Tale of 2 Reputations
By Anne Mari DeCoster
Based on Edward Hainrihar Jr’s Presentation at the SSA Fall 2017 Conference
In his presentation at the SSA’s Fall Conference in early September 2017, Edward Hainrihar Jr, of Compass Self Storage, described our industry as “A Tale of 2 Reputations.” The title wasn’t intended to announce an epic work of classic literature, but rather to serve as a wakeup call to self-storage professionals to do all we can to overcome what he described as a less-than-positive public perception of our industry.
Consider the financial sector’s thoughts about us vs. the media’s. We’re the darlings of Wall Street, and institutional money keeps pouring into our industry. They literally cannot find enough self-storage businesses to buy! On the other hand, the public sees us through the eyes of Storage Wars selling off all our customers' worldly possessions, and CSI shows body parts “stored” in dark, lonely self-storage properties.
Say "self-storage" and “creepy” comes to mind for Jane Q. Public, giving us a negative perception to overcome. In fact, according to Dave Rogers, CEO of Life Storage, in his keynote address at the SSA’s 2017 Fall Conference, that’s one reason Uncle Bob’s changed its name to Life Storage: because consumer research showed that “Uncle Bob” sounded “creepy.”
But you’re not creepy! Your store isn’t a dark hiding place for criminals! So why does the local news report about “self-storage break ins,” slurring the whole industry when there is one incident? They don’t report “e-coli found in fast food,” throwing the whole fast food industry under the bus. No, they report, “e-coli found in Chipotle,” sparing the other restaurants in the industry this reputation damage.
What can we do about it? Improve our image. How? Ed Hainrihar made some simple suggestions.
First and foremost, he said, hire and train staff to meet expectations. “What gets measured gets done,” he said (to which I add: what you incentivize your managers to do gets done).
Need help on this? AZSA board member Carol Mixon-Krendl says, "Pick up your policy & procedure manual and use it as an ongoing training tool." Don’t have one? Call Carol. Her company, SkilCheck, has one for you. You can find SkilCheck on the AZSA website using the Suppliers & Services search (orange-red button on every page). Don't forget to mention that you found them on the AZSA website.
“Know and follow the law,” says Ed. AZSA helps you with that too. Legal education on all the statutes and regulations that govern our industry is provided online, in person, in print, and via sky writing - just kidding about that last one. But really, if you’re under the AZSA umbrella as an engaged member, you’ll find that our legal resources are ubiquitous - literally everywhere you turn.
In his SSA presentation, Ed said to review your lease annually. We do that for you, if you use the AZSA standardized lease. He also advised having written auction policies and good documentation. You’ve heard Richard Marmor talk about that as AZSA’s Legal & Legislative Chair.
Also in reference to auctions, during another session at the SSA conference, The Legal Power Hour, it was made crystal clear that each self-storage company needs to define the moment when a sale is complete, and it needs to be documented, because that documentation will determine the outcome if you face a wrongful sale suit.
AZSA provides you the form to document and communicate that important information to every auction buyer: the Auction Sale Agreement. Find it in the AZSA store – a deal at twice the price of $15.
Watch for a future article with more on how you can help the reputation of your store AND the entire industry.