Feasibility to Operations: Benefits of a Self Storage Consultant


Congratulations on entering the self storage business! Now that you’ve made the decision to get into this booming industry, however, you may find yourself in a little bit over your head. After all, there is a lot to consider when getting started – especially if you’re building from the ground up. So, let’s look at the various ways self storage consulting services can make the process go as smoothly as possible.

What is a Self Storage Consultant?

Short answer: The first professional you should contact when getting into the business! Self storage consultants are experts in the industry and can set you up for success while also helping you avoid costly mistakes. Sure, there may be setbacks, delays, and some unexpected expenses, but a consultant will help get you through all of them.

5 Steps in the Self Storage Consultancy Process

From the initial self storage feasibility report to the transition from construction to operations, there are five stages in the self storage client-consultant relationship.

1. Feasibility

Most banks and Small Business Association lenders require a self storage feasibility study, which is a consultant’s expert opinion on the financial viability of your planned property. The study estimates construction costs and determines viability based on size and location, local research (such as demand and competition), and industry standards and trends. The feasibility report may also include an estimate of what the facility might be worth once it’s built and rented.  It’s better to spend a little money at the beginning of a project and find out that your assumptions may be wrong than spending millions of dollars in development and find out when it’s too late.

2. Planning

Your consultant meets with you and your self storage architects before any construction begins, reviewing the first drafts of plans and making suggestions as necessary. As plans are revised, the consultant will continue reviewing them until he or she is comfortable with them. Don’t make the mistake of ditching the consultant after obtaining the feasibility study and bank approval; it’s extremely important to have a consultant on board during planning who will catch mistakes that novice owners may be prone to (and that architects and contractors may not consider). Your consultant will be sure to look at the need for:

  • Unit mix
  • Loading areas
  • Elevators
  • Restrooms
  • Curb appeal
  • Customer parking
  • Office size and design
  • Climate control
  • Security systems
  • Proper lighting

These can all be areas that novice owners (or their architects) may not think about until the build is complete, which can lead to problems following the launch of the business (and expensive rework to correct the problems). We’ll highlight some examples of poor planning in a bit.

3. Submission

When you, your architect, and the consultant have all signed off on the plans, it’s time to submit them to the city for approval and get permitting. If there are any hiccups, the consultant will work with you to make adjustments in order to get approval.

4. Construction

During this phase, you’ll want to meet with your consultant regularly and have them attend any construction meetings with self storage architects, builders, suppliers, and others to offer valuable suggestions. They may be able to troubleshoot problems and anticipate challenges not initially foreseeable in the planning stage.

5. Operations

Following construction, a good self storage consultant will help you transition to operations, offering suggestions for office setup, staffing, marketing, and more. The consultant may also be able to teach you ways to build customer relationships, lower delinquency rates, and so on. This part of consultancy could last for up to a month or until you’re ready to be on your own. Once you’re in a good place, the relationship can essentially be over, but if the experience was a good one, you’ll want to keep their number on speed dial should you ever have any other needs or questions.

The Dangers of Not Using a Self Storage Consultant

Wondering how someone could forget about lighting, an elevator, or any of the other potential areas we’d mentioned earlier? It happens more often than you might think! Inside Self-Storage recently highlighted some mistakes that new self storage owners made when constructing their facility, which led to expensive rework and/or unhappy clients.

  • An owner didn’t consider unit mix, and built a facility comprised entirely of 10×10 units because they were considered “the most popular.” Worse yet, he used stick and stucco for construction making it extremely costly to reconfigure the units. A consultant would have recommended a better unit mix or movable wall panels.
  • An owner had been told not to install electricity or people might try to live in the units. Of course, renters of his 10×30 units located off interior hallways struggled to find their stored items in the dark back area of their 30-foot-deep spaces. A consultant would have suggested lighting or motion sensors in larger units.
  • An owner built a two-story facility without an elevator. Of course, he struggled to find renters willing to lug their items up and down stairs, resulting in a lot of vacant units. A consultant would have recommended an elevator and suggested dolly rentals and other ancillary services to eventually cover the investment.
  • An owner assumed his office space wouldn’t need more than a desk, and built it as a 10×15 unit. A consultant would have advised him on making the office larger for retail items (boxes, packing supplies, ancillary equipment, etc) as well as a break room and restroom.

Don’t be like these owners and forget what, in hindsight, might be truly obvious solutions. Be sure to hire a self storage consultant and keep one on the project until the transition to operations is complete.

Self Storage Consulting Services with Storelocal

Wondering how to conduct a self storage consultant search? You’ll find plenty available online with reviews to help you make your decision. Of course, by joining the Storelocal® cooperative you can use one of our vetted, expert consultants! Storelocal is the only self storage cooperative in the country. It consists of a group of self-storage owners and operators who work together to increase their competitive advantage in the marketplace. By joining forces, they are able to leverage new and existing resources, such as self storage consultants, to lower operational costs and increase profit – all while remaining independent. Interested in learning more about our cooperatives? Check out StoreLocal today!