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Hey everyone, welcome to the Janus Connected podcast! For the first episode, our Senior Copywriter talked with Troy Bix, the President of our R3: Restore. Rebuild. Replace Division and all about his background in the self-storage industry. Take a listen to their conversation and get some insights from this industry veteran!
Rachael Wheeler: Can you just give us a little overview of how you got into the industry and how you ended up at Janus?
Troy Bix: Early on in my career, I was doing a lot of construction work - concrete, some framing, and things of that nature in the residential and commercial sectors in Arizona. I was in my early 20s and started looking around at these guys that had bad backs and were going through physical ailments at a relatively early age. I thought “I like building, I like making things happen” but I wasn’t keen on walking around bent over in my mid-twenties. So really what I did was going to college at night, doing construction during the day, and I really answered an ad in the old fashioned way of getting a job in the newspaper.
It was with a company called MiniCo. MiniCo had a publication called Real Estate Salespeople and another called Mini Storage Messenger (MSM). They saw that I was going to real estate school as well, and doing some things in Marketing, Advertising, and PR side of business, and they called me in for an interview. I thought “Uh-oh." I actually didn’t even know how to tie a tie correctly! I had to run over to my mom and dad's house and Dad said, "Let me take care of that for ya!" I went in for the interview and they said “What makes you think you can do this?”. It was for Advertising Sales, classifieds, and display ads. I said “I’m not afraid to talk to people, and I’m not afraid to ask for the order.” I got another interview after that (and had to buy a different color tie!) and went in. About a week later they asked when I could start.
I actually started with Hardy Good on his first publication which was called Real Estate Salespeople. It was a publication that went nationwide that went just to that demographic – real estate sales people across the country. We discussed sales tactics, different types of collateral to use for selling homes, and things like that. The book was doing pretty well, but they had an actual buyer for it in the real estate sector – I believe it was a nonprofit associations. I was thinking, “What’s going to happen now?” Well, Mini Storage Messenger had an opening and they kind of slipped me in there in 1986. I worked with Hardy Good and the MiniCo team for close to 5 years. I loved what I did. And that’s kind of how I got my feet wet in the self-storage business.
In 1991, I got a call from Bob Tish, who was the owner of Virgo Publishing at the time, and they were based out of Scottsdale, Arizona. They had all kinds of print properties – sports apparel, screen printing, and telecommunications industry – a myriad of different publications. He said, “Let’s start a self-storage publication.” At the time, MSM had about 5,000 circulation monthly, and we were going to come out with a publication of 20,000 circulation. We were going to really saturate the market with a print product and a business media product for the self-storage brand.
In 1992, we launched the first Inside Self Storage (ISS) trade show in Austin, Texas. We did pretty well. We went into LA the next year and we had so many people there it was amazing. Then we went into Las Vegas and started having table-top shows, and international shows, and also went to London, France, and Amsterdam a couple times. So my career with Virgo Publishing went all the way until 2013, until we sold the brand to Informa. Informa is an international media brand out of London. Their mainstays are tradeshows and different types of media, but focus mostly on tradeshows. They wanted to have tradeshows across the world and wanted to own the tradeshow space for many different businesses.
Back with ISS, we launched the first digital local store so that you could buy content on the store. You could buy CDs, books, different types of information geared toward the self-storage industry. We were happy to be the first to do that. They have the best website in the industry to this day, and I was a part of that. At the end of the day, I had a great team and we worked hard and were successful in what we did. When Informa bought us, they had a few things that they wanted us to change as a brand.
About that time David Curtis, Ramey Jackson, and myself were friends outside of self-storage, and we started talking about what was going on in the self-storage industry and what our futures looked like in the industry. They mentioned that they were going to launch a new division called R3, but at that time there were several R’s, 18 or 19 I believe. It was a great transition. Ramey said they needed to go into a next phase of self-storage with R3 and they wanted me to head it up and build a team, and figure out a way to get the program started.
With that being said, Morgan Hodges has had R3 for several years, typically geared towards the REITs. I’ve been involved with the independents for my 34 year career, so I knew how to connect with them and get them into the R3 space. So I left Informa with a tremendous opportunity because R3 made a lot of sense. It’s fun to see how we can change these old facilities that are rampant, 20-30,000 of them.
RW: I love the fact that you’ve been in the industry for so long, and you’ve seen it age. You’ve seen the mom & pop facilities, and the rise of the REITs, and now you get to be on the ground floor of helping these older facilities. What is that like for you?
TB: It’s really ironic because I helped build the industry for several years, going through peaks and valleys when construction was down, and now I get to help rebuild it. That’s the cool thing about R3; I helped build this industry and now I get to help rebuild it as the maturation cycle changes in this industries. Here we are today with a pretty sizable amount of self-storage facilities on the independent size that really need to have R3 – Restore. Rebuild. Replace. We are on the forefront of that, and we are the brand that is leading that campaign and I’m happy to be a part of that.
RW: Let’s talk about some of the basics of the R3 program itself. Let’s walk through as if we had an older facility and an owner/operator comes to you and says “I need help.” What all does the R3 program offer, how does it help a facility, and what are the outline basics of it?
TB: R3 includes Door Replacement, which is the biggest thing right now. It also includes Remix, Reskin, Conversions, MASS Units, state of the art SecurGuard® door locks, and some additions that include what the R3 platform is. To an owner/operator, we increase the safety, functionality, and security of the facility. In doing that, we increase rental rates and adds value. Typically, when an owner calls, we will send out a field tech that is very knowledgeable in the industry and basically let them know that if we do these particular things that it’s an instant rate increase, increases safety, functionality, and security, and ultimately adds value to the site.
There are a lot of owner/operators that don’t understand that the REITs are building multistory castles to be self-storage facilities that are very secure, very well-lit, very safe and very functional. Women typically are the majority of tenants in our business so if you have a one story facility and 4 blocks away you have a brand new, multistory site that’s well lit, where would they rather rent? These independents that have done really well for themselves – it’s time to R3.
RW: What are R3 Certified and R3 Certified Secure programs?
TB: We are really excited about these programs. This industry doesn’t have a standardization such as 3-star, 4-star, 5-star for sites. We are going to have a call to action to make sites R3 Certified and R3 Certified Secure.
R3 Certified is very simple. It is when you have done a complete door replacement. Not partial replacement, but a complete and total door replacement. There are several benefits. Safety, functionality, and security. When we started discussing these programs we started getting in front of some of the insurance companies out there, like the commercial and tenant folks. So we go into a facility and take our state of the art Janus doors to completely change out old, ugly, nonfunctioning doors. Automatically, that’s going to get you double digit discounts with your commercial insurance broker. If they don’t do that, we have partners that will get those discounts for you. It’s also an instant rate increase. Say $5 a door by 500 per month and per year – those are some sizable numbers. You will also increase value. If your rent goes up, the value of your site will go up as well.
There are a lot of factors that play into R3 Certified. We will provide you with a certificate and a plaque – those are marketing tools for you to put in your office and website to show customers that you care about their business. You want to make sure that they have a safe unit to use that is ADA compliant, a secure unit, and a functional unit. All of these factors come into play with the R3 Certified program. This is our first level.
R3 Certified Secure is the crème de la crème. This is where everything comes together and it’s the best service we can provide you as an owner/operator. This is when you get a total door replacement, and also have our door locks installed on all the doors. Then we really catapult into commercial insurance discounts, and some of the tenant insurance folks said that they would provide $7,000-$9,000 rebate discounts per month on that lock. The SecurGuard® lock is amazing.
We have basically eliminated break-ins. There is nothing to cut, nothing to compromise on a door lock, therefore if the lock is inside the door, you would literally have to run a truck into the door to break in. Break-ins and water are the two things that give the tenant folks the most damage, and that’s where their claims are coming from. If you eliminate those options, you’re really going to reap the benefits from the tenant insurance folks. Your rates should really increase. The lock itself, with the BlueTooth technology, the motion sensor, the data mining, the smart unit technology that are sweeping across the country are amazing. It’s about time a lock hits the market like SecurGuard®.
Those are the two programs we have right now. They both may be different in the next year. It’s basically a call to action letting the industry know to Restore, Rebuild, and Replace on your site. We are the leaders there and will continue to be the leaders in that space. What we like to provide is that value to that site, Pre R3 and Post R3, with all of these advantages we have provided.
RW: Like with any brand, I love to see the fact that they are putting forth effort to prove that they care about their customers. Whenever a facility goes through these programs this is the ultimate message that they value their customer and their safety, and they want them to have a good experience. I’m so impressed with both programs.
TB: Thank you. And the good thing is when you have these experiences with these tenants, they are your best referrals. There has been a lot of money made by a lot of people in this industry. If your facility is 20 or 30 years old, there are problems there. We will bring that to the forefront and provide a solution. Janus is a solutions provider at the end of the day. I’m excited to be part of that.
RW: You mentioned ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. How does it relate to self-storage? What does it look like in self-storage?
TB: There are some gray areas here. There is the mandate, which is different in some states and municipalities, which says your site has to have so many ADA compliant doors that include a 5 lb pull and various ropes so that a disabled person can have the equal opportunity to rent at your site. I think there’s a bigger story here -- and this is my opinion, but I've talked to some lawyers in the industry and they agree: as soon as one of these dysfunctional doors hurts somebody, and it’s already happened in case by case settlements that are being settled out of court, the product is going to be someone that actually got hurt. Then ADA is really going to enforce the door pulls, the ropes, and all compliance issues that they kind of do in some places and don’t in others. It’s imminent. Not a matter of if but when.
Be ahead of the curve and make sure you have compliant office, bathrooms, and doors. We can help you with that. That’s where I see ADA going related to self-storage. When someone actually gets hurt, they’ll probably start driving around to sites and if you don’t have ADA compliant factors, they will probably shut you down. We can help you get there.
RW: We have the kits and also Janus doors are manufactured to be compliant with ADA, with the 5 lbs of pressure. That’s huge.
TB: There are so many dysfunctional doors that are unsafe and hurting people today. Why have that? Why have that liability over your head? Why have a product out there that is not very secure? That’s the main moving part is our doors. So R3 makes all the sense in the world. It’s a no brainer. Take advantage of these opportunities. Be the only R3 Certified facility in your area. Our site is safe, we care about our customers, and their safety.
RW: Let’s talk about Janus MASS units, the Movable Additional Storage Structures. Can you give a quick low down on those?
TB: MASS is another absolute Janus product, a no brainer. Blake Robinson runs the division doing a super job. Most of these facilities have dead space, either a parking lot that’s too big, too large of a driveway, floodplains to be used differently, and many other areas that can be used to add value to your site. Typically, a MASS unit does not require zoning and all the compliance that goes with that. If you have some space on your site and we can build out a drive up unit, you just added value to your site. They drop it off and installers pop it up and in no time you have additional space. To me, that is unreal. In one week a truck drops off components and the next week you have additional units. Instant value. You can write them off for taxes in the first year. You can lease them or buy them. In some regards, they look better than conventional buildings. I’m a huge fan of the MASS units.
If you'd like to learn more about what we talked about in this episode, check out the links below!