4 Lessons the Self-Storage Industry Can Learn From Big Brands

Posted by Christina Alvino on Jan 11, 2023 12:00:00 AM

Remember when you thought the best instant photos were Polaroids and Sears was the only place to buy appliances? And it wasn’t too long ago when we shopped for the snazziest games at Toys R’ Us and cruised around in Saturns.

Most of us recall when we thought a company would never die. But, sadly, we’ve realized that nothing lasts forever – not even the most iconic American brands.

What did these companies do wrong? Can self-storage facility owners learn from their demise to avoid a similar outcome? We’ve answered these questions so you can avoid similar pitfalls and keep your business booming.

Keep Innovating

You don’t need a crystal ball to keep your business afloat but being future-focused helps you find better ways to accomplish your goals. Unfortunately, companies that don’t think about how they’ll compete in the future usually aren’t around to see it.

Take the former world leader in film, Kodak, for example. The company waited to enter the digital camera race before eventually creating a photo-sharing site called Ofoto. Unfortunately, they missed the mark, and other brands that beat them to market earned consumer confidence. However, unlike Kodak, retail industry leader Walmart jumped into the healthcare market and added medical and dental clinics to some store locations. The company saw a community need for affordable healthcare and didn’t hesitate to provide it.

What you can learn: Don’t wait too long to test new features. You should continuously assess the self-storage market and consider what changes might impact your future. Stay abreast of industry trends and weigh the ones your customers might want. For example, if your competition’s facility features 24-hour access with smart locks, it’s time to consider a similar investment.

Be Adaptable

Nothing stays the same – and maybe that’s a good thing. Thanks to ingenious entrepreneurs, we can communicate faster than ever via instant messages and real-time video calls. Social media lets us find long-lost friends (and their opinions) in minutes. But just as changes present opportunities, they can also present challenges.

When online seller, Amazon, flooded the market with promises of two-day deliveries with most of its e-commerce sales, it changed the way people shopped. Oversized brick-and-mortars felt the pinch. Companies that mainly relied on shopping mall customers, like clothing retailer Dressbarn, folded faster than a jean skirt. As a result, the company closed its 650 retail stores in 2019.

More recently, the implications of a worldwide pandemic caused disruptions for nearly two years. Again, companies that didn’t quickly adapt to new restrictions and consumer concerns struggled to keep up.

While you can’t control the future, you need to be willing to adapt to changes. If you don’t, you could find yourself getting left behind. Complacency is a death knell for businesses that think in Titanic-like terms. It’s wise to take note of their mistakes and remember: No company is too great to fail.

What you can learn: Changes in the self-storage industry can present challenges if you’re unwilling to adapt. Be flexible and open to new ways of doing things. You might find that it keeps your business relevant, customers enticed and makes your life easier.

Improve Efficiency

Even though they’re considered retail giants, companies like Walmart don’t stop looking for ways to improve their processes. They’re constantly reviewing supply chain management because increasing efficiency can save time, lower costs, and enhance customer experience. In good news, you can do the same thing. Whether using a preventative maintenance plan or adding variety to your unit mix, finding better ways to do your job will ensure that you always get the most for your money.

What you can learn: Continuously look at ways to improve efficiency at your facility. If there’s a way to automate a service, consider it. If you’re not getting the most out of your property, renovate it. A great way to maximize your property is to use all available space. One way to accomplish this is by using customizable relocatable self-storage units to increase rentable square footage.

Have Integrity

To most successful business owners, treating customers with integrity is a no-brainer. They understand that customers want to know they’re spending their money at an honest and reliable business.

Walmart founder Sam Walton’s once said: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money elsewhere.”

What you can learn: Understand that your customers have a choice to choose your storage company and store their property with you. You might not be the only option. How you treat them will differentiate you from your competition. If you’re not working hard to provide the best service in a friendly manner, it’s only a matter of time before they go elsewhere.

The bottom line: Companies like Walmart didn’t begin on the Fortune 100 list. They took years to grow into the billion-dollar businesses we know today. Most importantly, these companies know that placement on that list isn’t guaranteed. If they want to stay on it, they’ll need to remain focused on the future, adapt to a changing market, and look for new ways to provide the best services to customers. Otherwise, they could one day be as forgotten as a Blockbuster video. Follow their lead to keep your self-storage business from becoming a nostalgic memory.