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Gabfocus Session | Best of the Best

Year in Review: Wrapping up 2021 and looking forward to 2022

2021 has just about come to a close. We took a chance to catch up with some familiar faces, wrap up the year with some final thoughts, and to talk about what waits ahead in 2022!

Featured Speakers: Alonna RossJim Mooney, Stephanie Winfree, Chad Lundberg, & Grace Totty
Moderators: Melissa Huff & Tommy Nguyen

Category: Marketing & Operations
Focus: Owners & Operators
Aired: December 16, 2021
Duration: 1:18:24


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

  • At 9:00, our panelists answer our first question: What changed during COVID, and are you going back to any of your "old ways"?
  • At 9:34, Alonna, Chad, and others agreed that the pandemic has given them time to catch up on tech and other improvements.
  • At 10:50, Stephanie makes the point that customers have become more accustomed to online payments and services.
  • At 13:50, Stephanie goes further, claiming that customers have started more readily accepting text messages from businesses.
  • At 15:10, Tommy references that the rate of adoption of technology in self storage has apparently accelerated by 5 years.
  • At 17:00, Chad says he is still seeing owners and managers slow to accept new tech—and warn they'll be left behind.
  • At 18:00, the panelists discuss how the landscape of the industry has changed regarding unattended vs. attended facilities.
  • At 20:25, Alonna and Stephanie agree there is no longer a need for kiosks—we have mobile phones that can do the same.
  • At 20:50, Jim explains how his facilities use QR codes.
  • At 22:31, our panelists answer whether or not they still accept cash payments.
  • At 28:20, Jim talks about his mystery shopping procedure.
  • At 29:30, the panelists discuss the strengths they discovered in their own businesses over the last year.
  • At 38:40, panelists discuss the housing market and their predictions or observations about its imapct on self storage.
  • At 42:30, Grace claims that continued construction delays are contributing to more need for storage.
  • At 44:02, the panelists talk about how they use value pricing.
  • At 46:00Tommy and Grace agree that the use of value pricing is dependant on the market.
  • At 48:00, our experts discuss their plans for building in the near future.
  • At 52:50, we learn about some of the crazy things our panelists have experienced in self storage.
  • At 58:30, our panelists answer our Questions of the Week!

Questions of the Week

We asked our experts: What’d we learn in 2021? and What’s coming in 2022?

In 2021, I learned that people matter. We've got all these systems in place... which are all very import and very helpful. But the people matter. Your technology can't work if people aren't fully bought into it." -Grace Totty
Expect the unexpected... Things are changing daily." -Jim Mooney
Patience and compassion. I really had to step back and learn some patience, but you also have to realize there are people less fortunate than all of us, and you have to have some comapssion towards people." -Chad Lundberg
Getting out of my comfort zone... I've got to expand my network of new people." -Alonna Ross
Gabfocus Takeaway

The last two years have been crazy for everyone. A lot of changes have come about due to COVID, and we are still figuring out what changes are temporary and what changes are here to stay. It's not all been bad—it's given us time to catch up on things we were neglecting, and it's helped some people realize the value in technology and the internet. There is still a lot of waiting and watching to do in order to see exactly what new things are sticking around, but there's no time to sit around with a new year right around the corner. 2021 is just about over, and 2022 is sure to see more changes that anyone involved in self storage will need to be ready to adapt to.

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 changed during COVID? Are you going back to any "old ways?"
  2. Are kiosks on their way out?
  3. What are the biggest challenges you saw operators face this year? Managers?
  4. Did you discover an area that you were weak in that you didn’t know about before? Or an area of strength that you didn’t realize was there?
  5. Do you provide incentives/bonuses for people who perform well during mystery shopping?
  6. Is the rental process changing for good? Are we moving away from paper leases to online? Does only offering paper rentals hurt rentals?
  7. Will the housing market continue to be so competitive and how do we see this affecting rental?
  8. Is value pricing here to stay?
  9. Should we build?
  10. What kind of storage are you building in the coming year?
  11. Craziest thing a customer has said to you this year?
  12. What’d we learn in 2021?
  13. What’s one of your biggest priorities for 2022?

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




Meet your speakers


Alonna Ross

Storage Auctions

Website: http://storageauctions.com/
Email: alonna@storageauctions.com

Jim Mooney

Freedom Storage Management

Website: http://freedomstoragemanagement.com/
Email: jmooney@freedomstoragemanagement.com

Stephanie Winfree

Interstate Self Storage

Website: http://interstateself-storage.com/
Email: interstateselfstoragesc@gmail.com

Chad Lundberg

The Storage Group

Website: http://superstoragegroup.com/
Email: chad.thestoragegroup@gmail.com

Grace Totty

Absolute Storage Management

Website: http://absolutemgmt.com
Email: grace.totty@absolutemgmt.com

Got questions or comments for the panelists?

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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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