The Rothfield Discussions: Brian Menke of National Storage

by Nathan Rothfield

Storage is a billion-dollar industry in Australia. Increasing urbanisation and the rising demand from Australian consumers saw an annualised 3.7-per-cent growth from 2013 to 2018, with that number expected to jump to 5 per cent per year and higher moving forward.

National Storage is one of Australasia’s biggest self-storage providers, who tailor self-storage solutions for the needs of both residential and commercial customers. They have over 200 storage centres across Australia and New Zealand and also happen to have been Rothfield partners for the past eight years. We work closely with them to supply integrated brand and logistics solutions in a partnership our team is very proud of.

Their business is continually evolving, and as leaders of the pack, we were interested in learning a bit more about their strategies for growth and how they have fared during the pandemic. To understand more about this, we sat down with Brian Menke, Head of Revenue Generation for a chat.

Brian Menke, National Storage’s Head of Revenue Generation

Anything that generates and manipulates the revenue stream for National Storage reports to Brian, be it at a centre level, call centre level or a marketing and revenue generation level. This positions Brian well to understand the industry’s changes and the effects that things like technology and the COVID-19 pandemic have had.

From Brian’s point of view, the next significant change the industry should be focusing on is automation. “Most large storage companies are heading down the digital track with improved websites and online conversions, but I really think more and more people are leaning towards online shopping,” claims Brian. “I think if you can utilise that as effectively as you possibly can and you can automate more things through the move-in process, which ultimately keeps your costs down, that’s the end goal.”

"We see our partnership with Rothfield as easy and efficient – the team are easy to do business with, and it is an easy process for us to order."

Intertwined with automation, digital innovation is another necessary change for the storage industry, and according to Brian, is a key focus for National Storage for several reasons. “Not only from an automation perspective but also from a marketing perspective. Even our sponsorships now have a digital focus as we’re kind of moving away from anything hands-on; everything is moving towards digital.”

Brian speaks about how they have moved past TV and radio advertising to focus on digital marketing instead. “Digital automation eats up a lot of our time because we really see that as something that is going to differentiate us from our competitors. Storage sheds are storage sheds, but if you can sell a unit in a more cost-effective way than your competitor, and you can offer better prices while still maintaining a good return for your shareholders then you are going to win every time.”

The deployment of the Self-Storage Revenue Optimiser

National Storage has been using a new tool for around ten months that piqued our interest, so we had Brian explain a little more about the Self-Storage Revenue Optimiser. “Basically, it takes a whole bunch of data and spits out what our rate per square metre should be.”

Brian claims the key thing working in National Storage’s favour is the relationship the business has with the company supplying the software. “There are weekly meetings with the revenue manager, monthly meetings with me, quarterly meetings with the executives, and quarterly meetings with the state managers. They’re really interested in what we’re seeing because the system can only look at numbers. What it can’t see are things that are happening in the local economy and the local area, so they really focus on making sure they can provide us with the most holistic picture of what’s happening.”

The effects of COVID-19   

Like every industry, storage has been affected by the pandemic, starting with a downturn but, in Brian’s view, rebounding strongly. “The property market is strong. Commercial businesses don’t really want to sign long term leases, so we’re getting an influx of them because we are month to month. People are also working from home more now which has generated a need for storage as people are wanting a clear space at home to work in, so they are converting their third bedroom or garage into studies and proper working areas.”

Brian believes that demand for storage has been particularly strong since the halfway point of this financial year, and expects that trend to continue. “I don’t think the property market is going to go backwards at any time, I think the economy is going to continue to kick along in the way it has done to date. So, for the short term, we will certainly continue to get the strong results that we’ve been getting for the last six months.”

Lessons learned and moving forward

As the pandemic’s effects begin to lessen, Brian claims that the importance of crisis planning and having contingencies in place is a new priority. “Everybody should have a contingency in place so that should something hit, you can work from home or if you can’t get to the office the business still continues to operate.

Brian also mentions the importance of having high-level senior front-line managers or state managers in place to ensure quality communication, especially when working remotely.

The future also includes a focus on a strong partnership strategy for National Storage, which Brian claims is about efficiency and ease. “That’s a big focus of ours at the moment moving forward. We want to make the business as efficient as possible, so all that our centre staff and call centre staff are doing is selling and nothing else; they’re not spending hours and hours doing mundane admin type work. We see our partnership with Rothfield as easy and efficient – the team are easy to do business with, and it is an easy process for us to order.”

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