About four years ago, Lewisville Self Storage had a problem.
Its occupancy levels were not up to par, despite being located alongside Interstate 35, a heavily trafficked stretch of highway north of Dallas.
Lewisville Self Storage is just one of six locations owned by North Texas Storage, an independent self-storage operator located in the Dallas area. Co-owner Wayne Ray and his business partner R. O’Neal Gray, opened the 103,000-square-foot facility in 2005.
Ray decided a new manager was in order at Lewisville, so he hired one of his customers Jay Washam, to take the reigns.
“Jay has done a fantastic job over the last few years building that property up,” Ray said.
When Washam came on board in 2011, occupancy at the 658-unit facility was around 50 percent.
“During my tenure here we brought occupancy up between 25 and 30 percent,” Washam said.
Now occupancy is close to 80 percent and still improving, he said.
Washam, whose previous experience includes 11 years as a controller at North American Van Lines, said that two strategies drastically improved operations at the facility.
Focus on Transparency
One factor that Washam said has contributed to the growth of the facility is his effort to educate potential customers on how to shop self-storage. His main message to customers is to watch out for “hidden” administration fees and insurance charges that some other facilities may add to a customer’s bill.
“I create a trustworthy image of our operation in their minds,” Washam said, “That’s what brings them to me after they are done shopping.”
Washam believes in being completely upfront and transparent about charges that a prospective tenant will have to pay when they first call the facility, which is an aspect of the facility’s approach to customer service.
Washam said Lewisville Self Storage doesn’t sell insurance policies to customers and only requires it if they are storing more than $5,000. He advises tenants to check to see if their belongings are covered by their existing homeowner’s or renter’s policy before signing up for self-storage tenant insurance.
Washam also advises customers not to sign the rental contract until the day they are ready to move in because the facility charges prorated rent for the current month instead of billing on an anniversary cycle.
“With a first of the month cycle, we can use the prorate as a tool to save the new tenant a few dollars when they move in,” Washam said, “That gesture sticks in the mind and helps create referrals down the road.”
Another key component of Washam’s lease up success was outreach to local apartment complexes. Washam distributed flyers to each of the apartment complexes in a three-mile radius of the facility.
For each complex he created a flyer with an image of the apartment complex and map showing directions to the facility. He then took the specially designed flyer to the apartment manager and asked if he could put them out.
“They see their name and they see the attention to detail and it gets their attention,” Washam said.
Washam also said it is important to maintain relationships with the apartment managers.
“About twice a year I go out and meet face to face with the manager for a few minutes. If I get a lot of business from them I bring them bagels,” he said.
The kind of personal touch Washam brings to Lewisville Self-Storage is something national operators can’t emulate, Ray said.
“Jay has formed relationships with the apartment people and other businesses in the area and that has had a big impact,” he said.
Ray counts on North Texas Storage outdoing the major storage chains when it comes to customer service.
“One of our biggest sources of customers is repeat customers and referrals,” Ray said, “If they come back we are excited. That means we treated them the way they want to be treated.”