How to Write a Self-Storage Business Plan like Tom Clancy - or - The Hunt for Red October

Writing is not easy. Even professional authors (and self-storage feasibility consultants) construct elaborate scenarios to force themselves through the process – from using a special fountain pen to sitting in a room at a desk that contains no possible distractions.

Writing a self-storage business plan riddled with expensive mistakes is even worse because best case scenario you don’t make as much money as you could and worst case you fail to get investors or a loan for your facility.

In order to force ourselves to write the best self-storage business plan of all time and avoid mistakes, let’s channel Tom Clancy, a writer who understood our pain when he said, “Writing is beastly hard work which one would just as soon not do. It’s also a job, however, and if you want to get paid, you have to work. Life is cruel that way.”

Amen, Tom, amen. Now let’s get paid, my self-storage brothers and sisters (hallelujah).

I’m going to assume you know how to use the interwebs to find the basic elements your business plan needs to contain. If you don’t, please find an attractive librarian to teach you.

Following are five things Tom and I want you to do to write that Best Self-Storage Business Plan of All Time with No Expensive Mistakes™©®.

Keep your audience in mind

Who is reading your business plan? Is it potential investors to whom you need to make the right impression fast? Is it bankers who are more formal and concerned more with detailed financial analysis than a unique concept or impressive resume? Is it potential partners who are wondering what their role would be in the self-storage facility? Is it managers who need clear strategic vision and objectives?

Depending on the number of audiences your self-storage business plan needs to serve, you may need to customize multiple versions. Of course, the financial analysis stays the same, but what you want to stress to each audience varies.

Don’t bury assumptions in facts

What’s the difference between fiction and reality? Tom says, “Fiction has to make sense.”

The reason The Hunt for Red October is compelling is because it is seems like it really happened. In business plans, your fictional statements are called assumptions and you need to make sure they are clearly labeled as such.

State the assumptions your self-storage business plan makes and how they are supported by research and industry data. Don’t mislead the reader by portraying assumptions as reality. Market demand, lease-up schedules and phasing projections are examples of reasonable assumptions every self-storage facility must make. You should have all of these assumptions from your self-storage feasibility study.

Create personas for your key customer segments

Your self-storage facility is going to serve HUMAN BEINGS. Your self-storage feasibility study provided you with information about these groups of human beings and you should write your business plan as a path that guides them to your facility.

Review the demographic (age, gender, salary, family, etc.) and psychographic (attitudes, lifestyles, values, etc.) data of the humans your facility will serve and create personas for the key segments of your target customer audience. Once you know what their primary goals, challenges, values and fears are, you can create a specific marketing message and strategy for each audience.

This is the essential starting point for developing an exceptional facility. Not only is it the basis for your unit mix, the personas are the stars of your business plan and everything you envision. Follow Tom’s advice, “don’t just write, tell a story,” and use your personas as the main characters.

Fill in knowledge gaps with a pro

No one is an expert in everything. There will be parts of your self-storage business plan that you will have knowledge gaps in. For example, if you are good at financial analysis and don’t know anything about marketing to self-storage customers, get help with that part of your plan (you can always execute it yourself).

You may be an expert in your field – and already an expert in self-storage – but you still need help from engineers, attorneys and accountants. The Best Self-Storage Business Plan of All Time with No Expensive Mistakes™©® is going to need help from other experts too – from a self-storage feasibility consultant to a property management company – depending on your knowledge gaps.

Being unique is hard work. Like golf.

There are as many boilerplate self-storage business plans as there are boilerplate self-storage businesses. And simply cutting and pasting your business plan is an easy way to set yourself up for failure.

 “Learning to write books [or The Best Self-Storage Business Plan of All Time with No Expensive Mistakes™©®] is just like learning to play a good game of golf. There’s no divine inspiration, just a lot of hard work,” explains our mentor Tom. “Start doing it, then do it again and again until you get it right. Then do it again some more.”

If you follow the advice Tom and I have given you so far, your self-storage business plan will definitely be unique. Going through the process will lead you to explore the unique challenges of your facility. The more you research and the more you learn, the more you will customize and revise your original plan.

Before he created a spy book phenomenon encompassing over 100 million books sold, multiple movies and video games, Tom Clancy was a humble insurance agent. His relentless pursuit of excellence led to his tremendous success and channeling his attitude will lead you to your dream self-storage facility.

In fact, Tom has a few final words of wisdom for our budding writers. “If you want to kick the tiger in his ass, you'd better have a plan for dealing with his teeth.”

You heard the man. Get to work on The Best Self-Storage Business Plan of All Time with No Expensive Mistakes™©® and kick that tiger in the ass.


To debate the finer points of old Jack Ryan versus new Jack Ryan or to discuss your self-storage business plan, contact Sensei Katherine. If you are evaluating a site's potential for self-storage, just let her know and she will do a free preliminary report for you. Arigato!