News-grabbing headlines have thrust records management and corporate accountability into the spotlight. Todays world is one of terrorist attacks, fraudulent accounting, natural disasters, and non-compliance with government regulations. As a result, society is demanding higher standards for the accuracy and availability of a paper trail.
Thats where our industry comes in. Storing records offsite alleviates many company concerns by providing content accessibility, accuracy and peace of mind. As a matter of fact, it has driven records management, once a relatively sleepy and quiet affair, out of obscurity and into a thriving, profitable and vital business.
The Time Is Now
Now is an ideal time to launch records-storage services. The mismanagement or untimely destruction of critical business records can have disastrous consequences; dealing with document bungling after the fact is no less costly or dangerous.
Keeping company records properly, accurately and securely is increasingly a crucial part of any business. Records management allows people to make better decisions faster, transforming their organizations into smarter enterprises. And, of course, corporations need to document their plans for vital records and business resumption in the event of the unthinkable. Most disaster plans require records to be maintained offsite within a specified distance.
Real Estate Confines
Spaceplain and simpleis another reason records management has become a vital and booming service. A records center doesnt require the same kind of prime real estate as that of its clients. It can be situated in a less desirable location, armed with sophisticated security and tracking devices.
Customers such as law firms and insurance companies find it cost-prohibitive to store their records onsite when a records center can do it for less. Equally important, a storage facility often manages customer information with greater accuracy.
Smaller and mid-size corporations not yet hit by the threat of costly litigation often just want their records to go away. Space is always an issue, and housing ancient history is regarded as a back-office expense, adding little or no value to the company.
So these guys pick up the phone, call the first number they come to, barcode the boxes and out the records go. As long as the companies have a list of what theyve stored and the stuff is out of their offices, they regard the problem as solved. And theyre more than happy to pay for the headache reliever.
Technology Wiz or Phobe?
Lets face it: Anyone can store a box on a shelf. Technology is the key to managing records and helping self-storage facilities meet expected service levels. Heck, even bottled-water drivers capture your signature electronically for proof of delivery. Shouldnt you be able to provide comparable service when transferring records? The same goes for online access of business information.
Software is the foundation of the record center, positioning you as a business partner with your client. It provides fundamentalsinvoicing and barcode tracking of containers, files and tapesas well high-tech features such as Internet access and mobile communications.
Lets Talk Profits
Records storage is a constant cash-flow business. You sell an account one time and it keeps growing, even if you do nothing. Statistically, an average account increases at a rate of 20 percent. Larger accounts tend to develop more rapidly.
Another benefit of record storage is the stable customer base. Once you win an account, it tends to stick with you like a goose mate. Deciding to switch vendors means moving your inventory and often paying high out-charges from your current provider. Plus, many customers dont feel comfortable moving their critical information.
Finally record storage, 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, your financial exposure is typically limited to the industry standard of $2 per box. Customers who require excess values pay for the additional insurance.
Rebirth of the Entrepreneur
Is there any doubt about the continued growth of records management? As little as five years ago, some feared consolidation was decreasing the industrys size. Large national vendors were purchasing records centers and many believed an impenetrable table industry was being created.
However, the pendulum has swung back. More and more entrepreneurs are getting into the industry. PRISM (Professional Records & Information Services Management) has reported record numbers of new members to its association and conferences.
The trend seems to indicate there are fewer independent records centers to compete against, leaving room for the new entrepreneur. The industry is experiencing an exciting resurgence. Companies are asking for records services and progressive self-storage companies are perfectly poised to respond to that demand.
Christine Spisto is the marketing communications and public relations director for ONeil Software. For 25 years, ONeil has provided software and hardware solutions for more than 850 records centers in more than 60 countries, ranging from start-ups to multi-nationals. ONeils software solutions manage/track multiple types of data including traditional storage boxes, file folders, documents, tapes, from deposit to destruction, work order to invoice. ONeil 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.