Expanding on the extensive and valuable experience that the SureStore management team already have we are delighted to announce that Mike Wilson, CEO has recently been appointed as the new SSA Chair.
Mike was first appointed to the Board of the Self-Storage Association UK, in 2015, as a representative for Independent Operators. After holding the title of Vice Chair at the SSA for the past 2 years he has recently been appointed as Chair, due to the dynamic and innovative approach he brings to the storage industry.
Mike’s career started in the financial & property sectors and Mike joined storage operators Smart Storage in the latter part of 2006 and spent his first six years as CFO developing the business into one of the leading independent Self Storage operators in the UK. In 2013, Mike became the CEO of Smart, replacing one of the founders, and then subsequently completed a management buyout of the business with funding from Seneca in 2014. Mike and his management team successfully exited Smart in March 2018, allowing them to dedicate their time to the roll-out of SureStore with its first store opening in 2018. Mike currently leads the operational and strategic direction of SureStore on behalf of all investee storage companies.
We interviewed Mike to find out a bit more about his storage journey so far and share with you the highlights:
- How / why did you first get into self-storage?
I was first introduced to the world of storage by the founder of Smart Storage, after we were acquainted by a mutual contact. At the time I was an FD specialising in property backed businesses that had a yield management angle – property investments, hotels, healthcare etc. After a brief discussion about the growth prospects of the Self Storage industry, I joined Smart Storage on their initial rollout journey in late 2006 as FD. In 2014 I took over as CEO of Smart Storage after investment group Seneca backed a management buyout. Seneca shared my vision and expansion plans giving us the opportunity to develop the business to the next level. We subsequently sold Smart earlier this year allowing us to focus on SureStore.
Whilst SureStore was originally founded many years ago as a brand within Smart Storage, today it is as standalone entity in its own right.
- What has been the biggest change in the industry since you started?
Many might say the introduction of VAT or even the influence of the internet channels and forever evolving aspects of digital marketing. SureStore is extremely proud to be the first independent self storage facility in the UK that enables you to book your space and move-in online. I also believe that the building design of our latest generation of SureStore stores has been the major change.
- What do you like most about the self-storage industry?
Being involved in such a friendly industry. As an industry many operators are prepared to share their own operating experiences, despite at times the fact they are competitors. Attending Self Storage events through the SSA enables this vital knowledge sharing and I encourage other operators to get involved to help us all to educate the market. The self-storage sector is still significantly underdeveloped in the UK and offers a variety of opportunities within the commercial and domestic markets.
- What do you like least about the self-storage industry?
Discounting and lowest price guarantees. Some of the techniques used here add confusion to the customer’s price offering. If introductory discounts are offered they need to be clear and concise. On the whole we would rather offer long term value for money.
- What is your favourite book or movie?
Star Wars. It has to be the original 1977 film though. I have watched this movie many times as a child on a beta-max video player! Looking forward to the release of Episode IX.
- If you had a time machine where would you go?
As a geology graduate, I’d have to say to the Jurassic period (c200 million years ago) to see the dinosaurs roam the earth. However, wouldn’t it be great to go 100 years into the future to see technology advances and the way our culture today has evolved and of course the way self storage is used!
- I think industry associations like the SSA UK are important because …
The opportunity to share best practice. Events run by the SSA give the opportunity to learn from major operators and other industry experts. The SSA helps you avoid the pitfalls because someone has made them before. We as operators all have a job to educate and create a respected industry that the general public can trust.
- Right now I would rather be …
Relaxing on a beach somewhere on the sunshine coast in Australia! Life after self-storage I’m afraid! My passion for watersports has taken me to some great destinations. Taking time out of the business also allows me to reflect on the way we do things within the storage market and make improvements.
- What life advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
The only thing you can’t get back in life is time. I would tell myself to think of your time as a valuable commodity that needs to be invested wisely. Follow your heart, but take calculated risks. Never look back and regret a decision, just learn from it.
- I’d really like to have dinner with…
Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton –Different eras but true sporting competitors in every sense and advocates of living life on the edge.
- And finally, what do you hope to bring to your new role as the SSA Chair?
I feel privileged to have been elected chair of the SSA UK. During the past 3 years as a Board member, we have delivered many great new initiatives. Our focus is to continue with this momentum. We have a representative board elected directly by the members, and together we will shortly be defining the strategy for the next 2 years.
The Association will continue to grow membership of both operators and suppliers. We will look to support new entrants into the market, and also encourage existing operators who are currently not members.
I am looking forward to further expanding the offering to members with new initiatives such as further operating guides and training initiatives.
As a Board we will continue to review what further benefits we can provide to all members.
As our industry matures, the general public are learning more about our industry and self storage is becoming a more commonly used and understood term, and it is gradually heading towards being a household term as in the USA.
We will continue to invest in PR, as further positive media attention towards self storage, only serves to improve the public awareness.
On a final note, our younger operators and suppliers are our industry leaders and Board of the future. With this in mind, I am keen to progress their development through the SSA’s Young Leaders Group.