There’s no question about it: The economy is tenuous and people are full of unease. That can mean different things for self-storage operators, depending on a customer’s specific situation. With all of the market uncertainty, now might be a good time to expand your operation to include an ancillary service such as records management.
Many storage operators are discovering the synergy between their existing business and records management. While records management is not a new concept, it is gaining momentum as this industry looks to draw a broader customer base, generate additional revenue and lower overall risk.
As a self-storage manager or owner, you already have two essential assets for successful records management: an established customer base consisting of great candidates for these services, and an existing facility. If your customers are satisfied with your self-storage services, chances are they will favorably consider your company for their records-storage needs. All you need is a little imagination, a sound business plan and the desire to enter the business, and you can provide a critical service that will continue to grow
High-Profile Records Mishaps
Mismanaging critical business records can result in disastrous consequences, and dealing with events after the fact can be costly. Recent investigative reporting and media publicizing the mishaps of several well-known companies have thrust records management and corporate accountability into the spotlight.
In addition, non-compliance to industry and government regulations have resulted in expensive litigation, financial penalties, bankruptcy and even worse—jail sentences. All of this is due to poor or inadequate recordkeeping. 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.
Consider some of the main events of our era: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, changing technology. It’s imperative that companies document plans for their vital records and business resumption in the event of such scenarios. The majority of these plans require that records be maintained off site within a specified distance. With issues such as negative media attention at the fore, records management has turned into a thriving and profitable business for many self-storage owners.
Cost and Space
Some other reasons why records management has become such a booming business boil down to real estate, simple economics and issues regarding space. A records center does not require a prime location. Storage operators can invest in a less desirable area and arm themselves with sophisticated security and tracking devices.
Their customers (law firms, insurance companies, etc.) find it cost-prohibitive to store records on site when a records center can do it for less. Equally important is the records center can often manage information with a greater degree of accuracy than they could themselves.
Finally, many smaller and mid-size corporations not yet hit by the threat of large and costly litigation want records safe but out of the way. Space becomes an issue, and housing what is considered to be nothing more than ancient history now becomes a back-office expense, adding little or no value to a company.
What’s in It for You?
Records management is constant. You can sell an account one time and it keeps growing. Looking at the statistics, an average account grows at a rate of approximately 12 percent. Larger accounts tend to grow at a more rapid pace.
Another benefit of records management is a stable customer base. Once you win an account, it tends to stay with you. As long as you provide great service, it’s unlikely a customer will move to another vendor. Switching service providers in records management means moving inventory and, in most cases, paying costly out-charges from the current provider. Many customers do not feel comfortable moving their critical information, much less paying termination fees.
In addition, records management, although far more high-tech today, 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. Customers who require excess value pay for the additional insurance.
Another great attribute of the records-management business is the sale value of the established business, as there is an active market for existing records-management operations.
Using Records-Management Software
When people think records storage they may think low-tech—pallets, forklifts and warehouses. These are typically the tools of storage companies. True records management is the discipline of managing records to meet your customers’ operational needs, accountability requirements and community expectations.
Records-management software works by allowing you to attach rules to records that tell the system when it is OK to delete them or move them 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 fundamentals such as barcode tracking of containers, files and tapes, to invoicing, Internet access and wireless scanning. Most important, software should provide key business rules to optimize your business.
Well-established software will include built-in rules to ensure 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.
Partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable software provider is critical to your 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 software provider has a long and reliable track record in the records-management industry.
Christine Spisto is the marketing-communications and public-relations director for O’Neil Software, which offers software and hardware solutions to more than 850 records centers in more than 67 countries, ranging from startups to multi-nationals. The company’s software manages and tracks multiple types of data, including traditional storage boxes, file folders, documents and tapes from deposit to destruction, work order to invoice. For more information, call 949.458.1234; e-mail [email protected]; visit http://www.oneilsoft.com/.
Records-Storage Management: Diversifying Product to Meet Growing Demand