“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” Tim Sullivan stated that when he summarized he and his wife’s (Lorri) journey towards owning Pagosa Secure Storage. Tim had been involved in several endeavors to build or buy his own storage facility for the past ten years. Due to circumstances involving financing, zoning, limitations to expand an existing property or it being too expensive, the right deal never presented itself. Tim did accumulate a wealth of knowledge on the storage business over that time. To have invested years in time and money without fulfilling his dream was frustrating. A close friend of his builds storage units in Oklahoma. Tim said his friend kept in touch and provided direction and encouragement to continue with the dream. Tim followed his advice and his persistence eventually paid off.
In May of 2017, Tim revisited a storage facility in Pagosa Springs he investigated eight years prior. This time the asking price was lower and there were maintenance issues which needed to be addressed. “It was a blessing really. If the facility was in stellar condition it would have been too expensive to buy.” Tim put a business plan together and checked his financial numbers. This looked like a go, until Lorri suggested he contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College.
Several years earlier, Lorri was focused on purchasing a retail business located on Durango’s Main Avenue. Through her friend’s recommendation, Lorri went to SBDC and met with Terryl Peterson, a financial specialist. Terryl reviewed Lorri’s business plan and financial data, and concluded Lorri not make the investment. The business could be viable, but it would be difficult to make money over time because of the large upfront purchasing cost required. “Even though I didn’t buy the business, I felt like I won. To continue would have been a mistake.”
Tim and Lorri met for the first of three meetings with SBDC business advisor Rich Lindblad in June. Heading into the meeting, Tim thought he knew plenty about the storage business with his ten years of experience, but was not opposed to hear what Rich had to say. That opinion changed when they met Rich and his “expert set of eyes.” Rich reviewed their plans and did his own market research. He thought Tim and Lorri had a good plan and encouraged them to proceed, but he did give insight into areas they hadn’t thought of.
His first piece of advice was the need to establish a relationship with a bank. Rich picked up the phone and called First Southwest Bank (FSB) with Tim and Lorri present. He introduced them to the banker and explained their motive. In time, a small business loan would be needed. Tim and Lorri chose FSB and opened an account. This way, FSB would see all the business transactions over time and make an easier determination to extend a small business loan. Lorri said, “that was great advice. We felt ahead of the game.”
Secondly, Rich asked how they would like to take ownership of their business. He reviewed the pros and cons of personal ownership, incorporating and forming a limited liability company (LLC). Rich additionally suggested Tim and Lorri learn to do the taxes themselves. In doing so, they would learn all the ins and outs to their business. “There are tax systems set up to help businesses succeed. Knowing how the system works can be another way of making money. If the law is there for you and you use it, you make money. If the laws are there and you don’t use it, you lose money.”
The last suggestion Rich made was to expect the cost of capital improvements to be more than what they had accounted for, which proved true. Tim and Lorri took his precautions and found ways to keep cost manageable by applying their own elbow grease to make the necessary improvements.
On August 1st, Tim and Lorri closed the deal on the storage facility in Pagosa Springs. The property included an open acre of land for potential expansion and several rental units. Pagosa Secure Storage was now their very own business. Presently, they are three months into operation and business has been profitable.
Tim and Lorri’s experience with SBDC has been positive. As a realtor, Lorri has recommended SBDC to entrepreneurs looking to buy or lease work space. For Tim, it was the forty years of business experience Rich brought to the table. “Most experience comes from making mistakes. You can learn from other people’s mistakes and save yourself the pain of making your own.”