, and the employees, think can be done better, and ideas for improving them. Then, come up with a plan for what changes you’d like to make, and by what time you’d like each to happen. If you plan this in stages, it will be easier for your employees to adapt.
As the changes get rolled out, see how well they work. Is the business becoming more efficient? Are your employees happy with the changes?
Remember that these changes may be in a variety of areas. You may decide to upgrade the security system hardware. You may decide on a new task management software system, perhaps one that keeps all information in the cloud, where employees can mark down when they have completed a task, plus any pertinent notes. You might decide to purchase your boxes from another vendor, or steamline the door checks. Make sure your plan includes an estimate of how much any new purchases will cost.
As you learn the ropes at your new facility, and as you put new procedures in place, it’s important to remember that your business is part of a community. People appreciate businesses that give back, so consider some things your facility can do to show your good corporate citizenship. Offer free unit rentals to a few local nonprofit charities. Become a food bank drop-off point. There are many things you can do to show your goodwill in the area.
By this point, you’ll know how your facility runs, you’ll have made some positive changes, and you’ll get to watch your business thrive. Keep up observing, and be willing to make small adjustments when necessary, but also trust your managers and other employees to keep things running smoothly. After all, that’s what you pay them for.
You’ll always be learning about how to best run your self storage facility. Like anything else worth doing, running a facility is a process more than a goal. Keep learning, keep improving, and keep up with the industry, and odds are, you’ll find lasting success.