How could a Free Salad in Storage Land lead to 95% Occupancy?
I spent last week visiting and speaking with people who had read our articles and wanted to ask me how StorMan makes and saves them money. Whilst meeting with one particular inquirer, a real-life recipe for Free Salad "storage-style" was forthcoming. This exceptional lady reported to me a 95% occupancy at her facility, despite the fact that it is totally surrounded by fierce competition. Apparently, the local competition was, at best, not far from being just over 50% tenanted.
Whilst driving to this lady's place of business, I couldn't help but notice how it seemed this town had more self-storage businesses than there were shops and houses. There is probably a gargillion and one reasons why this lady has a flourishing business in an area so potentially over-stocked with storage options, but the underlying attitude that led to the provision of their particular brand of 'Free Salad' is probably at the centre of them.
The lack of such an offering was apparently killing her competition, most likely because all they could do to attract much needed business was to wage a price war which, inevitably, everyone loses in the end. In any event, to be perfectly honest, the 'Free Salad' served at the site run by this lady, is of the yummiest variety I have ever witnessed.
In the article "Free Salad" you will recall the customer's delight when they were not served what they ordered. They were, instead, served "what they wanted". There is a BIG difference, and it is worth megabucks to you if you can figure out what that difference is.
This extra-ordinary lady was telling me how security conscious they are at this place of business. She was responding to some comments I had made when I was describing how, by properly integrating your management software with all of the other various components of your business, (such as INSOMNIAC Kiosk, Access Control, Payment Processing, your Website, etc.) the result can be extremely profitable. Her first comment was the company's concern that having ones business computer connected to the internet is potentially hazardous for security purposes. She said the company is very security conscious.
The management's attitude of concern towards the needs of their customers was not demanded, it was offered. It is like the management knew what customers wanted before they knew. And that is the best Free Salad of all.
This article deals with the computer security issue later, but first, let's review her company's free salad, because it stems from the company's genuine concern for security levels, to the benefit of their customers, and without it, you are missing a vital ingredient to the recipe for business wealth, health, and happiness.
This company became aware that some padlocks can spring open when bumped. Their concern was a customer could potentially bump someone else's lock whilst walking past a unit (perhaps carrying something heavy or wheeling something awkward on a large trolley) and that the lock might spring open, resulting in a security breach for the tenant of that unit. So they decided to spend almost $2,000.00 buying bump-resistant locks to replace all of the existing ones.
Did those customers ask for new locks? No.
Was security important to these people? Yes.
Do you think the customers of this self storage facility feel they can rely on the owner and management to protect their best interests? Absolutely! The customers might not have specifically asked for new locks but top security is, nonetheless, what they would want. The management's attitude of concern towards the needs of their customers was not demanded, it was offered. It is like the management knew what customers wanted before they knew. And that is the best Free Salad of all. A 95% occupation rate is a positive testament to the general approval such a management attitude can surreptitiously capture, even in an over-supplied market.
Do you think the attitude of owners and staff at this facility is one of the primary reasons they are 95% full when the legions of competitors surrounding them is tenanted to around 50%? Well, that is your call to make. But from our point of view, and probably that of the customer, theirs sure is one yummy variety of Free Salad.
Are we suggesting you go out and buy your tenants new padlocks to achieve 95% occupancy? No, definitely not! Please allow me to explain my first impressions of this storage site when I arrived to meet with the lady described herein. It was like walking into my best friend's home. It was clean, it was tidy, the greeting I was offered was most genuine and pleasant to receive. The place felt calm, serene, refreshing, and yet all the while throughout my visit it was obvious to me that those employees were working at 100%. I did not feel any of the stress they were dealing with. My visit there was an absolute pleasure. As a customer, I think I might have gone home and found some more stuff to store just so I could come back.
This idea is not as silly as it sounds. People just might make a decision not to store something that they may need to access from time to time. But if retrieving that item is a pleasurable experience, and if having that item around the house is a bit of a pain, they might just be favourable to storing it at this place of business when they might not bother storing it at another. It is the attitude behind all this we are recommending, which led to the purchase of new padlocks - not merely the purchase of new padlocks itself.
Next item, computer security. When you integrate your management software with the rest of your business software, you maximise your opportunity to realise top levels of production. Your website, your access control system, your INSOMNIAC, and your management software all work together to the benefit of your bottom-line. But in order to integrate, you must connect to the web. How do you protect your customer database and business from hackers and computer viruses when you have connected your business computer to the web?
Here is the word from Robert Richardson, Team Leader, StorMan Development Team. When Robert made these recommendations the scenario at the site being studied was as follows:
1) There was one computer housing the storage management and access control software. It was not connected to the internet.
2) There was another, separate, computer on site that was connected to the internet.
The Expert's Low-Down on Internet Connected Computer Security:
To be totally secure there is no better way than not being connected to the web at all I'm afraid. If our customer desires to minimise the danger of being on the web I suggest they speak to a good IT tech about getting a good quality firewall (preferably Hardware), and installing a good anti-virus on each of the machines.
I would configure it so the only internet access allowed would be for email outgoing (leave incoming ones on the existing (web connected) machine) and to never use the StorMan/gate machine for web browsing. In the event of them wanting to host a website through StorMan (i.e. StorPay) I would suggest that we host the web-pages on the other machine and only open a port for our StorPay server to communicate with StorMan.
This will mean the minimum number of points of access are open and the likelihood of someone getting in through a 4D port are very remote (I'm not aware of there ever being any ways to access the machine over that connection).
You will note Robert's reference to a "4D port". 4D is the non-Microsoft platform that StorMan uses. In other words, StorMan is not written on a Microsoft platform, although it works on PC and Mac.
As most viruses and hackers usually attack Microsoft based products, a StorMan customer has some natural protection due to the 4D platform it is written with. This is important as integration is the key to performance, and yet connectivity is a potential flaw in the security of your entire system too.
Robert's recommendations and 4D's platform offers considerable protection for your valuable business data, over and above what you can achieve on more common platforms.
- Wayne (VP Sales and Marketing, StorMan USA; 2007 - 2010)