The William Warren Group recently promoted Tim Hobin, 51, to chief investment officer. His duties include leading the real estate team to deliver on investment strategy, to mentor leadership and to foster investment return and growth objectives.
WWG is a nationally known powerhouse in self-storage management, acquisitions and development. The company operates its facilities under the StorQuest brand name. Hobin has been at WWG, which operates in 18 states, for 20 years. He previously served as executive vice president of real estate, where he helped guide hundreds of projects through development; built and managed a real estate team of more than 25 professionals; and helped boost the company’s national footprint to more than 200 locations.
How, exactly, does he keep track of all this?
“Our growth has been very controlled and cautious,” Hobin said. “We’ve turned up the volume coming out of the 2008 recession.”
The company started expanding its team in 2011 after a few years of working on just a handful of development-acquisition deals following the 2008 Great Recession.
“Today our goal is 30-plus facilities per year and my role has evolved to just making sure that we have the resources in place to make that happen,” Tobin said. “Resource allocation is really my primary role, making sure that we have the right people, right systems, right data processes people in place.
“I’m not the sole decision maker,” he said. “We have a real estate committee, which I’m in charge of making sure we have everything we need when it’s time to make a decision on a new opportunity.”
Once a property is operational, it falls under the purview of President/CFO Clark Porter. The other partners are COO Gary Sugarman and CEO William Warren Hobin (brother of Tim Hobin, also a partner).
We talked with Tim Hobin following his recent promotion.
Storage Beat: What does it mean to be named CIO?
Hobin: It means a lot more work. It’s not much of a change; it’s what I have been doing for quite some time. I’ve never been one to be focused on titles. … My role for the last 15 years was to lead our real estate development and acquisition efforts, and we have slowly built up one of the biggest teams in the industry.”
(About 40 WWG employees – 10 of whom are spaced around the nation – focus on identifying new development and acquisition opportunities.)
What, if anything, has changed about developing self-storage facilities in the last 10 years?
One of the positive changes has been the increased availability of good data. We were well behind the four major real estate types for available data out there.
We have been diligent that we make sure we do our feasibility analysis before deciding if a market can absorb a new development. That’s our biggest risk in this industry, building into a market that does not have the demand to absorb a new property.
Which work-related accomplishment are you most proud of?
As far as a favorite, I have quite a few. In 2007, we completed construction in downtown LA near USC, a big facility, 115,000 rentable feet, a beautiful building. We converted a DHL Shipping warehouse from a single story to four stories. We opened and the recession hit one year later, so it took us longer to lease up, but it’s still been one of our best performers.
How has the pandemic affected WWG’s operations?
The pandemic has been good to the self-storage industry. It’s given people the opportunity to do something different – move around the country, work from a different location. It has forced people to clear out the back bedroom so they can have a home office.
When people are in transition, the demand for self-storage increases. 2021 will probably go down in the record books for the best year for self-storage since probably the beginning. There’s been a big increase in demand across the board. I think we’ve peaked. We’ve actually pulled back from the peak when occupancy was 98% in the industry.
It has caused more capital wanting to come into the industry. It means more competition for more acquisitions. It means evaluations are lofty. The stock market is at an all-time high.