Montreal Mini-Storage Group is Quebec’s largest privately owned self-storage company, with over 20 facilities across the province.
The Canadian real estate company owns and operates self-storage facilities and industrial real estate, offering storage solutions for nearly 10,000 people and businesses in Montreal.
Montreal Mini-Storage uses Datarails to consolidate data from many different sources and generate dashboards that provide visibility and promote fast and well-informed decision-making for the company’s finance and operations teams, site managers, board members and investors.
• $100,000 in cost efficiencies
• $500,000 in productivity
• 50 hours of labor a month
The real estate firm’s use of Datarails has enabled it to save $100,000 (CAD) in cost efficiencies, improve occupancy and collection rates by 10-15 percent, and save an estimated 50 hours of work per month for the finance and operations teams – representing over $500,000 in productivity costs.
The company also increased its earnings 10 percent in one year through a combination of cost savings and revenue growth, with Datarails making it possible for Montreal Mini-Storage to triple in size without any impediment to its reporting or data.
The problem: No visibility into how each real estate site is doing
Montreal Mini-Storage has lots of data – from its CRM and ERP systems, call center, website analytics and many Excel spreadsheets. But before using Datarails, the real estate company had no visibility into how each real estate site was performing.
That’s because not all the necessary data was accessible to everyone who needed to see it, and the reporting the company did have wasn’t standardized, so each report had a different structure.
“Datarails is so flexible and so easy to use. And that created real long-term value for the organization.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
What’s more, the data took a long time to process, requiring multiple employees to pull information and put it into Excel for analysis, which wasted a lot of time. By the time employees were done getting the data into an Excel report, “they didn’t have time to think about what does it really mean, because they’re so in the weeds,” said Igor Bernadski, CFO of Montreal Mini-Storage.
Because the data was hard to access and was not available in real time, decision-making was hampered; it was not driven by data and was mostly reactive rather than proactive.
The lack of visibility was hindering internal decision-making and cross-departmental collaboration. It also made it hard for the board of directors, financial institutions and potential investors to understand how the real estate company was doing.
“Our business is a multiple-facility business, and we had no visibility in terms of how each site performs,” said Bernadski. “There was no standard to the data at all.”
“I needed a solution that would be agile, that would provide me with the flexibility to change, to pivot constantly as the business is growing,” he said. “Our business is experiencing exponential growth year over year, and we need something that would be able to cater for that.”
The solution: Improved visibility with data consolidation, financial reporting and planning
Montreal Mini-Storage uses Datarails to consolidate its data and financial statements, as well as for financial planning and data visualization.
The pre-Datarails consolidation process was “extremely tedious, lengthy and filled with errors,” said Bernadski. Not having to do the consolidation, he said, has “saved a substantial amount of time from my analyst, from my controller, and ultimately my own review.”
“Having Datarails just automates the entire process,” he said. “I can get results within hours of integrating a new facility.” Being able to use Datarails as a “central hub of information data,” he added, is “a turnkey solution for us.”
“Once we tried the product, the entire organization pretty much fell in love with it, because of its agility and flexibility.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
Using Datarails for financial planning improves visibility across the company and provides the flexibility to compare the stats on different real estate sites by manipulating large datasets, said Bernadski.
“We put all the budgets, all the forecasting in Datarails,” said Bernadski. “So we’re tracking departmental budgets to actuals through Datarails. It provides access and visibility to different people within the organization.”
“Datarails is so flexible and so easy to use,” he said. “And that created real long-term value for the organization.”
Beyond finance: Examining key real estate metrics, spotting trends
In addition to using Datarails for the finance team, the real estate company also uses the financial planning and analysis platform for departments across the company, including operations, sales, customer service and HR.
“It was very hard to properly understand and tell a story,” said Bernadski. “So Datarails really provided us the solutions for that – telling the proper story. And it wasn’t just a finance and FP&A-oriented tool, but it really was cross-departmental.”
“We’re able to see trends that otherwise would have taken us hours and hours of work – or we just wouldn’t [see the trends] because we wouldn’t necessarily think about it.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
“The big win for us, I would say, beyond the finance is the operations,” he said. “My sales team, my customer service, my storage operations is using it.”
As a result, the company can easily examine key real estate metrics, including occupancy and price per square foot, as well as the success rate of new products.
“We’re able to see trends that otherwise would have taken us hours and hours of work – or we just wouldn’t [see the trends] because we wouldn’t necessarily think about it,” he said. “But with Datarails, since all the fields are already in there, everything is mapped. It’s logical for us, so that’s the beauty of that, I find.”
One trend the company was able to monitor was customer interest in a new service that came with an additional charge. It caused attrition at some facilities – but was it worth the loss? The data, which the Montreal Mini-Storage team accessed easily through a Datarails dashboard, said yes, showing that a different facility had a 95 percent penetration rate for the new income stream.
‘You can’t take Excel away from me’
The ability to continue using Excel while still benefiting from Datarails’ consolidation, reporting and planning capabilities has simplified adoption of Datarails across Montreal Mini-Storage.
It has also made it easier for teams throughout the organization to become more data-driven as they create real-time dashboards and reports – and are able to change them on their own as needed.
“Once we tried the product, the entire organization pretty much fell in love with it, because of its agility and flexibility,” said Bernadski.
While standalone BI solutions can help visualize data, Bernadski found the level of assistance required to change things made it harder to keep the company’s focus on its core business: real estate.
“I realized that each of those solutions required its own tech shop,” he said about the company’s pre-Datarails experience. “Someone would look at the analysis, say, ‘Oh, I like that. But we have to make a small change here.’ That became very difficult, and I had to call my developer to make the change.”
“Integration with Excel was key in the ability to really change things on the fly. That was a huge benefit for us.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
By contrast, employees can work independently using Datarails, partly because changes to Excel easily flow through to Datarails reports and dashboards.
“Datarails’ integration with Excel is something phenomenal, I find, because you can’t take Excel away from me,” said Bernadski. “That’s essentially what we will always be using.”
“Integration with Excel was key in the ability to really change things on the fly,” he said. “That was a huge benefit for us.”
The impact: Saving $100,000 in cost inefficiencies, boosting earnings 10%
Montreal Mini-Storage was able to save $100,000 over the past year due to cost inefficiencies discovered by consolidating and visualizing data through Datarails, as well as segmenting it in different ways once it was all in one place – for example, by asset, by location or by department.
As a result, the real estate firm was able to identify cost inefficiencies at different locations. The company immediately addressed the problems it found, for instance by switching providers, to save an average of $5,000 at each facility.
Datarails dashboards have helped Montreal Mini-Storage boost occupancy and collection rates by 10-15 percent, and pre-tax earnings (EBITDA) by 10 percent – all in a time of rapid growth, while the company’s rentable real estate tripled in one year.
“The impact that Datarails has had on our business is quite large,” said Bernadski.
“Datarails has proven to have high agility, and allowed us to triple in size without having any impediment to reporting and data.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
“Datarails is a scalable and easy-to-use solution,” he said. “In one year of using Datarails, the cost savings combined with revenue growth by using Datarails has generated about 10 percent improvement to EBITDA organically. It has evolved how our FP&A is done, and generated real ROI to every department. Datarails has proven to have high agility, and allowed us to triple in size without having any impediment to reporting and data.”
One way the dashboards helped was by making it easy to see the payment method customers were using at each facility – and then taking action. The company slashed the rate of cash and check usage nearly 80 percent, reducing the time-consuming and error-prone reconciliation process required.
“Using Datarails, we’re actually able to identify certain trends in certain assets and create a lot of efficiencies just by looking at those trends,” said Bernadski. “We’ve improved our collections and our delinquencies as a result of having proper dashboards.”
The real estate company made those dashboards accessible to each site manager, so they can easily see important metrics like dollar per unit, dollar per square foot, delinquency rates, collection methods, revenue and customer reviews.
This has ultimately helped the site managers not only understand the overall performance of each storage facility, but work to improve it. They also benefit personally from good site performance through a companywide incentive program.
“Our site managers are making a lot of decisions now independently – something that prior to having Datarails dashboards would not be possible,” said Bernadsky. “They just wouldn’t have the data.”
“We’ve improved our collections and our delinquencies as a result of having proper dashboards.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
Now site managers often look at a Datarails dashboard on one screen while booking customers on the other, and make suggestions like raising prices when occupancy is high, he said.
“That is music to my ears, because I know that our decisions are data-driven now and we are generating more dollars, we’re saving costs,” said Bernadski. “Instant and live access to data leads the business to make faster and more proactive decisions.”
Saving 50 hours a month – or $300k-$500k in productivity costs a year
So much of the manual effort of data consolidation and manual reporting has been removed that Bernadski estimates the company saves 50 hours a month on labor – about 20 hours on the finance team and 30 hours on the operations team – coming to $300,000 to $500,000 in productivity costs saved a year.
“The impact that Datarails has had on our business is quite large.”—Igor Bernadski, CFO
That number is driven by the time saved and resulting increase in productivity, as well as decisions based on more timely reporting, said Bernadski. He expects it to continue rising as the business keeps scaling.
“We’ve reduced the amount of manual work that the operations team has to do,” said Bernadski. “We’ve really generated large savings from a time perspective, both on the finance side and the operations side.”
Intangible ROI: More informed decisions with real-time data
While Montreal Mini-Storage has seen a lot of quantifiable return on investment from Datarails – such as the $100,000 saved in cost efficiencies, 10 percent earnings boost and up to $500,000 in productivity costs – there is one type of ROI that may not be fully quantifiable, yet is “almost infinite,” Bernadski said.
“Where I really think my true ROI with Datarails comes is not just from time-saving but the ability to drive decision-making,” he said. “Without proper data that is properly segmented, that is properly presented and caters to different types of audiences, you cannot run a business profitably. You cannot make decisions the right way.”
It’s particularly critical to base decisions on real-time data at a company that is growing constantly, said Bernadsky.
“You need to be present, and you need to know your information live,” he said. “You need to be agile.”