Question of the Week: Advice to Your Past Self

October 3, 2023

Two people discussing self storage investment
5 min

We asked our friends who subscribe to our email list a single question to answer: If you could give your past self one piece of self storage advice, what would it be?

In a lot of ways the answers we got back ranged, and in others they were pretty similar. For the most part, it’s about investing sooner or putting in more capital from the beginning, and focusing on tenants.

All of these seasoned storage experts know that not starting ahead means starting behind. 


Plan for the Future

Max Volton Jr. of Gate 5 Self Storage advised, “If building a traditional, drive-up facility from the ground up, plan for the future and run conduit to all buildings for any future cameras, lights, and Bluetooth locks.

As a lot of these self storage experts will tell you, it’s a lot easier to add amenities, like cameras and smart locks from the beginning instead of down the road. It seems like a good idea to start small and build up, but that could mean some bigger bills and even bigger headaches in the future.

Smart locks, for example, are invasive and difficult to install, but it’s even more difficult to install after your tenants have settled their things and filled the units. 

Thinking ahead appears to be a universal trend in these responses, and that’s because they’re coming from people already on the other side, who’ve made their name and built a business but also made some mistakes along the way. When it comes to investing, invest your best!

Get the most out of your self storage investment or learn how to get started  today with our Free Self Storage Investing Playbook

Return to Top

Look for Ways to Grow

Glenn Cummings of All In Storage takes the frill out of it when he advises, “Get into it earlier.” Sharron Thompson of Columbia River Self Storage agrees by saying, “Buy a self storage facility sooner.” 

The advice is straightforward: get into it sooner rather than later!

How do you start? 

Start by getting to know the market, industry trends, and local demographics, and get to know the other players in the industry as well.

Start by looking at the local self storage scene, see what other facilities are advertising, and what's important to the community. What size storage units seem to sell the most? Do they offer boat and RV storage? All of this you can learn with a quick Google search, their websites list it all!

Resources like the SSA also offer hard statistical data on customer trends and expectations, as industry overviews. Some of these resources come with a cost, but there's no shortage of free content, kind of like StoragePug's blog!

If you don't know where to start, begin by connecting with the community. See what kind of news they're sharing, what seems important to the people who've been doing this for a while. 

Once you're connected to the scene, you'll learn how to grow your business like the pros do, because, really, it's a pretty open and friendly industry! People like to help other people. So do what the pros advise: jump in now.

Across the board, experts agree that self storage is a worthwhile investment. Not a single reply we got said “Turn back now.”

Return to Top

Embrace Change

Chad Lundberg of The Storage Group advises “Embrace technology, use it for your benefit, and never become complacent. Things change fast and being willing to adapt to the change fast will help you be ahead of your competitors. Also, attend as many state and national conferences as possible. This too will help separate you from your competitors.

Embracing technology appears over and over in these responses, and these experts know what they’re talking about, likely a lot of them have had to play catch-up at some point or another for their self storage tech. 

Self storage is a strong market, and there will always be a need, but “build it and they will come” doesn’t necessarily apply anymore. You’re always going to have competition, and investing in your facility early can mean more revenue down the road. 

The odds are, no matter how far you stand away from the edge, you’re gonna have to take the plunge eventually. Getting ahead in your market means going into it with a swan dive. 

To become a trailblazer, it means keeping up with current trends and investing early. For example, a decade ago almost no one offered online rentals at their facility, now, you’re considered crazy if you don’t!

There is a lot of new self storage technology, like drone security cameras or fingerprint scanners, and you can’t have everything at your property, but if you’re seeing a universal trend, don’t catch the end of the wave. 

Security, customer experience, and ease of use are always worth investing in. Think from your tenants' point of view, what would make renting a unit and storing with you the most convenient and secure option? That’s what you invest in.

Though not all advice was about investment or ways that you can make the most from what you put in, some people focused on the tenants, the people your business depends on.

self storage investing guide

Return to Top

Remember Your Customers

Allicyn Bowley of Self Storage Science recounts “If I could give my past self any advice, it would be to not take anything a customer says to you personally. If they are not kind to you, they are likely just having a bad day themselves and are taking it out on whoever they can. Never let it ruin your day!” 

It’s easy to let a sour interaction ruin your day. Remember, your bad day probably started because of their bad day, and there's no point in continuing the cycle.

When it comes to interacting with tenants, professionalism is always the better choice.

Catharine Sutherland Kuerbis agrees when she says “Be polite and professional, and do not be too nice! Storage tenants are adults. They are capable of following rules, paying bills, and setting calendar alerts on their phones. Try not to babysit your tenants.

Having standard practices, clear instructions and good communication is all you really need to set your tenants up for success. If you’re instructive and clear in the beginning, you can trust your tenants to be the adults they’re legally required to be. 

Your tenants are real human beings, who can fend for themselves. It’s important, though, to remember there is always a little room to be human with your tenants, to lend a hand or help in some small way. It’s crucial to know the difference between making a difference in someone’s life and babysitting. 


Whether it’s more of your capital of time, these pros are saying the investment is worth it. 

Is there something not here that you wish someone had said? Join the conversation next time!

Return to Top

How are some more of our favorite posts for running your self storage business!

At StoragePug, we build self storage websites that make it easy for new customers to find you and easy for them to rent from you.

Want to start with self storage but don't know where to begin?

Download the Beginner's Guide to Self Storage Investing for free!

Self Storage Investing Playbook eBook - 2023 - Cover