By Cary McGovern
Records-management training issues can vary widely for self-storage owners and operators depending on your choice of operating options. You may choose to operate a traditional or a non-traditional records-storage operation. This article discusses the differences and the resources required for each.
Traditional vs. Non-Traditional
As discussed in earlier articles, there is more than one way to enter into the commercial records-storage business. In December of 1998, at the ARMA/PRISM1 joint conference in San Antonio, Texas, I was part of a panel discussion titled "New Start-Up Issues." In our planning session, we discussed the three methods of getting started in the business:
1. Traditional. This approach is usually used in a new facility designed for high cubic-footage capacity. This approach generally requires a relatively high capital investment (several hundred-thousand dollars) and two to five years to break even and begin to show a profit. It requires a commitment to intensive marketing and requires some level of expertise in both records management and operational management.
2. Non-Traditional. This approach is the much more common method for the self-storage and moving-and-storage industries. It can be quite cost effective, and may become profitable in a much shorter period of time.
3. Acquisition. This methods requires the acquisition of one or more existing facilities in a community. This is usually a very good way to go into the business with a fast start. The industry has proven formulae for acquisition assessment. There are usually several small operations in large- to medium-size communities that may be ripe for the purchase.
The educational and training requirements for each of these methods are quite different. Let's discuss the differences as well as some of the similarities.
Two Primary Training Issues
The two primary issues revolve around providing training and education for your staff at one of three levels: basic, intermediate or advanced records management, as well as practical training for your staff in the day-to-day operations of your records-storage center.
Professional-records-management training issues. These training topics should include: an understanding of the history of records management in the United States and throughout the world; a discussion of the records-management community--professionals, users and service providers; an understanding of the current state of storage media and technology and how it effects the records-storage business; discussion of why we keep records and how the costs vary.
Operating-a-records-storage-center training issues. Theses training topics should include: an overview of records storage as inventory control; the importance of following procedures and business practices without exception; the absolute requirement to build checks and balances into your system to ensure internal control and integrity; and finally, a full, hands-on training of the procedures and software processes required to operate on a day-to-day basis.
For those of you considering the traditional approach for building a commercial records-center business, you will most certainly need management and staff that fills three basic roles: finance, operations and sales. It is common during start-up to have owner/operators involved in the sales and marketing aspects because of their relationship and contacts within the community.
Traditional records-storage operations usually require a relatively high level of records-management expertise. Although the basics can be learned in a short period of time, many operators decide to bring in a records-management professional or an experienced general manager on board at the very beginning.
When purchasing an existing commercial records-center operation, you should evaluate the records-management education and expertise of the existing management team. Depending upon your marketing plan, you may consider several alternatives for education, as discussed in the other two methods, to enhance your records-management expertise.
This approach is perhaps the most problematic in terms of training. In most instances, self-storage managers or your management team has little or no records-management experience. Since this approach does not require any experience, it is essential that the staff have a brief but very intensive training program. The training should include at least three modules:
- The basics of records management and storage
- Operational issues and internal controls
- Sales and marketing of records storage.
These modules may include a text lesson, a problem-solution workbook, video or audio-tape programs and perhaps interactive, PC training tools. These resources are available through PRISM International, ARMA International and FileMan.
The Basics of Records Management and Storage
These training issues are aimed at helping the self-storage manager to understand the fundamentals of records management and storage, why we must follow very specific task rules and why records are important to your client.
Operational Issues and Internal Control
Of course the most important training you extend to your staff concerns your specific operating practices. Within every operating practice you should strategically place internal controls points. Internal controls regulate and guide the business practices in order to avoid the potential pitfalls and problems that any operation can encounter.
Your training must be designed in concert with your software. The software will require a certain order for each task to be performed. Remember that the software is not a substitute for written operating practices. Whether you buy software or access metered software (pay by transaction), you must have specific operating procedures to follow.
Sales and Marketing Training
There is little training available in the marketplace for sales and marketing specific to records management. Some telemarketing materials have been developed for general business sales use. These are widely available. I recommend that telemarketing be considered, but not used as the only resource for sales. Records management is a profession, and some telemarketing approaches may convey a less-than-professional appearance for your business. Remember that your training effort is important to the success of your overall operation.
1ARMA International is The Association of Records Managers and Administrators, www.arma.org/hq (800) 422-2762 and PRISM International is formerly the Association of Commercial Records Centers www.prismintl.org (800) 336-9793.
Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and owner of File Managers Inc., a records-management consulting firm that also provides outsourcing services, file-room management and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more information about records management, contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc., P.O. Box 1178, Abita Springs, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751; email firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.fileman.com.
Records-Management Training Resources
The following resources are available from Amazon Books at www.amazon.com or other book providers. These books discuss scripting, tracking and measuring results, all of which are very important to your telemarketing effort:
Specific training resources also include those that you receive from your software provider, such as:
Some very specific training resources include: