Living Legend: An Interview With Industry Icon Hardy Good

Posted by Erica Shatzer on Apr 1, 2024 12:03:15 PM

It’s often been said that “opportunity is everywhere,” but you have to look for it. Fortunately for the budding self-storage industry of the 1970s, Hardy Good, founding member of Mini Storage Insurance Corp., now known as MiniCo Insurance Agency, LLC, was an observant entrepreneur. From insurance, locks, and hundreds of products, to publications, foreign facilities, and even an access control system, his vision for innovation helped shape the sector, and his substantial contributions carry on to this day.


Insuring The Industry

After leaving his career as a menswear buyer and merchandiser in Ohio to move to Phoenix, Ariz., Good was searching for a new industry in which to drop anchor, as he didn’t want to relocate to California to continue with that vocation.
In the early 70s, his friend, an insurance salesman, had attempted to start a new insurance program with his neighbor, a self-storage developer, because he was having difficulty obtaining insurance for his customers. At that time, there was no insurance company specializing in self-storage nor any self-storage-specific coverages available.


Hardy Outside-1The neighbors had tried to get their unique venture going for a about a year, but it “didn’t take off.” Knowing that Good, who had a degree in business administration from Ohio State University, was seeking employment, the insurance salesman asked him if he’d be interested in the enterprise. The three gentlemen discussed the specifics over lunch and decided that Good would “do all the work” in lieu of contributing the start-up fee of $2,000 per person. “It was a burgers-on-the-grill-over-the-backyard-condo-wall kind of deal,” he says about the formation of Mini Storage Insurance Corporation in 1974.


With only $4,000 in funds, they had to start small and make those dollars stretch until they were generating revenue. To keep overhead expenses to a minimum, Good worked from a desk in a back office of the insurance salesman’s agency. There he studied the numerous nuances of self-storage and insurance while diligently working on their first order of business: finding an insurance carrier to underwrite their customer storage insurance, an insurance policy that provided protection for self-storage tenants’ property. Without a carrier, they wouldn’t be able to follow through with their plan, but “no one knew about self-storage,” which made calling on carriers for backing a challenge.


“Self-storage was a big unknown at the time, and insurance companies didn’t know what to do with it,” Good says, noting that there were less than 1,000 self-storage facilities in the country in the mid-70s, whereas there are more than 55,000 today. So, they assembled some statistics about self-storage to incorporate into their sales pitch. “A carrier in Omaha, Neb., took the risk,” he recalls.


Upon finalizing that arrangement, Mini Storage Insurance Corporation was ready to start insuring storage tenants in Arizona. However, within the first six months, more capital was needed to keep the business going. Good and the insurance agent wanted to borrow another $5,000 from a lender, but the self-storage developer was not interested in going that route. The book he had recently written about self-storage development was selling well, so he decided to part ways. “We bought him out and became 50/50 partners,” says Good.


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That’s when business started to pick up. Their informational brochure explaining the insurance program was reaching self-storage operators and customers. People were completing the brochure’s paper application and sending payments to Mini Storage Insurance Corporation in the brochure’s detachable envelope.


Each day, Good and his partner would eagerly wait for the mail to arrive so they could slice open the envelopes, tally the payment amounts with the adding machine, and review the tape for the total revenue. Most days they would receive six to 10 envelopes, but the first time the mailman delivered a stack of envelopes approximately 6 inches tall, “that’s when I knew we’d be successful,” says Good.

Mini Storage Insurance Corporation’s reach quickly spread during its first year in business; they went from servicing self-storage customers in a half dozen states in 1974 to 20 or 30 states in 1975.


“While driving around the United States inspecting hundreds of facilities, we learned a lot about self-storage operations and expanded our products to meet the needs of our customers,” says Good. “First was a self-storage property and liability insurance package we called MiniPak. Then we helped develop a special policy exclusively for self-storage risks.”


It eventually became a nationwide company with a wide array of self-storage insurance products and later changed its name to MiniCo, Inc.


Locks And SKUs

One of the facility inspections that Good mentions actually prompted him to pursue a secondary business. He was on a golf cart with a self-storage owner, touring the property around 5 p.m., when the California sun reflected off something shiny and round. It caught his attention, so he followed the light to its source: a disc-shaped padlock. Before that moment, he had only seen storage unit doors secured with traditional padlocks. Intrigued by its design, he wrote down all the information printed on the Abus Diskus padlock so he could research the German manufacturing company and its lock.


Good learned that Abus was the No. 1 lock manufacturer in the world at the time, and the small shackle opening of its stainless steel, rust-resistant Diskus padlock was considered more secure than a U-shaped shackle. In an effort to thwart break-ins via bolt cutters at self-storage facilities, including those enrolled in Mini Storage Insurance Corporation’s various insurance programs, he made a deal with Abus and began selling Diskus locks to self-storage operators in the United States and Canada. Thus, Mini Storage Security Co. was created as a platform for distribution of products for safety, security, and loss control.

Though it was a worthwhile enterprise, Abus ultimately lost the patent for its unique, disc-shaped lock, and “everyone started making them,” Good says, adding that they had been looking for a cheaper resource for the disc padlocks. The most economical solution ended up being to manufacture the locks themselves at a factory in China, where they were made for more than a decade before the production of the padlocks was reassigned to a different factory in Mainland China.


As a visionary with a constant pulse on the industry, Good was simultaneously searching for products with potential self-storage applications to help owners better their businesses. Two such products include padlock seals and driveway signal bells. The plastic padlock seals, which Move ‘N Store describes as “a quick and inexpensive way to manage access where security is not a primary concern,” were adapted from the airline industry, where they were used to secure cabinet doors on airplanes. Originally used at gas stations to inform attendants that a customer had pulled up to the pumps, driveway signal bells served a similar purpose at self-storage facilities. While driveway signal bells have largely fallen out of favor, padlock seals are still sold by Move ‘N Store, the Phoenix-based company that purchased Good’s products division and its entire product catalog of approximately 700 SKUs (stock keeping units) in 2004.


Informing The Industry

Backtracking to 1979, that was the year Good began sending a quarterly newsletter, known as Mini-Storage Messenger, to the company’s insurance customers. It was also distributed to a mailing list that he painstakingly compiled from phonebooks.


Screenshot 2024-03-31 at 8.44.12 AM“For the first six months, I had spent a lot of time at the Bell Telephone’s headquarters,” he says, in a room filled with phonebooks. He scoured the Yellow Pages in search of self-storage facilities; they weren’t listed together because “self-storage” was not yet a business category within the directories. His handwritten mailing list had the addresses of approximately 3,000 self-storage facilities.

“That first year was free,” Good says about Mini-Storage Messenger subscriptions, “but when the second year rolled around, the headline was ‘free subscriptions end!’ Then, everyone started paying for a subscription. It was ‘the voice of the self-storage industry.’”


As the newsletter grew into a full-fledged magazine, its frequency increased from quarterly to six issues a year to monthly. “Mini-Storage Messenger was the official publication of the SSA for many years,” adds Good, “before the association launched a competing magazine.”


In time, growing demand for industry-specific educational materials led Good to launch a publishing department to create additional publications, including the annual Self-Storage Almanac and Self-Storage Now!, which initially served as a quarterly marketing newsletter for the company’s expanding products division. Later down the line, Self-Storage Now! was transformed into a standalone magazine geared toward self-storage management, and the department continued to publish dozens of industry-leading educational resources geared toward self-storage investors, developers, owners, and operators.

Failed Endeavors

Although he had launched and expanded three successful businesses, the corporations merged to form MiniCo Inc. in 1983, and he became “the proud, happy, 100 percent shareholder in 1985,” Good did experience what he refers to as “failed entrepreneurial endeavors.”
One of those unsuccessful undertakings was “Touchcode 2000,” an electronic access-control system. Despite his best intentions for the “semi-high-tech” product, it simply didn’t pan out the way he had envisioned.


Good explains that he realized early on that security would be an issue within the industry, so he started Mini Storage Security Co., through which he marketed the company’s padlocks and other security products. After developing and manufacturing Touchcode 2000, approximately 1,000 facilities throughout the United States were equipped with the system.


“We had trouble with the manufacturing,” he says, adding that the expenses associated with sending technicians around the country to complete repairs and perform maintenance on the systems outweighed the returns. When Good decided to cut his losses, he sold the product to Sentinel Systems, paid them around $1 million to take over the warranty work for the existing Touchcode 2000 systems, and sent the remaining inventory and materials to Sentinel in Colorado in a U-Haul truck.


“There are still some storage facilities in America secured by that system,” says Good, who was grateful that Sentinel honored their agreement so that Touchcode customers could keep their access control systems functioning.


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MiniCo Realty Services was the other failed endeavor. Good started that business division because people within the industry would often ask him to get in touch with them if he knew of anyone who was looking to buy or sell self-storage facilities. He brought on a broker/writer as a partner, but the business didn’t get off the ground. As a matter of fact, MiniCo Realty Services never completed a single transaction.


“We had a lot of inquiries,” he says, “but only one listing, and it sold to Public Storage.” Good estimates that division lasted 18 months to two years before being dissolved.


Always looking on the bright side of life, Good says, “Overall, we’ve had far more victories than defeats.”


A New Era

Another one of Good’s victories was MiniCo Asia, Ltd. While on a trip to China, he noticed that there were no self-storage facilities in Hong Kong. With it being one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with approximately 7.4 million citizens, he believed MiniCo should explore development opportunities in the “fragrant harbor.” Therefore, the company began conducting feasibility studies in 2000, and upon receiving favorable results, MiniCo commenced with development a year later.


Hardy Good 2“In 2002, we premiered MiniCo Self Storage in Hong Kong,” says Good. “We’re the first and only Americans conducting self-storage operations there. It was successful right away.” The facility had 600 spaces that rented within a year.


“We were self-storage pioneers in China, building four facilities. It really caught on, and in about two years, there were about 175 copycats,” he adds. “Barriers to entry are numerous, but understanding the Asian mind, manner, and culture is the most difficult challenge.”


Good remains chairman and SeaEO of MiniCo Asia Ltd., albeit through a different company name, New Empire Ventures, Inc., following the sale of all of MiniCo Inc.’s assets to Aran Insurance Services Group on May 17, 2010. Jencap then purchased Aran Insurance in 2019 and became the parent company of MiniCo Insurance Agency, LLC, as well as the publishing division, until publishing was acquired by Storelocal Media Corporation in March of 2023 and rebranded as Modern Storage Media.


“It was a good, fair deal, and everyone was happy,” Good says about the sale of MiniCo to Aran Insurance. “Selling MiniCo took some courage, some ignorance, some lawyers and accountants, some New York investment bankers, and a few million dollars. Aran Insurance Services Group kept the MiniCo team and negotiated a five-year lease on the building.”


Though Good “largely stepped away” from the business he founded 50 years ago, he was a special advisor to the executive team at MiniCo Insurance Agency for a short period and remained an industry icon. In point of fact, he was recognized for his countless contributions to the self-storage industry, which includes being a founding charter member of the Self Storage Association (SSA) in 1975, when he was inducted into the SSA’s Hall of Fame as one of its inaugural inductees in 2005. What’s more, any of his former employees would agree—and this author would attest—that his presence as a leader was nothing less than legendary. Whether recognizing employee excellence during the quarterly, companywide meetings, giving away tickets to professional sporting events, throwing festive holiday parties, manning the grill during on-site barbeques, handing out bonuses, providing comprehensive benefits, or offering heartfelt praise, Good fostered a familial atmosphere with his genuinely supportive and generous demeanor.


Your Industry And Mine

While business has taken a back seat to traveling, sailing, and spending time with his grandchildren, Good stays up to date with your industry and mine, and he foresees the sector moving onward and upward.
“The industry is evolving, technologies are expanding and improving, and I think that the sky’s the limit,” he says. “I think it’s going to go on for a long time. AI [artificial intelligence] is affecting everything, so I think that the industry will continue to grow. Technology will continue to expand and improve. AI is all about imagination, and I believe that there will be some in the self-storage world that utilize AI as a marketing advantage over competition, and I don’t know how, and I can’t imagine how, but because of all the other AI evidence that is abounding, I think it’s pretty certain that it’s going to be a factor in self-storage and in many other industries that you wouldn’t think about AI being a real factor.”


Indeed, the self-storage industry has come a long way and will keep progressing thanks to technology, but everything Good managed to establish without computers or fax machines in those early days is equally impressive. It goes to show, as he says, “There’s no substitute for hard work.”


Today, his significant “philanthropy” is largely anonymous. Good says, “Now, at age 80 years old, I’m just trying to honor God and keep from sinning as much as I have been.”



Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.