The PPF Method: Refining Your Operational Strategy

Posted by Mark Poole on May 22, 2024 10:48:10 AM

Far too often, there is a lot of hope in operating self-storage sites. Hoping that the lease-up will go well. Hoping that the rates will be strong; and of course, hoping that you have the right team in place. You can get mad, anxious, or even pray through this process, but simply hoping for good won’t take you far.


After running and operating storage sites for over a decade, I’ve learned that operations require more planning and adaptation than most people realize. The best thought-out plan will change. The people or staff can change, and even market conditions will change. The real separator is your resourcefulness to adapt to these changes.

The advantage we have as small operators is the ability to focus on the things we can change or adjust, but we can also act quickly. Unlike giant organizations, our companies and teams are like a sports car weaving through the mountains rather than a tractor-trailer at a steady and certain pace. So, your resourcefulness as an owner, operator, or even a manager can be the most significant difference in the success of your operations.


As Jeff Bezos from Amazon has famously said, “Be stubborn about the vision but flexible about the details.”


This principle should be the cornerstone of our strategy, guiding us to embrace change with confidence and agility.


Zoom Out

I’m often asked, what are you looking for when you’re evaluating storage sites? My answer is I zoom out.


As a multi-site operator, it’s essential to manage the big picture and assess the whole portfolio first and then each individual site as it substantially impacts the collective group. If a basketball team is the collection of the players, then our sites are the collection of our portfolio. However, unlike a basketball team with some players on the bench and on some on the court, all our players are active all the time, and their contributions can either pull us up or down.


There are many ways to look at this, but like your GPA in school, adding As to your scores will most definitely make an impact. So, once you’ve zoomed out to see the big picture, it’s time to zoom back in on each and every store. To do this, we’ll start with the past of the PPF (past, present, future) method.



Growing up, I hated learning about history. I was young and naïve, and I just didn’t get it. It didn’t matter to me. The past was simply what happened last weekend or years ago and not much more. I solely focused on the future and wasn’t too concerned about the past, especially if it was well before my time.


Today, my view is vastly different. The past is an incredible teacher, and learning from it can protect and propel you into a better future. So, when it comes to evaluating storage sites, I start here.


To do this, I take the time to really study the site. How have things been going? What has happened with the key stats of the site over the last few months or even years? How has the management team performed? Have we hit any goals, or were they even set in the past?


Understanding the past is the first step and will set you up for the next step: the present.



As they say, there’s no time like the present. And, of course, it’s true.


To learn from the present, ask questions like: How is the site doing today? What is working well? What needs to be fixed? Are there areas of concern or goals that need to be established?


Critical questions like these help determine your site’s current state and prepare you for what’s to come. This also is the opportune time to create goals, add structure, and redefine your current strategies.


Evaluating the current situation is critical and worth the investment, so don’t dismiss the value of help.


Whether you bring in an experienced consultant or even simply friends and family to check out your sites, it’s ideal to bring fresh eyes to your business. Let others experience your site, and ask them to share the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Embrace the feedback, and don’t feel it as criticism but as an opportunity to improve.


From here, it’s time to accept where you are, understand your new goals, and plan for what’s ahead: the future.



Now for the fun part: the future.


In self-storage operations, I’ve determined that the only way to look at the future of our storage sites is with optimism. Some won’t agree, but the mission of bringing a positive and engaging strategy to your operations will take you extremely far.

The truth is, there is always something to improve, and you must find it. If you don’t, keep looking, hold your head up, and keep going until you see the opportunities. Progress is greater than perfection; even small steps can build momentum to improve your success.


To ensure you’re not just dreaming about a brighter future but actively moving towards it, set tangible, measurable goals and follow a roadmap into the future. Whether boosting occupancy rates or improving customer satisfaction scores, having real targets provides direction and motivation for the team. Without these, you’ll be left to the rhythms of life and back to just hoping for good.


The Big Five

Now that we have identified the benefits of the PPF method, let’s quickly review five key areas to evaluate within your storage operations. We like to call it the Big Five: sales, marketing, team, quality assurance, and customer service.


For each of the above, follow the pattern of the PPF method and ask key questions.



  • Past: How have sales trends evolved in the past? What strategies yielded the best results?
  • Present: What is the current performance like? Are we meeting our targets? Are they set?
  • Future: What new sales strategies or opportunities can we explore? How can we innovate our sales approach to stay ahead?



  • Past: Which marketing campaigns were most effective? What can we learn from the feedback?
  • Present: How are our current marketing efforts performing? Are we engaging our target audience effectively?
  • Future: What emerging marketing trends should we adopt? How can we better align our marketing with customer needs?



  • Past: What strengths and weaknesses have we identified in our team dynamics?
  • Present: How is the team performing? Are there any immediate areas for improvement or training needs?
  • Future: How can we foster a culture of continuous improvement and professional development?



  • Past: What have been our significant quality challenges, and how have we addressed them?
  • Present: What is the current state of our quality assurance practices? Are we on a routine?
  • Future: How can we raise the bar for quality and customer satisfaction? What would excellence look like?



  • Past: What feedback have customers provided about their service experience?
  • Present: How are we currently measuring up to customer expectations? Does our customer base think highly of us?
  • Future: What innovative customer service strategies can we implement to enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction? What does winning in customer service look like?


In weaving these considerations throughout our operations, the PPF method becomes a strategy and a mindset guiding us toward excellence in a simple and accessible format.


Ultimately, hope is not a winning strategy. The diligent application of the PPF method will lead you to operational excellence and success. By learning from yesterday, taking action today, and planning for tomorrow, we will empower ourselves to achieve our goals and fulfill our vision for the future.



Mark Poole, director of operations at Liberty Investment Properties, brings over a decade of expertise in development, acquisitions, operations, and consulting within the self-storage sector. A recognized leader, he has served as president of the Florida Self Storage Association three times and held various influential roles in the industry. Liberty Investment Properties, under his guidance, excels in offering comprehensive consulting services alongside its development and operational ventures. Learn more at or contact him directly at