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Inside Self-Storage 04/2001: Tools for Records Management

April 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage 04/2001: Tools for Records Management

Tools for Records Management

By Cary F. McGovern

Selecting the right tools foryour business may be the most important decision you make. Why are tools soimportant and what makes the selection process critical? This article willdiscuss the importance of tools as they relate to records-management services.

The Importance of Tool Selection

Being a consultant for nearly 25 years, I have collected many stories abouttools. Selecting the right tool for any job may cut the cost in half. Myfavorite story has to do with my father-in-law. Albin was a machinist all of hislife, and his garage was filled with tools. One Saturday morning, after he hadpassed away, the men of the family met in his garage and each selected a tool,one at a time. After a couple of hours, we had selected a number of tools, butthere were still perhaps 50 left on the floor. None of us knew what they wereused for. Some were odd shaped and others really strange looking. I can tell youAlbin not only knew what they were for but how to use them. Without the righttool, any job is more difficult. Sure, you may be able to unscrew a screw with aknife, but it can be very difficult.

I recently did an assessment of a file room at a major regional bank that hadmore than 200,000 files. The bank had just purchased an automated file-trackingsystem for more than $60,000, including the software and subsequent conversionof data to the system. The bank did not, however, have enough money in itsbudget to buy portable barcode readers. As a result, its employees have to typebarcodes into a single location code, "the file room." The results arethat files are still missing. My analysis showed that although the company had agreat tool, it was being used improperly. The analogy I presented to thedivision manager was that the company had purchased a pneumatic nail gun, butwas hammering nails with its handle. Clearly they had the right tool, but didn'tunderstand its function.

I personally encounter poor tool selection and improper use all the time inmy business. Sometimes it is because of overly cautious practices, other timesit is purely from ignorance. Tools abound in records management. Its toolsinclude start-up planning, business practices, marketing strategy, software andhardware, outsourcing services and strategic alliances. Let's discuss each ofthese.

Start-up Planning

Records management is quite different from self-storage. Although there is nobetter fit than records management in a self-storage facility, a very differentplan is required. Where self-storage is typified by passivity, recordsmanagement is typified by activity. Planning your business with the right toolsis imperative. The feasibility study, strategic business plan and marketassessment are all key to success.

Business Practices

Since self-storage requires minimal management intervention and recordsmanagement requires close attention to detail, internal controls and moreeffective business practices change the staffing qualifications andrequirements. Attention to detail becomes the most important factor. Managingyour resources is key to the success of your records-management business.

Marketing Strategy

Know your market. Know what you want to be. Position yourself and develop astrategy to reach your goals. Two important marketing tools are softwareproducts: prospecting tools, such as Imine BrowserTM andsales-management tools, such as Act 2000TM or GoldmineTM.Imine Browser automatically collects data from existing Internet Yellow Pageslistings and sells for less than $100 (visit www.iminebrowser.com).Sales-management software effectively coordinates the sales cycle. Theseproducts are widely available at software stores and over the Internet for about$150.

Software and Hardware

Although there are many inventory-control software products available on themarket, some are very inexpensive. Typically, you get what you pay for. At arecent tradeshow, a customer informed me he had purchased a product I wouldnever recommend. He said he was satisfied with it. I suggested his satisfactionwould not last long. There are only a few software products that are worth theirsalt in records-center operations. Eventually, the others will leave you behind.I could recount story after story about companies being left behind by poorlymanaged software vendors. If your product does not include Internetcapabilities, you have relinquished great leverage with your customers and costyourself a great deal more labor in the future. Labor is an ongoing cost wheresoftware is not.

Outsourcing Services

The greatest tool developed for business over the last 20 years has to dowith outsourcing non-core business functions. Careful planning of your facilitywill allow you to outsource activities to others who offer those services astheir core business. In many cases, outsourcing a function enables you to havemore control and reduce cost at the same time. This tool must be utilizedwisely, however, or you may find yourself in the same analogy as the pnuematicnail gun mentioned earlier.

Strategic Alliances

Smart business people know what business they are in. If an activity is not"core" to your business, find the right resource partner to providethat set of expertise or services. The best example I know of is a generalcontractor. He will employ sub-contractors for plumbing, electrical, framing,mechanical, etc. Why? Because he is good at project management and his framer isgood at framing. Since records management is a discipline more than 50 yearsold, you can find content experts to do just about anything. Each is experiencedin what he does. Know what you are good at but when you can, hire those who arebetter than you at various tasks.

Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and theprincipal of File Managers Inc., a records-management consulting firmspecializing in implementation assistance and training for new, commercialrecords-center start-ups, as well as marketing support for existing recordscenters. For more information, call 877.FILEMAN; e-mail [email protected].

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