While a large number of self-storage operators are sticking with the traditional business scheme, others are adding services to differentiate themselves and generate traffic and income. One self-storage facility in Australia now includes a McDonald’s restaurant!
Maybe you’ve considered the potential of extras but have been unsure about what goes hand-in-hand with boxes, storage and secure facilities. As several self-storage companies have discovered, records storage fits the bill. The idea isn’t new, but it’s gaining momentum.
Consider that your business already has two essential assets for successful records management: an established customer base, which consists of great candidates for records-storage services, and the warehouse. If your customers are already satisfied with your service, chances are they will favorably consider your company to safeguard their records. To provide this critical service, all you need is a little imagination, a sound business plan and the desire to do it.
Learning by Mistake
Mismanaging critical business records can result in disastrous consequences. Moreover, dealing with events after the fact can be dangerous and costly.
Recent media reports on the mishaps of several well-known companies have thrust records management and corporate accountability into the spotlight. As we’ve all seen, noncompliance with industry and government regulations can lead to litigation, financial penalties, bankruptcy and jail sentences. Poor or inadequate recordkeeping plays a major role in such cases. And, because records can easily get lost or fall into the wrong hands, society is now demanding higher standards for the accuracy and availability of content.
Additionally, we’ve all experienced a sense of panic when a document or record somehow gets deleted. Now, imagine the lost document contained proof of an accounting infraction, or was the only copy of a sales agreement for a million-dollar order!
Consider, too, some of the main events of our generation: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, changing technologies. It’s imperative companies document plans for their vital records and business resumption in the event of such scenarios. Most plans require records be maintained offsite within a specified distance.
With issues such as these grabbing headlines, records management, which was once a relatively sleepy and quiet concern, has turned into a thriving business. Moreover, with an ever-growing customer base it seems here to stay. An unlimited number of law firms, insurance companies and other businesses find it cost-prohibitive to store records onsite when the records center can do it for less.
Once business owners are familiar with records storage and realize its value, they pick up the phone, call the first number they find, barcode the boxes and out they go. As long as they have a list of what is stored at the records center and the boxes are no longer cluttering their office space, the problem is solved. It’s a headache reliever, for which they are willing to pay.
Another reason records management is on the rise is real estate. Records don’t need to be housed in premium locales. Developers can invest in a less-desirable area and arm themselves with sophisticated security and tracking devices.
What’s in Store for You?
Records management is constant. You sell an account one time and it keeps growing, even if you do nothing. If you look at the statistics, an average account grows at a rate of 12 percent, and larger accounts even more rapidly.
Another benefit is a stable customer base. Once you win an account, it tends to stay with you. As long as you provide good service, it’s unlikely a customer will ever move to another vendor. Deciding to switch facilities in records management means moving inventory and, in most cases, paying costly out-charges from the current provider. Many customers don’t feel comfortable moving their critical information, much less paying termination fees.
Additionally, records management, although it has become far more high tech, is still a rather simple business model with minimal liability. Claims for breakage and damage are virtually eliminated. Through the use of standard industry contracts, financial exposure is typically limited. Customers who require excess values pay for the additional insurance.
Finally, another great attribute of the records-management business is the sale value of the established business. There is an active market for existing records management operations.
Enter: Records-Storage Software
When people think record storage they may think low-tech and visualize pallets, forklifts and warehouses. These are typically the tools of storage companies. On the other hand, true records management is the discipline of managing records to meet customers’ operational needs, accountability requirements and community expectations.
Records-management software enables users to attach rules to the system to perform specific functions, such as deleting or moving records to a data archive, either physically in boxes or electronically on storage devices such as tapes.
Software should be the foundation of your records center. It should provide everything from the fundamentals of barcode tracking of containers, files and tapes, to invoicing, Internet access and wireless scanning. Most importantly, software should provide key rules to enable you to optimize your business.
Well-established software ensures that your records center cannot make many common business mistakes. For example, something as rudimentary as not allowing a duplicate barcode number is critical. Good software protects you from making such an error.
Therefore, choosing and partnering with the most experienced and knowledgeable software provider is critical to business success. Keep in mind that you are not only buying products and services; you’re buying the company behind them as well. Make certain the organization you’re partnering with has a long and reliable track records in the industry. Find a company whose offerings lighten the load on your records center staff and solve your business challenges quickly and effectively.
Christine Spisto is the marketing communications and public relations director for O’Neil Software. For 25 years, O’Neil has provided software and hardware solutions for more than 850 records centers in more than 60 countries, ranging from start-ups to multi-nationals. O’Neil’s software solutions manage/track multiple types of data including traditional storage boxes, file folders, documents, tapes, from deposit to destruction, work order to invoice. O’Neil also provides barcode tracking, portable printers, laser scanners, wireless handhelds and web technology, featuring award-winning RSMobile software. For more information, visit www.oneilsoft.com.
Are You Ready for Records Management?
Being a self-storage operator doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cut out for records storage. Answer the following questions to determine if you are prepared to graduate to become a records-management business operator.
1. Do you have the desire and drive to provide a vital service in a thriving, profitable industry?
2. Are you able to utilize your existing assets and resources?
3. Can you choose a partner with a solid, enduring software industry experience, someone who might be considered an expert provider?
4. Do you think you can create a record center vs. a warehouse, realizing that selling your services is equally as important as selling storage?
5. Do you have the proven ability to build and maintain customer relationships? (This truly is a service business. If the service level remains high and the relationship is properly maintained, your customer base will do nothing but grow).
The greater control your records center can provide your customers, the more successful you will be. The greater access you can provide your customers to their information, the more valuable you will be. The faster you can get the information in your customers’ hands, the more tangible your services will be.
Do you make the grade? If so, it’s time to get ready, set, grow!