A Look at the 2015 SSA Spring Conference & Trade Show
…from a Property Manager’s Perspective
by Dana Sinsheimer, Certified Self Storage Manager & Jaclyn Woerth, Property Manager
This year’s SSA (Self Storage Association) Spring Conference and Trade Show was held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Washington, D.C. the show took place over three days, Wednesday, March 11th through Friday, March 13th.
The overall atmosphere of the SSA Spring Conference was fast paced and upbeat, with something for new attendees as well as something for veterans in the industry. For the first time in our company’s history, every single employee of the Investment Real Estate Group of Companies had the privilege to attend the show on Thursday and take advantage of the Trade Show, round table sessions and many of the educational sessions. Many of our employees also attended on Wednesday and Friday as well.
The trade show floor was much like attending any trade or farm show as a consumer; there are vendors showcasing products and services with the goal to secure new customers and spread awareness of their company throughout the industry. The differences came in the variety of vendors:
Many were other storage companies throughout the nation, which enabled us to meet and greet with our peers – other owners, property managers and so on.
Others were companies who provide a service directly to a facility, some of which we already use and some our competitors use. This gave us the opportunity to speak to reps from those companies in person and discuss aspects of their products or services for which we may have questions, and to see if there are better options for us out there.
It was rewarding to see the large variety of people and companies which make up the self storage industry all in one place. These types of shows are really the only way to get all these companies from across the country into one place at one time and afford us the chance to “shop around” for products and services we use every day, and network with our colleagues.
Round Table Sessions
One of the more personal and informal aspects of the conference that was very beneficial were the round table sessions. Each round table session was around 20 minutes long and was focused around one particular aspect of self storage. Each table had a moderator or presenter who led the conversation and provided information, tips and methods to achieve the success they have achieved, all geared toward helping you do the same or at least adapt your methods to make it work. There were three sessions total, and 30 topics to choose from. There were topics for all areas of interest, everything from saving on income taxes and expanding your facility to online marketing tactics and Google rankings.
A large portion of the afternoon on Thursday and the morning on Friday was devoted to educational sessions. There were several directed at property managers while the others were geared toward owners and operators. These sessions were beneficial if you were new to the industry or wanted a refresher course if you have been around a long time. Our property managers attended the sessions created directly for them, while our corporate office was split between the two types.
Dana’s Perspective, as a Seasoned Property Manager
This year’s SSA Spring Conference and trade show was my first in almost four years of experience in the self storage industry. I had set specific goals for what I wanted to learn and the new trends I wanted to learn more about. With main events like the Young Leaders Group (YLG) meeting, ‘Best Practices, Policies and Operations’ Summit, and the vendor Trade Show, I was able to find answers to all my open questions and even added to my education within the industry at an amazing speed.
The trade show built on my knowledge of how self storage is ever changing; from what our customers and tenants see to all the behind-the-scenes stuff managers see every day. Technologies are advancing; online features available to customers and new amenities being added to facilities were countless. Software and programs that property managers use every day to run a facility are on their way to making operations seamless and stress-free.
The SSA spring conference hosted a session of round table discussions, which has become one of the most popular events at every show. Popular topics included tenant insurances and how customers can be protected during rentals, increasing knowledge on auctions and how to get motivated to market facilities and increase local awareness of your brand.
Both evenings hosted a general reception for all registrants to mix and network. Thursday’s reception allowed for the entire team to experience the conference together. Property managers mingled and got to know others in the industry for which they never would have in any other setting. Some of the best education I left the conference with came from these very relaxed events.
Jacki’s Perspective, as a new Property Manager
Being new to the business, I decided to attend round tables that were focused on subjects where I had limited knowledge. The first one I attended was on marketing, which is something very important to continuing to grow your business and secure new customers. I have never actively marketed on a face to face level before, so I was interested in learning some tips and ideas on making the process easier. I always imagined that you have to do a lot of planning and spend a lot of money to do most marketing actions, but the speaker definitely had some fast, easy and inexpensive methods of getting your name out to the public and through local businesses. And, just the excitement level of the speaker and what she was doing made me believe that as long as you don’t look at it as a burden or an all-consuming task, it doesn’t have to be! Keeping things simple and fun was the name of the game, and she was very effective at doing just that.
My next round table spoke to the process of lien sales. I wish they would have spoken more about the management aspect of giving notice to lien tenants and proper etiquette to approaching due dates, but the subject went more in the direction of online auctions. I did find this interesting, but it did not help me formulate conclusions on the subject of my concerns. However, if we decide to start using online options in the future, I learned some great and helpful insight on how to go about it. So it was still a win-win in my book.
I also went to a round table on the difference of Loyal Customers vs. Satisfied Customers. This probably sounds a little confusing, but the things that helped me to clarify the difference were the speaker stating this following:
The Loyal Customer is the one who recommends your business without expecting perks or rewards, one that appreciates your customer care and facility on its own basis and will continue using or return to you even if they find better prices somewhere else.
The Satisfied Customer is the one who is looking for every little aspect to be met to a particular standard, expects discounts and special treatment just because, and wants everything to be given to them. They would most likely change to another store if they found one cheaper and never recommend you unless they received some sort of incentive to do so.
I found this round table particularly helpful, and when the speaker found out that I was new to the business he gave me a book to read and reference on the matter! (“Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless” by Jeffrey Gitomer). I was also able to sit after and have an individual conversation with him. He had a lot of tips that I can start using right away. In the end, he genuinely invited me to contact him with any questions I may have in the future. “A+” on this one for sure!
Both educational sessions I attended gave insightful tips and knowledge that even someone with as little experience as I have could understand and put into practice easily:
The time management session spoke to the daily, weekly and monthly tasks of a property manager. It focused on how to break things down that may optimize use of your day and facility. Mainly he brought into focus that habits and routines are going to make staying on task and schedule easiest.
I found the education session on lien sales a great supplement to the round table I sat in on previously. The main thing I took out of this session was making sure you are aware of your state laws and company’s policies concerning anything done online. Also, if and when online auctions are available and you decide to take advantage of them, to do your research and find the best fit for you (I would say this would be important to the consumer as well). Another big thing that she stated was that “once you know, you can’t unknow”, which is probably helpful in every aspect of business really. I took that to mean that anything you learn that may seem like an important issue or that you may not know the answer to, don’t be afraid to find out. Because if you don’t, it can bring liability back that could have been avoided easily by doing something differently.
Overall, our entire team got a lot of benefit from this year’s show. Several employees are now involved in the Young Leaders Group (YLG) for the SSA, which is brand new and directed at building the leaders of tomorrow within the industry. They will attend meetings and seminars throughout the year and continue to grow and learn. And, every employee can now say they have attended a trade show that was all about self storage! There is no doubt that every one of them learned at least one new thing and will start implementing that into their daily work routine.
If you have any questions about self storage or the SSA spring conference and trade show we just attended, please contact us today or reach out to your property manager directly. Every one of us is now more educated about self storage and ready to help our customers with all of their self storage needs!