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Renting Self-Storage ‘Air’: Tips for Operating a Successful Records-Storage Business

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By Michael Ruge

Records storage can be a wonderful ancillary service for existing self-storage operations. Not only can it provide secondary income, it can attract new renters. Let’s look at what it takes to successfully run a records-storage business, including requirements for space, software, staffing and more.

Space

Records storage involves renting cubic feet or “air space” as opposed to traditional self-storage, in which you lease square feet. Units with the highest ceiling height will work best for this service.

Offering the proper shelving and equipment will minimize safety hazards. The type required will vary based on the ceiling height. Basically, the higher you go, the stronger the shelving needs to be so it offers more support.

The shelving should accommodate standard-size document-storage boxes. It’s much easier to organize the space if you use standard 1.2-cubic-foot boxes, as most everyone can lift this size. Nonstandard sizes aren’t practical and generally too heavy. Oversized boxes may also be over legal limits in some jurisdictions.

Climate Control

If you’re simply offering storage for paper records, climate control isn’t important. Paper doesn’t care about temperature, only dryness. Water, fire and rodents are a records-storage facility’s biggest enemies. Some operators will keep units hotter in the summer months and colder in the winter months than most humans will tolerate simply to keep pests away.

Software

There are five software companies that have designed programs specifically to address the needs of records-storage businesses. These programs can trace documents, file folders, tapes and traditional storage boxes, from deposit to destruction.

Many software vendors are also improving their mobile functions, allowing records-storage facilities to operate much more efficiently. The primary benefit is customers are able to go online at any time and book any required services, minimizing your staff requirements.

Staffing and Confidentiality

Outsourcing works very well in the records-storage business. All pickups and deliveries can be handled by local courier companies. In fact, all tasks, except management, can be outsourced. You can hire veterans, semi-retired people or those looking for part-time work on an “on-call” basis. The majority can be hired as contractors to minimize costs and long-term liabilities.

Records-storage personnel must treat all records in their care as confidential. It’s critical that records are kept secure at all times and only trained, screened staff are allowed to handle them. They must not at any time publish, release or disclose any records or information they come in contact with in any way.

Document Shredding

Some operators have taken their records-storage services to another level by offering document shredding. People who call you for shredding may ultimately choose to store records with you, and those storing records at your facility will likely need shredding services at some point. You may choose to do the shredding yourself using an onsite shredder, or store the records to be shredded and hire a mobile vendor once you’ve accumulated a sufficient number of boxes. Either of these is cost-efficient for records destruction.

Due to issues of dust and noise, as well as the potential for fire, bulk shredding should never take place in the same area where staff work and records are stored. The shredder area should be separated by a fire door and have appropriate ventilation to remove dust.

Marketing and Sales

Records can go from the basement to the boardroom in an instant. Clients are only slightly aware that records storage exists as an industry until they have a crisis and need their old records retrieved for a lawsuit or audit. Your marketing department’s job is to increase awareness and accessibility.

First, maintain a professional website. It should clearly define your records-storage offering, including the scope of services on offer. Optimize your site with keywords and blogs. Also promote your services on your social media channels. You can also benefit from belonging to local or national records-storage associations and other local business-networking associations, such as the chamber of commerce or rotary club.

The needs-assessment selling process brings the highest return. When followed properly, it can achieve a 70 percent closing ratio. Records storage is needed by the majority of businesses, but many just don’t know it yet. When you educate them on the laws and the benefits of records storage, it’s simply a matter of how to implement your services.

For more than 30 years, Michael Ruge has helped people start, improve, market, manage and sell all types of storage businesses including portable, records and traditional as well as warehousing. He’s the head advisor for Storage File Experts, which has offices in Canada and the United States. To reach him, e-mail info@storagefileexperts.com; visit www.storagefileexperts.com.

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