One of the best things about the commercial records-management business is it is largely recession-proof. In fact, records management thrives in adverse economic times. It also complements the self-storage business, as self-storage operators already have warehouse space, staff and trucks at their disposal to service commercial records accounts.
Records-management is very profitable, with recurring revenue and existing clients that typically grow 5 percent to 10 percent each year. There is also a well-established market for selling a records-management business, which generally trades for eight to 12 times its income.
DHS Worldwide developed, supports and markets Total RecallTM Records Management Software, used by large and small commercial records centers all over the world. "The great thing about the records-management business is it actually gets better in bad economic times," says Diane J. Hyman, CEO. "When companies downsize and cut costs, they want to find economical ways to store their records. Typical office space rents for substantially more than off-site storage. Plus, companies that move records off site can reduce staffing costs associated with managing file rooms."
Doug Woodard, managing partner of Save-A-File Systems in Manassas Park, Va., agrees. "It is a big cost-savings issue. Some companies do not focus on off-site storage in good times when the money is coming in strong--they don't want to deal with it. But when the money slows down, they want to cut costs. Off-site storage is much more economical than on-site storage. It is an easy sales case to make.
"The other big growth we have seen in our business relates to disaster-recovery planning," Woodard continues. "Since Sept. 11, this part of our business is booming. We have seen a significant increase in the storage and management of magnetic media and other important records. Save-A-File uses Total Recall, and I am extremely satisfied with the product." The Woodard family owns and operates a commercial records center and two self-storage facilities in Virginia.
DHS released its first 32-bit Windows version in 1996. "We are always improving the software," says Sam Blair, vice president of programming services. "Our products are state-of-the-art. I love technology. New improvements in the field of computer science allow us to constantly improve all of our software products. Honestly, I spend 25 percent to 50 percent of my time keeping up with enhancements in technology, which I then pass on to my programmers."
Total Recall interfaces with a variety of portable barcode readers. "You can do almost everything with a portable scanner," says Laura Wrye, vice president of training and quality assurance. "This makes records management very efficient." The system also automates billing, she explains. "As you are performing services for each client, Total Recall records the activities. At the end of each month, the system automatically generates an invoice for each client. It is really that easy."
The program also features a web interface clients use to place orders online. Customers can order deliveries, pickups and supplies, add new items to inventory, and print reports online. "We believe very strongly in making advancements to our product," Hyman says. She also believes good technical support is imperative. "Perhaps one of the most important factors in providing a good software solution is providing excellent support. Not only do we provide comprehensive technical support, but we also provide business-knowledge support.
"Many of our customers are new in the business," she explains. "Not only do they need to learn the software, they need to learn the business. One of the major differences between self-storage and records management is the manner in which you market your services. We have worked with hundreds of records-management businesses. We have seen what works and what does not. We can direct you to the necessary resources that can ensure success."
Many of the DHS staff members have experience working with commercial records centers. Deb Milner, manager of technical support, was employed for five years by one of the largest commercial records-center chains in the world. "We do not just provide software support," she says. "We provide answers to questions that take into consideration the business side of the equation. Customers are constantly calling and asking me pricing and how-to questions. Often, customers call before they submit a bid to ask how to structure it."
Hyman summarizes: "In short, we are there when you need us. We want you to be successful. Your success translates to our success." For more information, call DHS Worldwide at 800.377.8406; visit www.dhsworldwide.com.