Being in the business of storage containers can be quite lucrative. And being in business with your family can be a wonderful thing, too. Why not do both? Read on for a recent post from one of Boxwell’s partners, Stella. They are a web-based portable storage management platform to help businesses with their sales, customer experience, operations, and billing. In their post, Stella gives tips to family-run businesses of storage containers.
Post adapted from blog written by Cathy Putnam of Stella Software:
Over the years, we have worked with many family companies in the business of storage containers. One thing is for sure, these are the nicest clients I have ever worked with. Sometimes too nice, but we’ll get to that. These companies can be set in their ways and have formed habits that often are hurting them. The impetus behind starting your own business is to be your own boss and make your own decisions including when you’ll go on vacation! And you want to be the best local option for your industry and provide the best storage containers and customer service. After all, you live in the same town where you run your business. This comes with its pros and cons. You’re always going to do right by your clients. Even if it means offering the lowest rates or waiving fees.
Being a family-run storage container business can be tricky. Often, family businesses are comprised of a husband/wife, father/son, or mother/daughter combo, which comes with its challenges. Are you going to “manage” your family member the way you would an employee with whom you don’t have a personal history? Likely not. And how comfortable are you telling Mrs. Jones down the road that you had a rate increase? If you’ve been doing it the way your dad, mom, or your grandparent was doing it, likely everything is a handshake and written down “somewhere.”
Running a storage container business efficiently requires organization. If you are a family-owned operation, you need to know where all your storage containers are located. And it is key to offer your customers extras, such accessories or insurance, for example. It’s also important to stay on top of your collections. So how can be in a family-run business of storage containers without giving away the farm (aka, your retirement)? Below are a few tips from Stella that can help make your storage container business more profitable, save you time, and provide the best price and customer services in your area:
When you’re in the business of storage containers, managing your family member employees can be complicated. Emotions can get in the way, and this hinders your ability to delegate properly and set proper goals to grow your business. So, it’s a good idea to hire at least one employee outside of the family. Luckily, portable storage businesses have very little overhead. You just need someone to manage the day-to-day affairs and a driver.
As the owner/operator, you should be to make the phones ring, manage your employees with weekly meetings and goal-setting goals, and try new things to increase your revenue/profit. Many people feel like they’ll lose control by hiring someone. But think of it as gaining freedom. According to the HR Daily Advisor, “An external candidate may provide a fresh perspective, which can be beneficial for the team and for the organization—it can help to get out of old habits.
You’re in the portable storage containers business to make money, right? One of the most frustrating things we see is when companies are charging dirt low monthly rates and transportation fees when they don’t have to. Your rates should be set based on competitive analysis along with what the market will bear. If you have a customer who has been paying $125 for a 40’ storage container for 5 years, it’s time for a rate increase. Just be sure your contract mentions a rate increase. Come up with a weekly process (for any new employees) to create a template to pull rates of all the local competitors.
Most say if your lead response time is within 5 minutes, you will close the deal. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”
In today’s day and age, customers pay for a service when it happens. For products such as storage containers or other rental scenarios (trucks, machinery, housing, etc.), it should be easy to make a reservation with a credit card. And paying the delivery and first month’s rent upfront is standard. So, businesses with storage containers should build their billing policies accordingly. As a mom-and-pop business, always have your standard policies set in place. Otherwise, you’ll spend precious time chasing money. To reserve a storage container, require a credit card to be on file. The card will not be charged until the day prior to the delivery (after all you are renting them an expensive asset). And have a cancellation and reschedule policy. Customers should manage their own money.
No matter where you live, how old you are, or what you do for a living, most people have a credit card. Are there red flags? Identify them and have a plan. This does not mean you won’t make the exception of accepting cash, ACH or a physical check. Make the exception! But it’s just that. An exception. And you must know that consequences are often paired with exceptions. These are usually the ones you spend the most time on. But if many of your customers are following your policy, your company’s health will improve. Policies save time and money. If you have a large volume of repeat business from a corporate customer who requests to be invoiced, set your terms and policies, late fees, etc. and follow them. Have an annual contract. Policies are in place to protect you. Do not pick up an empty storage container if there is a past due balance, for example. Your lease agreement should cover all your policies.
Once you have your policies in place and have hired an outside employee, look at what else your storage container business can offer. Have you ever considered offering contents insurance or a container damage waiver? These can provide peace of mind to you and the client. Plus, they are highly profitable offerings that every customer needs. The customer is buying a policy that costs roughly $6-$10/month to the insurance vendor. And you are investing time to manage the relationship with the vendor, handle reporting, etc. So, it’s standard to upcharge by 30-50%.
Then there are all the necessities your renter needs, such as locks, moving supplies, dolly or ramp rentals. What about offering a discounted rental package that includes all the things they’ll need if they are moving? What about shelving or electricity or vents for your construction customers? Moving blankets, ratchet straps, plastic totes. Come up with creative ways to market these add-ons! Now running your business has become a bit more creative and rewarding again!
If you use Excel and QuickBooks to run your business and manage your storage container inventory, you’re spending an extra 5-10 hours a week doing manual data entry/billing that otherwise can be managed by automation software. There are many software options out there for businesses with storage containers. It may seem daunting, as change is hard. But change is also what can bring you to another level in your business. Check out another blog on the benefits of automations and how Stella can help your storage container business thrive!
Your family started your storage container business to have freedom and make a living. Your aim is to offer a stellar product and service to your neighbors. But it’s becoming more and more challenging over the years. So, it’s time to tap into your creative business mind again. It’s time to churn up new avenues of growth. up the nitty gritty pieces. As per the 1971 Sitcom, The Brady Bunch, “When it’s Time to Change, you’ve got to Rearrange.”
Cathy Putnam is the president of Stella Software, which is a management software tool developed for portable storage operators. Cathy specializes in media sales, marketing, and customer relations. She has a keen understanding of the unique and ever-changing needs of the storage industry.
At the core, Boxwell uses a hands-on approach to the storage container business that is carried throughout everything we do. When we need to talk, we pick up the phone. If there are questions, we demo our product. And when we’re intrigued with something new, we give it a try. If a team member needs help, we offer it. When our community needs support, we lend our resources. With compassion and innovative ways of “thinking outside of the box,” anything is possible. That’s our culture.
When building Boxwell, Rod Bolls set out to create a company that prioritizes a balance between working hard and playing hard. He aligns a strong business model with a strong team and a sustainable work environment. To achieve an ideal company culture, Rod nurtures every relationship. For example. this includes customers, partners, vendors, local non-profits, neighborhood sports teams, and museums.
Our storage containers include drive-up self-storage units, relocatable self-storage units, portable storage containers, moving containers, and restoration containers. Boxwell units can help you increase your business’ revenue-generating space with units in a variety of sizes, including our new 10 x 20 units and our 8 x 20 units. Our portable containers and relocatable self-storage units are flexible, stackable, and beautiful! Boxwell is here to ensure that our products help you achieve your business goals.