Savvy Software Shopping

John Rodrigues Comments
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As a self-storage manager—whether for a privately held company or one publicly traded with thousands of shareholders—your job remains the same: effective operation of the business. Your facility’s management software is one of the tools that make the job possible. If you aren’t making the most of technology, you could be sacrificing ROI. Here are seven important steps you can take right now to increase efficiency, reduce costs and ultimately increase profitability.

Step 1: Use productivity tools.

There’s a reason worker productivity in the United States has increased dramatically in the past decade: Companies started investing heavily in computers and software in the early to mid-'90s. Soon, they began to see an amazing increase in the efficiency of their employees, who found they could do more work in less time and with less effort, thereby saving money.

Business owners who haven’t already computerized their office functions should do so immediately. If you’ve already gone this route, make sure you have the best possible technology for the tasks at hand. Even a small increase in the usefulness of your tools can make a big difference in overall efficiency and productivity.

Step 2: Use standard technology.

Obviously, it’s critical to match the right technology to your business. Regardless of their pros and cons, the standard PC and Microsoft Windows operating system have become today’s de facto business tools. Unless you have strong and specific reasons to spend more on other platforms (e.g., Macintosh, Sun/UNIX), save yourself a lot of headaches by sticking with the standard, too.

Step 3: Be software specific.

Tens of thousands of small software companies are dedicated to providing solutions tailored for specific industries. Self-storage alone has more than 30 software suppliers. When attempting to meet the needs of your facility, there’s no more certain recipe for lost productivity, reduced efficiency and lost profitability than to use general business software. Numerous studies prove that trying to stretch “generic” software (Microsoft Excel, Access, etc.) beyond its traditional use does not work. Put simply, buy the right tool for the job. It will pay off quickly.

Step 4: Insist on easy-to-use software.

Choose a software program that is easy to use and a supplier that has managed to reduce implementation and startup time. Be wary of tools that offer so much functionality they will take weeks or months to learn. Software with a demanding learning curve will not only rob you of profits when first purchased, it will come back to hurt you every time you have to train a new employee.

Step 5: Demand flexible software.

Your business will grow, change and adapt to new market pressures. Your software needs the flexibility to keep up. What happens if you decrease the number or size of your units? What if you add another site to the business? Ask the questions now that will allow you to choose the software that suits you presently and in the future.

Step 6: Look for fair value.

The lowest priced software is not always the most economical. The most expensive software is not always the best or most powerful. It is usually smart to avoid either extreme and find a vendor who offers solid functionality and performance at a fair price.

Step 7: Choose a vendor who understands you.

Find a software vendor who understands your business and, most important, understands what your business is about: making money. You’re a businessperson, probably not a computer geek. So why would you want to buy your software from a supplier pushing fancy technology that has no real relevance to the task at hand? Your vendor should stay focused on what will work for your business. Savvy software shopping will put you on the right path to increasing your efficiency, productivity and profits.

John Rodrigues is part of Logon Express Inc., which designs software to increase the efficiency and productivity of self-storage owners and managers. The company’s product, SAGE, comes in four editions with various features, and free trials are available. For more information, or to download a free demo, call 401.383.8959; visit www.logonexpress.com.

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