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Gabfocus Session | Security, Gates, and Smart Units

Security, Gates, and Smart Units

Explore the range of security options, what matters most to customers, and what the future of self storage security looks like.

Keeping your facility and your customers' belongings safe is one of your highest priorities. But, there are a lot of security features to choose from. Let's explore the range of security options, what matters most to customers, and what the future of self storage security looks like.

Featured Speakers: Kristi Adams, Kevin Alvarado, & Hayden Buettner
Moderator: Tommy Nguyen & Melissa Huff

Category: Operations
Focus: Owners & Operators
Aired: May 26, 2022
Duration: 1:15:36


If you don't have time to watch the whole Session, here are some of our favorite parts:

  • At 6:10, our panelists talk about the major security features that every facility should have (gates, cameras, locks, and a cloud-based system to run it all)
  • At 8:20, Kristi and Hayden talk about the value of being proactive versus reactive with your security measures
  • At 15:22, Melissa encourages new operators to talk to experienced operators to find out the systems they wish they had invested in sooner. "All your security technology is a complete waste if the manager isn’t utilizing it."
  • At 18:00, our panelists talk about making your facility pass the "eye test." “If you can’t do the small simple things right, then how can I trust you with the difficult things?” Hayden emphasizes the importance of good lighting to make your customers feel safe and deter break-ins.
  • At 23:24, Kristi and Kevin explore how customer security expectations have evolved and by extension the technology that enables it
  • At 27:40, Kristi gives us an overview of OpenTech's 2021 Access Control white paper:
    • 38% of all tenants visit their facility on a monthly basis
    • 37% of all visits are after hours
    • The most popular visit time was at 4pm
    • 35% of delinquent access attempts happen after the facility is closed
  • At 32:10, our panelists discuss the pros and cons of having a gate and how it adds extra layers of security and control
  • At 40:35, Kevin breaks down offering 24/7 access and the risk of security issues after hours
  • At 46:40, Hayden and Melissa overview the different kinds of locks and access control options. "Sometimes it's about the customer experience, sometimes it's about operational experience."
  • At 53:00, our panelists define "Smart Units" and discuss security features happening at the unit level
  • At 1:04:00, our experts answer the Question of the Week!


Question of the Week

We asked our experts: What are the biggest security blind spots in self storage?

"Proactive security and good security signage. It's been a proven solution that thwarts crime. You need to know what's happening at your facility at night. If you don't have security cameras, get them." - Kristi Adams
"Contactless entry is 'hot' right now, it's a great offering, but if you're strictly relying on gate codes , please do not allow four digit gate codes. Have some restrictions! It's so easy for a 'bad apple' to guess a four digit code. Also, if you are offering a mobile experience, be cautious about how easy it is to share credentials. If it's too easy, it becomes a risk." - Kevin Alvarado
"Don't just rely on access control at the main gate. Consider layering in different levels of visiblity and access control at each level. Anything that can help you filter out those potential issues before they occur." - Hayden Buettner

Gabfocus Takeaway

For your customers, security and access control are at the core of their experience with your facility. How easy is it to access your facility and their unit? How secure is it (and does it feel)? On the flip side, as an operator, there's more technology than ever to give you more control, more data, and more flexibility over the security at your facility. Our experts agree that ideally you and your team are incorporating proactive features and practices to help you stay ahead – not only ahead of potential security threats, but also of customer experience expectations. You want your facility to be safe and feel safe.

What are Gabfocus Sessions?

Gabfocus Sessions are virtual workshops for self storage owners, managers, and operators. Brought to you by the team behind Gabfest: StoragePug and Affordable Storage Guys Management.

Each session features hand-picked industry pros who will dive deep into relevant topics surrounding our industry, share best practices, and explore trends in the market. It's our hope that these sessions help you navigate your self storage business better during these uncertain times.

Want to learn more about self storage? Join us on select Thursdays for Gabfocus.

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Questions Answered in this Session

  1. What are the major security features that every facility should have?
  2. How important is it to invest in more security features? Are there some features
    that are not worth it?
  3. How have security features and customers' expectations changed in the last 10
  4. Do operators provide different kinds of security features for automated vs
  5. What are the pros and cons of having a gate?
  6. What are the different gate features and options to choose from?
  7. What are the biggest challenges operators face with their gates?
  8. What about their customers?
  9. What are the different types of locks or unit access control options?
  10. What are the pros and cons of smart locks?
  11. Are customers’ preferences changing towards more smart locks?
  12. What’s the benefit of adding specific building or floor access control?
  13. Is it worth the cost?
  14. Should I add alarms or security features to individual units?
  15. How do you handle the additional cost or upkeep of individual unit security features?
  16. What kind of security alerts or notifications are available? What do customers want?
  17. What are the biggest security blind spots in self storage?

Live Poll Results: What tools are most important to provide to your employees?




Meet your speakers


Kristi Adams

OpenTech Alliance Inc.

Website: https://opentechalliance.com/
Email: kadams@opentechalliance.com

Kevin Alvarado


Website: https://www.storable.com/
Email: kevin.alvarado@storable.com

Hayden Buettner

Janus Intl

Website: https://www.janusintl.com/products/noke
Email: hayden.buettner@janusintl.com

Got questions or comments for the panelists?

Our panelists will be happy to answer any questions you have. We hope you enjoyed this Gabfest Session. Talk soon!

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Resources from this session

Awesome Quotes

“Once your operation is in place, you can become more dynamic with your pricing, but that requires data. You need some method of being able to record the data that you need to know whether your price is in the right place - whether you need to move it up or start giving some concessions.” - Warren Lieberman
“I never want to downplay to what someone else is doing. I'm better than they are, then I'm going to be worth a higher price. That's what value is. If you go out to a restaurant and get really good service, would you go back? Yes! What if it was pricier? You'd still go back because you got better service and a better product.” - Jim Mooney
"It's good to be informed on your competition. I don't want to ignore them, but I don't want to respond too strongly to them either." - Warren Lieberman
"We did a survey of 10,000 facilities on their pricing. We found out that two-thirds of those operators didn't change the price of a single unit of the course of a month." - Warren Lieberman
“Rate increases and value pricing are the number one ways to grow your revenue.” - Jim Mooney
"Tenants in more convenient units tend to be less price sensitive." - Warren Lieberman
"The size of the unit is only one aspect of what people are willing to pay for." - Warren Lieberman


Foundational marketing strategies to have in place - whether leasing up or stabilized:

  • Website
  • Set up listings (Yelp, Google My Business, Apple Maps)
  • Social Media
  • Establish Local Partnerships

Lease up marketing strategies:

  • Lead Generating Strategies (like digital ads)
  • Aggregators (Sparefoot, Storagefront, etc.)
  • Awareness Campaigns (like billboards, flyers, and sponsorships)

Your average customer value
Find the average stay length of all tenants. Next take your economic occupancy and divide by how many units you have. That will tell you what the average customer pays.

Multiply the average length of stay by what the average customer pays, and that's the average value of a customer.

For example, if a customer stays for 12 months and pays $100 per month, then their value is $1,200.

Your average lead value

Figure out your closing rate (or conversion rate) i.e. how many leads do you turn into tenants? Multiply that by your average customer lifetime value to figure out what your leads are worth. 

Pro Tip: see which lead sources are converting the best. It may be that certain sources have a higher conversion rate, so those leads are worth more to you than a source that barely converts.

Typical Lease-up timeline

According to our panelists, it's typical to see a 3-4% increase each month, putting your facility at 36% after the first year, and 72% after the second.

Alternately, you can look at your lease up goals through the lens of your units, aiming for 20 units rented per month.

For Nick and StorageMax, they pro forma their economic occupancy at 85% with their sweet spot at 92%.

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