Understanding Storage Vocabulary

So, what you're saying is...

Don't you love conversations where no matter what you say, the other person does NOT understand you? You're speaking plain English, but nothing is getting through, and the person keeps saying things like, "Yes, I understand," and you are mentally screaming, "No, you don't!" 

Maddening, right?

As you know, there is a lot of jargon (words specific to a certain field) associated with the self storage industry, words like "payment gateway," "Google ranking," "proration," "gate integration," and more. The best way to avoid maddening conversations is to master the "language" of your industry. We'll begin with some basic, but often misunderstood, management jargon. As always, feel free to contact our support team if there are words not on this list which you would like defined: support@storageunitsoftware.com.

Definitions for Facility Managers

  • Integration: There are many different types of integration—integration with your gate program, integration with Quickbooks, integration with your payment gateway (we will explain this in a section below). The word integrate means putting together several parts to make a whole. So, if you are "integrating" a gate program, you are connecting the gate program with something else, like your storage software.  The same applies to Quickbooks. When you integrate with Quickbooks, you connect it to the software holding your customer information. Integration saves you work because the integrated programs can communicate and share data without you having to manually enter it for each program.

    Integration is like a series of extension cords powering a machine. One cord could be your gate or Quickbooks program. Another cord could be your storage software. A third cord might be your computer or even your internet connection.  If there is something wrong with one extension cord, the machine won't work correctly, so it's essential to identify which cord is the actual problem in order to solve the issue.  

  • Payment Gateway:  Simply put, a payment gateway integrates with the customer, with you, and with the customer's bank when processing an online payment. The following diagram demonstrates this:  


  • Merchant Account vs Payment Gateway: Technically, there is another step between the gateway and the bank called the "Merchant Account."  The merchant account is in charge of communicating with the bank and sending the money to you, the owner.  Many payment gateway companies have a merchant account branch to their business.  Storage Rent Payment, for example, has a merchant account branch called "Yapstone."  Yapstone is part of the same company but has different roles.  Transaction Express, as another example, is the name of the gateway, and Transfirst is their company's merchant account. 

  • Google Ranking: In a nation where 92% of people own cell phones, SEO, marketing, and Google ranking are very important! Google ranking is defined by where your website appears on a Google search.  If Jack wants to find a storage facility and searches "Storage in Jackville," which facilities will show up first?  Those on the first page of his search are either ranked "high" by Google, or they have paid to be there. In order for websites to have a high Google ranking, they must fulfill Google's "good website" standards over the period of several months. Marketing professionals help keep your website in good standing with Google and other search engines so people can find you more easily.

  • Domain vs Subdomain: First, when someone says domain or subdomain, he/she is referring to a URL, or an http://blahblahblah.blah.  The domain is like the envelope enclosing a letter; it has all the information necessary to get the letter where it needs to go.  The subdomain is like the content of the envelope, the letter containing all the important information.  The subdomain is what you see when you access your software and was delivered to you via the domain.

  • Web-based: A software that is 100% web-based can be accessed anywhere you have internet.  You do not have to be on a specific computer or device to access your software. If a program requires you to download anything in order for it to function, it is not 100% web-based. 

  • Invoice Post Date vs Bill Date: Have you ever heard someone say the invoice has been posted but not billed yet?  When an invoice posts, that means the customer has been notified of an upcoming bill, but the bill hasn't actually come due yet.  The customer can, if he/she chooses, both see and pay the bill online as soon as it has been posted (if the customer pays before the invoice has been posted, the customer has prepaid).  If you have customers set up on recurring billing, the charge will not happen when the invoice posts (since it typically posts a week before the bill date) but rather when the bill is due.  Late charges and other fees will only begin after the bill date, not when the invoice initially posts. 


Definitions for Storage Tenants

  • Proration: A prorated invoice or a prorated amount is less than what you would normally pay for rent.  Let's say Jill moves into a unit on the 15th of the month. The owners don't think it's fair to charge her a full month's rent, so they are only going to charge her, say, half the usual amount.  The amount Jill will be paying for her first month (or half of a month, anyway) is called the "prorated amount."  Owners may say, "We will prorate your first month and then charge you normal starting your second month."  You should celebrate! This means you are going to be paying less your first month than you will the rest of the time.
  • Autopay/Recurring billing:  If you have given your credit card or bank account information to the facility owner and given permission for your card/account to be charged every month for your rent, you are set up on recurring billing (also called Autopay).  You do not have to re-enter your credit card number or send a check every month for your rent to be paid.  Instead, your credit card will be charged automatically the day your bill is due. You may receive an invoice before your bill date, but your card is NOT charged on this date. Most invoices are sent out a week prior to your bill date when your card is charged.  IMPORTANT: The recurring payment won't automatically charge you for late fees, so be sure to contact your facility manager if you owe something besides rent! He/she should be able to charge your card with your permission to pay the additional amounts. 

  • Credit/Balance/Outstanding: So many financial terms! For our purposes, this is what you need to remember.  "Outstanding" is what you, as a customer, owe.  "Credit" is extra money you have in your account.  "Balance" is a combination of the both—it will show if you owe money (a positive number) or if you have extra money (a negative number) or the difference of what you would owe after your credit pays your balance (also a positive number).  


Nine Steps to Safeguard Against Lawsuits

Two weeks ago Judge Cathy L. Waldorudge approved a $5.08 million settlement against a storage company for auctioning off $8,700 worth of property before the stated deadline.1 In lieu of this and other recent lawsuits, I think we all agree it is important to know how to protect your company.  The following is a list of nine things I've found can help safeguard your business.

  1. Contact Information: A significant number of storage legal issues arise because of insufficient contact information—working phone numbers, emails and, most especially, a reliable alternate contact. Murphy Klasing, a lawyer in Texas, warned about the "nightmare" risks a storage company takes when it doesn't have inadequate contact information. She wrote about one of her clients who sold her house, stored her belongings in a storage unit, and traveled to another country for two years. The management of the facility changed while she was gone, and there was no address, no functioning phone number, and no mention of her leaving the country. When the woman's payments stopped coming through (which was ultimately the storage company's fault), the woman couldn't be reached, and all her belongings were sold in an auction.2 Take the time to make sure you have reliable contact information. Include notes on various customers, especially if he/she travels for work or is in the army and might be deployed.
  2. Business Insurance: Business insurance is one of the best ways to protect yourself.  The Canada Business Network has an unbiased (easy to understand!) website3 educating small business owners on the various types of business insurance. I'd recommend browsing it, even if you have insurance. As a side note, Easy Storage is partnered with an insurance company called StorSmart which can service anywhere in the U.S.. If you want more information on their services, here is a map4 with regional contact information.
  3. Watch What You Say: "Advertising is legalized lying," HG Wells said—a statement which isn't as true as we might think. The Federal Trade Commission5 was organized in part to enforce False Advertising Laws or the "untrue, misleading, or deceptive representation" of services, property, or goods.6  Watch what you say to your clients! If you promise a climate control unit for half price, you'd better give it to them half price. Always keep a detailed record of any promised cuts/deals, and make sure your company contract agreement clearly defines fees and lock-out procedures.
  4. Have an Employee Manual: Believe it or not, employees are one of the most common sources of lawsuits.7  They can sue for any number of reasons: not knowing why they were fired, feeling their complaints weren't taken seriously, receiving poor treatment from a manager, being sexually harassed (even just an unwanted hand on a shoulder), etc. One of the best ways to protect against this is to have a good employee manual that each employee is required to read and sign. Most manuals outline expectations for both the employer and employee in the event of conflict. Should you need to hire a lawyer, it will be one of the first documents requested in your defense.8
  5. Keep your Property Safe: If someone slips and falls on an icy patch of your property, who is sued medical expenses?  You are for not having salt down. If a client brings his dog with him to his unit, and his dog bites another client, who is sued?  There is a high chance you are sued because it was on your property. Any injuries that occur at your sight can potentially land you in a lawsuit, so keep your facility safe and consider adding a section to your lease that aberrates you from any possible complaints. (See Section 14 of this lease as an example.)
  6. Write It Down: Keep detailed records of emails, phone calls, or in-person conversations.  It can even be as simple as: "John came in today and asked about pricing. Told him the $30/month for the 10X10 units."  If John were to ever come to you in the future saying you quoted him $25/month, you would have record of the conversation.  Keep track even if you are good friends with the client. Details are easily forgotten with time, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
  7. Secure your Units: Be aware of how much access your clients have. Many companies have a gate key but not individual unit locks, and even if there are locks, a good pair of bolt cutters can do a lot of damage if someone really wants to steal something . Be sure to abdicate responsibility for stolen items in your client contract.
  8. Know a Lawyer: Now is the best time to ask around and find a reliable lawyer. Hopefully you never have to hire a lawyer, but if you do, you don't want to be looking while stressed with an impending lawsuit.
  9. Educate Yourself: Settlement, litigation, deposition: these are words lawyers use on a regular basis, and it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of the legal process. When a person complains and wants to sue someone else, you have a complainant (also known as a plaintiff) and a defendant.  So John (the complainant) is suing you (the defendant).  You provide your lawyer with documents to build your case.  He/she may ask you to participate in a deposition where you are interviewed under oath and everything said is recorded, typed, and provided as evidence.  Settlement/Mediation occurs when you and the complainant (with your lawyers) agree on a sum of money which will "close" the case.  If you choose not to settle, you enter a stage called litigation where the case is brought before a court. The costs of litigation are astounding, so it is best to settle if possible. For more information, I'd recommend researching civil law prezis.9


Bibliography
1. Ed. Amy Campbell, "Judge Approves $5M Class-Action Settlement Against Self-Storage REIT Extra Space," July 2017, http://www.insideselfstorage.com/news/2017/07/judge-approves-5m-class-action-settlement-against-self-storage-reit-extra-space.aspx
2. Murphy Klasing, "10 Ways Self-Storage Operators Can Avoid a Wrongful Sale," July 2017, http://www.insideselfstorage.com/articles/2017/07/10-ways-selfstorage-operators-can-avoid-a-wrongful-sale.aspx
3. Government of Canada, "Insurance for your Small Business," https://canadabusiness.ca/managing-your-business/day-to-day-operations/protecting-your-business/insurance/insurance-for-your-small-business/
4. StorSmart, "StorSmart Representative Territory Map," July 2017, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BznWCQRtS8CgRmQ3bkhKZEM4N25PU2xVRktSQnFEWVpsXzJF/view
5. Federal Trade Commission, "Truth in Advertising," https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/truth-advertising
6. FindLaw, "False Advertising," http://dictionary.findlaw.com/definition/false-advertising.html
7. Kelly Sports, &"Is your Small Business Prepared for a Lawsuit?" https://sba.thehartford.com/managing-risk/is-your-small-business-prepared-for-a-lawsuit
8. Paycor HR Management, "8 Reasons you should have a Company Employee Handbook," May 16, 2017, https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/8-reasons-your-organization-should-have-an-employee-handbook
9. F.K. "Civil Law" June 17, 2013, https://prezi.com/awsgjqjwvhby/civil-law/

Have you heard about the ESS Access Control?

One of the most common issues we deal with over at Easy Storage Solutions has to do with gates. Whether it being them not syncing, problems with the computer controlling the gate or even it just being broken. We decided it was time to come up with our own solution to better help serve our clientele. What we decided on was to partner with the company 'PDK' to help our customers get the best service we can possibly provide.

Our system is called 'ESS Access Control'  it is a web-based we found that the old gate software and hardware's out there have been become very archaic and just don't provide the customer support that's needed to help keep your gates up and running properly like they should be. Now that we have partnered with PDK we can now help our customers even more than we could before. 

Here are some of the benefits that our new system gives to our customers:

  1. All you need is an internet connection! We send you the hardware -Cloud Node Gate Controller - Ruggedized Keypad - Pedestal - Power Supply - Backup Battery - Wires - Cables.
  2. No more dedicating a Windows PC to your gate software! Windows firewalls and constant updates often cause problems communicating with your gate. This solution eliminates those problems.
  3. Seamless integration with Easy Storage Solutions Software! Manage gate codes directly from your Easy Storage Software. Codes are sent to the gate controller instantly! Customers can choose and change their own gate codes!
  4. Never lose your data! Being a web based software you will never have to worry about hard drive failures.
  5. Backup battery! Keep your gate codes useable even in a power outage.
  6. Great customer service! It's no secret that other gate software companies don't have a reputation for good customer service. With the web-based gate software, you will get help Directly from us!

If you're interested in the ESS Access Control gate system feel free to call Easy Storage Solutions at 888-958-5967. We have a dedicated staff waiting to hear from you. To get a quote we need the following information:

1. How many access points (gates or doors) do you need access control on?

2. How many readers to you need at each entry point? 1 or 2? (One on entry and one on exit) The gate controller(Cloud node) can have 2 readers connected to it

3. What kind of pedestal do you want for your reader(s) http://pedestalceo.com/pedestals/height/ you can choose (42-9C-BLK is the most common)

4. What kind of hood would you like? (6x6 fits the best) http://pedestalceo.com/hoods/shape/

5. Do you have an office where you can install the Cloud Node? If not is there a climatized unit with power near the gate?

6. How many feet will be between each reader and the Cloud Node (so we can price out how many feet of 22/6 conductor cable (reader wire) you need. How far from the cloud node to the door opener? 18/2 (gate opener wire)

7. Who is installing your gate that will be opening and closing? Does that installer have a gate opener they will be installing?  Note: The gate opener/motor needs to be wired to the Cloud Node.  We are not providing or selling gate openers at the current moment

8. The weather/temperature rating for the cloudnode is 32-122 degrees Fahrenheit and 0-95% relative humidity non-condensing.


9. Does your area require an "SOS" or "Siren Operated Sensor"?

10. Shipping Address

11.  If you have multiple doors/gates, will the other gate/door have access to a power outlet? If not, you will need a high voltage power converter.  Power into the Cloudnode is 12VAC

Here at Easy Storage Solutions we're always looking for the best way to serve our customers.  


Finding the Facility that Suits your Needs

Finding a storage facility to rent at isn't as easy as you might think. There are a lot of things to consider before signing that contract. Say you bust open that dusty old phone book that's been lying around your house for the past few years and you open it up to 'Storage units'. Calling the first one you see in that book and renting then and there might not be the best decision. Since who knows how that facility is really running their business? In this article I'm going to list some ways to find the storage facility that's right for you.

First things first. We need to get online and actually search up the storage facilities that are in your area. Doing a quick Google search is fine to find some of the facilities in your area. Not all of them might not be on that list so you might have to look around more than just the front page! But at a quick glance you'll see some ratings ranking the best rated facilities in your area. This is a good way to get an idea from other actual customer reviews to see what will best fit for you. Since you're already on our site; 'Storage Units Near Me' you must be on the search for a unit! If you use our site you'll be able to see every storage facility in your area. What services they provide, pricing, customer reviews, and even renting out a unit online then and there! 

Before you rent out that unit let's go over some tips to find that perfect fit.
You need to know what size of unit to rent. A college student renting out a storage unit shouldn't be needing more than a '5x10' to store all of their belongings. Any bigger than that may just be a waste of space and money. A family, depending on what they plan on storing will probably need something a bit bigger than that. A '10x15' will actually fit around 3 bedrooms worth of storage. Which would be plenty for any small sized family. For the larger families we would recommend going for a '10x30' you can store an entire 5-7 bedroom home in this unit type!
(This is a size of a '10x30' you'll be amazed how much you could actually store in here!)
10'x30' Storage Unit
Thinking back to those reviews you saw from earlier. Did any of them mention any rodents or pests at the facility? If so it might be best to move on. No one wants to move into a roach-ridden facility. Cleanliness is a huge factor for this. If they keep their facility clean and keep the pests out is a huge plus in my eye!

Going back to the phone book from earlier it might be time to finally give that store facility a call that you think will be the best fit for you. When you call them be sure to ASK QUESTIONS! If they seem shady about anything or wont answer your questions you should probably think about calling a different facility instead. A manager that's friendly and upfront about everything is a key part of finding that perfect storage unit. Having an owner or manager that's willing to help you anyway they can is huge! Nobody wants to be stuck inside the gate because of a gate malfunction or lockout. An owner that's willing to talk to you is and always will be a big deal.

With these few tips we hope you can find that storage unit that's right for you. Using Storage Units Near Me, Google and other search sites will help you get on your way!

Seven Tips to Make your Tenant's Move-in Easier

When people start packing and moving it's almost always going to be done quickly and haphazardly. Many people throw all their belongings in big boxes and stack them with no rhyme or reason.

Self-storage operators will be able to help their tenants from this headache by providing some tips and suggestions on organization and ideas to make their unit more structured. These 7 tips will help your tenants fix and organize their belongings and avoid any stress during moving in or out of your unit.


Provide Label Makers

Boxes clearly marked with labels are much easier to organize and find. A way to encourage this organization system is to invest in a label maker and loan them out to your new tenants. It could be a way to make some extra cash and provide a nice service others might not. One large label on each box can go a long way. You could also provide an inventory sheet that your tenants can use to keep track of their belongings. Another way of helping your customers is offering your tenants "fragile" stickers. These can give them another layer of protection so the items don't get damaged in their move. You should suggest to your tenants that moving the most fragile boxes towards the back so they won't be moved around or damaged if the tenant needs to sort through their belongings in the future.


Sell Packing Materials

Many self-storage facilities offer packing materials. This provides your tenants with a valuable service and also offers you to make some extra money. During their move-in, a lot of people find out they need to repack their belongings in order to stack them without harming any of the contents. This is where you come in! By providing your customers with an array of packing materials, tapes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and protective sheeting. Or even moth balls if the customer wants to store a lot of clothes. You can help their move become so much easier.


Offer a Variety of Boxes       

Whether they need plastic tubs to keep items airtight or plain cardboard boxes, providing customers with a variety of options gives them flexibility to organize all their goods as efficiently as possible. When deciding what boxes to offer, think about what sizes will fit best in your storage units. Smaller boxes may be preferable, as they help keep items in organized groups that can be quickly sorted through. Stock hanging-clothes boxes that tenants can use to organize their clothing efficiently, and keep their wardrobe clean and wrinkle-free.  

Consider Shelving Options

Help your tenants get the most out of their unit by providing shelves. Find out what sizes are able to fit your units and have them on hand to be rented out. You could also provide them a service of installing the shelving for them. For a fee of course! Shelving can make so much more space available in a unit and make it much more organized. Renting out wooden pallets is also a good idea. Pallets keep their belongings from being on the floor to better protect them from the elements. They can be pricey though. Suggest them to renters that plan on staying for a long time.

Create Layout Maps for Units

Encourage your customers to use that inventory sheet we mentioned earlier in the blog. With this they can have a detailed and clear assessment of everything they packed. Print out a diagram of the unit as well. Having a visual reference your tenants can see can make things so much easier. Many first time renters can be very confused of the layout of a unit. Having these things ready will make their move-in easier, faster, and pain free.  

Offer Advice on Storing Heavy-Duty Equipment

As a storage facility owner you’ve seen a lot to know whats best for packing and arranging boxes in a neat and orderly and safe manner. Use your experience to help your tenants with larger items. Storing items like lawn mowers or power tools can be hazardous if not stored or taken care of properly. These items can cause damage from fluid drains and not being cleaned before being stored. Hardware such as this should be stored onto a plastic sheet or tarp to protect the storage unit from any damages. Another sheet should be placed on-top to protect any of their other stored items from damage as well. Always let your tenants know which items are not allowed to be stored in your facility before renting the units.

Refer Tenants to Dependable Moving Companies

Many of your customers have no idea who to trust or if they’re actually going to be geting a good deal from a moving company. By providing a list of moving companies that you consider to be reliable or trustworthy, you can give your customers more peace of mind during their move. Try talking to the companies you deem reliable before though. In return these companies could refer you new customers to your facility for their storage needs. By providing your experience and knowledge to your new tenants and offering these services listed above will make everyone happier. It makes you look good and also keeps a smile on their faces.

Should I be sending out text messages?

    
Self storage owners need to make paying for a unit for their customers as easy as possible. One way to do this is through text messages. SMS text messages allow the facilities managers or owner be able to get into contact easier, and usually faster. Everyone is now living in a virtual world and always on their phones. Sending alerts through text is the way to go in today’s society. There are some things to consider though. Before you set up automatic text messages to your customers
    
You need to let your tenants know that they’re going to be receiving these messages. They have the right to know which messages that are being sent.. The tenants have a right to opt out at anytime. The system should only be sending out texts at certain times too! (9AM-8PM) for example. No one wants to be woken up by texts in the middle of the night! Please don’t bombard them with messages either!  Maybe an invoice and or a late fee text is enough!    Texts are an awesome way to get your customers attention and are usually appreciated. The messages you send out have a link to pay their bills or just even a link to their statement. A timely payment reminder can help customers avoid late fees, which they’ll appreciate! Your younger tenants, (college students) are much more likely to be reading your texts then answering your phone calls to them. So while it’s a great feature to have. Just don’t abuse it! Easy Storage Solutions is currently working on a two-way text messaging system. We should have some news on it in the near future.