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Staying Current in a Fast-Paced World

Jun 17, 2011

by Silvia Pendleton, Director of Marketing & Membership

As a small business owner, it just isn’t easy staying up with emerging trends and technology.  Before joining TSSA as a staff member I helped manage the self-storage facility that my husband and I own.  Every day we focused on providing the very best customer service possible, keeping our files and records up-to-date, ensuring that the facility was in tip-top shape with available units ready to rent, and the other dozen or so daily chores that occupy the day.  Just taking phone calls or making collection calls can eat up a good portion of the time.  Then there are the month-end invoicing duties and following up with tenants, plus carving out some time for marketing.  There’s just never a dull moment, is there?

The amount of time available for marketing, and such, depends on the size of the facility and the occupancy level, and there are seasonal ups and downs as well.  But anyone actively managing, promoting and marketing a facility stays occupied throughout the day.  So when does a small operator find the time to market and stay abreast of evolving technology?

Even though both my husband and I are fairly attuned to technology and emerging trends, both of us had previously had access to plenty of in-house sources with our employers. We hadn’t had to set up a website on our own.  Navigating the waters from a small business owner’s perspective was tricky.  I’d always had access to an entire department that handled the design, creation and updates of the websites that I supervised for my corporate clients.  My husband designed computer chips, for goodness sake!  We felt we were sufficiently knowledgeable to tackle the challenge.  Wrong.

We eventually hired someone to design our website and even though it wasn’t everything I’d hoped for, given our budget, we made it work…for a while.  The monthly hosting fees plus the difficulty in updating information on the site drove my husband to a web building class!  Armed with his newly acquired knowledge, we dumped the hosting service and migrated the site to our own domain.  And there it sits.  Thankfully it at least serves its purpose and gives us a presence on the web which does generate some leads for the facility.  If TSSA’s web builder program had been available at the time, it would’ve saved us many a heartache and a lot of money.  If you don’t have a website for your facility, check it out.  It’s a quick template-based program that walks you through the process – it’s completely free, including the hosting.  All part of your Member Benefits!  I don’t know about you, but an easy to use program PLUS free hosting sounds pretty good to me.

Part of our marketing plan included attending community events and participating in the Chamber of Commerce functions.  These events helped introduce us to the business owners in the area and it kept us from feeling isolated.  (Since we previously worked for companies that employed a hundred people or so, we were both missing that level of interaction with co-workers.)  But I still felt like I just wasn’t keeping up with emerging trends.  When I was part of the corporate world, I’d had a steady stream of trade magazines to peruse, conversations with others in the office that sparked ideas and I often attended seminars and training workshops --- all aimed at maintaining a competitive advantage. 

I had to find substitutes to maintain that competitive advantage…just in a different industry!  TSSA provided the necessary resources.  The magazine articles provided insight into many aspects of the industry and the educational events provided the opportunity to continue learning and growing.  Discussion with other professionals in the business took place at the convention and the luncheons. 

Since starting as an employee of TSSA, I have a different perspective on the annual convention, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the anticipation and the eagerness to hear what others are doing to improve their business. What have others tried recently? Are there new opportunities out there?  How can I apply this new knowledge to my business?  Who will I meet this year that will spark a new idea?

I’m hoping it’ll be you!  I for one am very glad that TSSA exists and was there with information and the resources to help me get started in the industry.  I’ll be drinking a toast in honor of TSSA’s 25th anniversary and wishing them many more!! 


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