Liberty Investment Properties recently announced that it has promoted Mark Poole from Regional Manager to Director of Operations for Self Storage Operations. Liberty specializes in the development and operation of high-performing, income producing, commercial real estate. Poole also serves as the current Chairman of the National Self Storage Association’s Young Leaders Group (YLG) and President Elect for the Florida Self Storage Association (FSSA).
SpareFoot recently talked with Poole about his new role at Liberty Investment and also his views on the market.
SpareFoot: You assumed your new position Sept. 1st. Can you briefly describe what your new job entails in terms of role and responsibilities?
Poole: In my new role, I will be overseeing the macro direction of our storage operations platform, providing leadership and execution to our corporate strategy. In addition, I’ll be assisting our executive team in acquisitions, development and underwriting.
What is they current size of Liberty’s self-storage portfolio, including existing operating assets and any under development?
Currently, Liberty Investment Properties operates over 1 million square feet of storage space, and three additional self-storage facilities are under construction. We are focused on the Southeast, but our primary markets are Florida, the Carolinas and Texas,
How active is Liberty currently in terms of new acquisitions and development?
As a seasoned developer and operator in the industry, we are steady in our approach to acquisitions and development. Since opening in 1990, we have developed over 50 self-storage facilities and 27 extended stay hotels.
Currently, we are working on about a half of dozen projects encompassing storage and hotels, with a target of around six deals a year. We recently opened a new Orlando storage facility on Millennia Boulevard with a record 8 months construction. Our last major sale was in January 2016 when we sold seven self-storage properties.
From an operations perspective, do you have any initiatives or priorities that you plan to focus on as director of operations?
We are focused on driving efficiencies on site. Improved rates per square foot values have been our focus for years, and we are continuing to pursue growth through aggressive rate management strategies and expense savings. We use our experience to balance both the science and art of rate management. We fully utilize the “science” of rate management programs, but at the same time recognize there is an “art” involved with our decision making. We have found this is helpful in our long-term approach to value rather than short-term gains.
What do you see as the biggest headwinds and tailwinds for self-storage operators in the current market?
Headwinds, I believe that novice developers will allow for opportunities, leading to oversupply of submarkets. In terms of tailwinds, institutionalization of data and technology is helping the industry as a whole. We are becoming better operators with improved date allowing us to be proactive in our operations and to lead our business successfully into the future.
What do you think will be key for improving operating performance in a slower growth market?
Ultimately, I believe our current team and personnel will have the largest influence on our operating performance. In addition, a proactive approach will be key for preparing for operations in a slower market. Carefully assessing market conditions with the ability to adapt quickly will be a significant advantage. We maintain a small team that allows for quick and effective communication. So, we are nimble in our decision-making and can execute quickly.