A couple of our tenants have requested that we install vending machines in my folks' building in Muskoka. There is a fabulous food truck called Sully's on site for lunches spring, summer and fall but there is no other food offering in the building. Anything you might want to purchase requires getting into a car.
It is an interesting process to assess vending machine options and evaluate what your tenants might want. There are healthy options including high protein drinks, smoothies and trail mix type offerings, which seem appropriate for a fitness club or a downtown office with lots of health conscious people. There are your typical pop machines that have been common since I was a girl. There are snack dispensers filled with peanuts and M&Ms where you turn the knob. Those always bring to my mind children with dirty fingers. There is the standard brown vending machine with chips in top and chocolate bars underneath. Some newer drink machines dispense Gatorade, Powerade, water and juice. And they now have a hybrid machine that supplies snacks up top and cold drinks in bottom, looking like something you would have seen on the Starship Enterprise.
Hockey rinks in Toronto are replete with vending machines. As I am paying $2.75 for a bottle of Gatorade I mentally scold myself for not buying enough bottles for $1.00 each at the grocery store. York Mills and Hodgson Arenas, both City of Toronto rinks, have vending machines that are usually empty or out of order. Chesswood, ScotiaBank Pond and the Canlan rinks, all privately owned, have well stocked, well oiled machines dispensing all sorts of options at jacked up prices for their captive audiences.
I suspect it will take trial and error to determine what our tenants will find most appealing. Once we get it right I expect it will be a positive addition to the building.
There is clutter in my house. There is clutter in my office.
Happily I have recently been introduced to Smart Boxes. They are sturdy, stackable, water resistant and re-useable plastic boxes that are delivered to your front door and retrieved from your new front door. They are great for moving, reorganizing or decluttering and can be rented for whatever period of time you need them. I like the concept much better than buying cardboard boxes which inevitably fall apart, get wet and get ruined.
Smart Boxes are just that...smart.
Big stuff can be a lot of fun. Big stuff can also support your business.
Whether it be a recreational trailer you use as a cottage or a large transport truck that provides your living, lots of people have lots of big stuff. The challenge is where to store that stuff. Most residential homes don't have driveways large enough to park those items, and neighbours generally frown on your putting it in the back yard.
Our landlord in Toronto bought the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan for $500,000 US. His first utility bill was $400,000 US so what initially seemed like a bargain quickly became a liability. What he realized very soon after buying, though, was that in addition to being a large empty sports stadium, he had purchased 200 acres of paved parking. Soon he was renting out the parking lot to car dealers, car rental companies, trucking companies and the like. Those rentals easily paid those utility bills going forward and he has never looked back.
Our building up north has a large paved parking lot that is perfect for storing such items. We are fortunate to have a number of tenants who park their large items in our parking lot year round. That business requires snow ploughing and maintaining of the parking lot. It is good business for us and a good bargain for those who are storing their items with us. It puts to work a parking lot that has more than enough parking for our tenants plus surplus parking for such storage.
It is a win-win situation for us and perhaps something to think about for those of you with paved parking lots that have space available.
Many people have many items they cannot fit in their house.
Our Muskoka property provides 170 indoor climate-controlled storage lockers and 115 vehicle storage spots for that need. If you consider the investment we make in our trailers, RVs, boats, cars, motorcycles, it makes sense to take care of them. Same with surplus items like our tools or our parents' memorabilia that needs to be protected.
As we downsize our houses, it is no wonder that storage facilities are popping up everywhere to deal with the surplus items of value that we can no longer fit into our streamlined homes. The spare room has been replaced by a storage locker.
Home security is important to people living in the city.
We lock our front door; we lock our back door; we lock our garage door. We have bars in our sliders. We set alarms. Some of us can even see who is at our front door with our phone. We have lights all around our property. In luxury neighbourhoods there are security patrols. Protecting our fortress from intrusion is a priority.
Bringing a similar mindset to providing security for commercial and industrial buildings protects your investment and makes them more attractive to tenants. Although in that case your family is not at risk if there is a break in, it is prudent to do everything you can to prevent theft, property damage, vandalism, graffiti and other problems from affecting your property.
Up north, we have a number of systems designed to secure our building.
The first is a FOB system that opens the doors at a set time each day and locks them at a set time each afternoon or evening. This is an efficient system when it works and we have found some competent suppliers who can fix it when it doesn't. The benefit here is that we can program the system to stay closed on holidays and long weekends. We can also monitor who is entering at which times based on the codes on each individual FOB. Thus if we no longer want someone to have access we can just disable their FOB.
The second system is that we have a number of doors that are locked all the time. Our tenants must have a key to enter those doors. The general public cannot enter through that area. This is a recent change. We used to have doors that you could unlock and leave open, but the challenge was that our tenants would enter through that door but might exit through a different door and hence the entry door would remain unlocked. The change over to doors that automatically stay locked all day has eliminated that problem.
The third measure of security we provide is a night watchman who lives on site. He is always there and can advise us if there is any unusual activity occurring in the building at night. The building has automatic motion lights inside so if there is any movement the lights come on, which triggers an inquiry into what is happening.
The fourth measure of security is a security patrol that checks that all doors are secured each night. This is a fail safe as the security person alerts us to any problems that are occurring on a regular basis, like doors being unlocked at night, allowing us to devise a solution to correct that problem. The patrol also lets us know if any of our security measures are not working for any reason. It gives peace of mind that everything is safe and secure for the evening.
The final measure is ample lighting around the building all night long, discouraging any illicit activity.
Thus far the above measures have made the building safe and secure, providing peace of mind to the owners and a feeling of comfort to our tenants.
You notice the absence of light. You notice darkness. And darkness creates fear and uncertainty around a building and also encourages theft and illicit behaviour.
I remember in a prior life owning a building on Jarvis Street in Toronto. There was an alleyway that was dark at night and the darkness in that location formed a perfect place for prostitution and drug use. We tackled the problem by adding flood lights with cages around them. All of a sudden night was as bright as day and the night action ended.
This summer at my family's Muskoka building, one of our tenant's landscape trailers was stolen at night. According to the O.P.P. there were a number of similar thefts in the area. We have tried to tackle the problem by ensuring that all of our exterior lights are working and are bright. Those exterior lights include lights above doorways, flood lights mounted on the building, motion sensors, and bright light standards in the parking lot.
We also have security routines at night. Each night we conduct a security patrol to ensure that all doors are locked and all lights are working. We also have a night watchman that lives on site along with video monitoring at each of the doors. One of our neighbours who plans to grow marijuana pursuant to a federal license intends to have 24 hour video monitoring to ensure his building's security.
By ensuring that your building is brightly lit at night and by implementing security measures, you can discourage most forms of illicit activities.
There are many ways a building can be powerful.
A building can be imposing. It can be famous. It can represent something bigger than itself. It can be iconic. Or it can be powerful in the literal sense.
My family's Muskoka property is powerful in the literal sense. The first way it is powerful is that it has 75,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof. Ontario Power Authority, now called IESO, approved this installation which became live in December 2014 under a 20 year contract whereby it sells power to the grid at 71.3 cents per KW hour. That installation can power a significant portion of our building's power needs at the end of the 20 year contract.
The second way in which the building is powerful is in its supply from the grid. We have a transformer that provides 3 Megawatts of power to the building. That is enough juice to run the Bracebridge hospital. The building used to be a large automotive manufacturing plant running a hundred machines and employing three hundred people. That sort of use required a ton of power.
Most manufacturing has left the province so the power currently goes underutilized. If a data center, a call center, a battery generation company, or another large user of power ever wanted to be a tenant in the building, it would be perfect for them.
There is a cost to the inability to use all the power. Our efficiency factor with Lakeland Power is below the target, thus costing us more in electricity than we actually use. All in all, though, knowing that we can power any type of tenancy without difficult does provide some comfort.
Powerful buildings can accommodate power hungry tenants.
How do you deliver milk? What about large furniture or large windows and doors? And what if you want to store a large excavator in the building or a dump truck?
I never realized before how important dock-level doors and drive-in doors were. At my family's building in Muskoka, we had seven dock level doors and eight drive in doors when it was purchased. That sounded like a lot to me when I was first involved with the building, but amazingly we needed to add a ninth drive-in door this past spring and need to add a tenth drive-in door this coming spring to accommodate all of the deliveries and pick ups to and from the building.
We have a milk producer who uses our property as a transfer station, bringing its large truck from the north, docking it, then shuttling the milk products into the smaller truck that is responsible for local deliveries to Muskoka. We have a delivery company that needs two dock doors for six months of the spring and summer to handle the overload volume of deliveries to Muskoka that occur in the summer. We store large boats, dump trucks, trailers and cars, all of whom drive into the building for the winter. All of our locker tenants drive into the building when they are moving in so they can facilitate easy loading and unloading in any weather. We have two doors that can accommodate a transport truck actually driving into the building. We have a courier company that needs two docks to facilitate their deliveries. A food delivery company needs its vans to drop off and pick up frozen meat. A magazine publisher uses a drive in door to load and unload their vans and a dock level door for delivery of the magazines to our building. A car rental company uses a drive in door to wash their cars. Our trailer rental company drives the trailers in to the building for enhancement or repair. Our food truck stores his truck in the property. And as we fill the building, more and more tenants want to use the doors.
The building doors are where the activity occurs. The interior of the building is quiet. Once things come into the building, there is little noise or activity. The action is in the bringing in and taking out of items from the building.
I now understand and appreciate the value of many dock-level and drive-in doors in a building.
It makes me happy when my house is clean. This is not a common occurrence. Perhaps I can blame part of that on the fact that I have four young children, Nonetheless, on the rare occasions that all of us have picked up our items and the kitchen is clean and the floors are swept, the house feels really good.
It is similar with a commercial building. At my family's building in Muskoka, we have a cleaning machine that mimics a zamboni at an ice rink. It wets and scrubs the industrial floor to clean it and after a cleaning the warehouse floors come close to shining. We try to clean the warehouse floor at least once a week.
We also pay for a cleaning lady to clean the common areas of the building, including the hallways and bathrooms, at least once a week to ensure that the office space remains free of dirt and tidy. Our tenants appreciate working in a clean, organized building and most of the time we are proud of how the building looks.
In my view it is a good idea to always keep control of the cleaning for your building. Some landlords farm that responsibility out to tenants, and that is fine as it relates to tenant's own areas but any areas that are common should be controlled by the landlord in my opinion. It is the landlord's building and it is in the landlord's interest that the building always show as well as possible. Cleaning is a relatively minor expense in the grand scheme of things but a clean building sends a clear message that a landlord cares about his or her property.
A clean work environment enhances everyone's enjoyment of the space.
To survive, any business needs its customers to know where it is.
One of the best methods of ensuring people know who you are and where you are located is with a bright, attractive, easy-to-read sign. I stopped in at Woods Clothing in Bracebridge solely because of their signage and have been back a few times since to purchase more. The signage brought me in the door and the value proposition kept me coming back. You need your customers to come through the door to demonstrate to them your value proposition.
At my family's building in Muskoka, we have been assisting our tenants in putting up signage that has impact. Each of the signs is unique, easy to read, vibrant and makes it clear where you can find the business within the building.
We also have a large pylon sign out front of the property. You can see how it acts as a building directory for the businesses in the building. Our tenants pay to be on that sign because it makes their businesses extremely visible to the abundance of traffic on Highway 118 and is a great method of showing potential customers where they are.
We also created directional signage for our smaller tenants in the building, also shown. It allows customers to know where they are going and also facilitates knowledge of who is in the building. Our tenants appreciate it because it is then easy for their customers to find them.
Superb signage helps a building look professional and assists the building's tenants attract more business and thrive. Happy tenants, happy landlord.
Entrepreneur and mom to four amazing kids
A company owner was asked a question, "How do you motivate your employees to be so punctual?"
He smiled & replied, "It's simple. I have 30 employees and 29 free parking spaces. One is paid parking." ;-)
(from the Aspire Flyer)