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Operating Records Management Within Self-Storage FacilitiesTraining issues for self-storage managers

March 1, 1999

6 Min Read
Operating Records Management Within Self-Storage FacilitiesTraining issues for self-storage managers

Operating Records Management Within Self-Storage Facilities

Training issues for self-storage managers

By Cary McGovern

Records-management training issues can vary widely for self-storage owners andoperators depending on your choice of operating options. You may choose to operate atraditional or a non-traditional records-storage operation. This article discusses thedifferences and the resources required for each.

Traditional vs. Non-Traditional

As discussed in earlier articles, there is more than one way to enter into thecommercial records-storage business. In December of 1998, at the ARMA/PRISM1joint conference in San Antonio, Texas, I was part of a panel discussion titled "NewStart-Up Issues." In our planning session, we discussed the three methods of gettingstarted in the business:

1. Traditional. This approach is usually used in a new facilitydesigned for high cubic-footage capacity. This approach generally requires a relativelyhigh capital investment (several hundred-thousand dollars) and two to five years to breakeven and begin to show a profit. It requires a commitment to intensive marketing andrequires some level of expertise in both records management and operational management.

2. Non-Traditional. This approach is the much more commonmethod for the self-storage and moving-and-storage industries. It can be quite costeffective, and may become profitable in a much shorter period of time.

3. Acquisition. This methods requires the acquisition of one ormore existing facilities in a community. This is usually a very good way to go into thebusiness with a fast start. The industry has proven formulae for acquisition assessment.There are usually several small operations in large- to medium-size communities that maybe ripe for the purchase.

The educational and training requirements for each of these methods are quitedifferent. Let's discuss the differences as well as some of the similarities.

Two Primary Training Issues

The two primary issues revolve around providing training and education for your staffat one of three levels: basic, intermediate or advanced records management, as well aspractical training for your staff in the day-to-day operations of your records-storagecenter.

Professional-records-management training issues. These training topics shouldinclude: an understanding of the history of records management in the United States andthroughout the world; a discussion of the records-management community--professionals,users and service providers; an understanding of the current state of storage media andtechnology and how it effects the records-storage business; discussion of why we keeprecords and how the costs vary.

Operating-a-records-storage-center training issues. Theses training topicsshould include: an overview of records storage as inventory control; the importance offollowing procedures and business practices without exception; the absolute requirement tobuild checks and balances into your system to ensure internal control and integrity; andfinally, a full, hands-on training of the procedures and software processes required tooperate on a day-to-day basis.

Traditional

For those of you considering the traditional approach for building a commercialrecords-center business, you will most certainly need management and staff that fillsthree basic roles: finance, operations and sales. It is common during start-up to haveowner/operators involved in the sales and marketing aspects because of their relationshipand contacts within the community.

Traditional records-storage operations usually require a relatively high level ofrecords-management expertise. Although the basics can be learned in a short period oftime, many operators decide to bring in a records-management professional or anexperienced general manager on board at the very beginning.

When purchasing an existing commercial records-center operation, you should evaluatethe records-management education and expertise of the existing management team. Dependingupon your marketing plan, you may consider several alternatives for education, asdiscussed in the other two methods, to enhance your records-management expertise.

Non-Traditional

This approach is perhaps the most problematic in terms of training. In most instances,self-storage managers or your management team has little or no records-managementexperience. Since this approach does not require any experience, it is essential that thestaff have a brief but very intensive training program. The training should include atleast three modules:

  • The basics of records management and storage

  • Operational issues and internal controls

  • Sales and marketing of records storage.

These modules may include a text lesson, a problem-solution workbook, video oraudio-tape programs and perhaps interactive, PC training tools. These resources areavailable through PRISM International, ARMA International and FileMan.

The Basics of Records Management and Storage

These training issues are aimed at helping the self-storage manager to understand thefundamentals of records management and storage, why we must follow very specific taskrules and why records are important to your client.

Operational Issues and Internal Control

Of course the most important training you extend to your staff concerns your specificoperating practices. Within every operating practice you should strategically placeinternal controls points. Internal controls regulate and guide the business practices inorder to avoid the potential pitfalls and problems that any operation can encounter.

Your training must be designed in concert with your software. The software will requirea certain order for each task to be performed. Remember that the software is not asubstitute for written operating practices. Whether you buy software or access meteredsoftware (pay by transaction), you must have specific operating procedures to follow.

Sales and Marketing Training

There is little training available in the marketplace for sales and marketing specificto records management. Some telemarketing materials have been developed for generalbusiness sales use. These are widely available. I recommend that telemarketing beconsidered, but not used as the only resource for sales. Records management is aprofession, and some telemarketing approaches may convey a less-than-professionalappearance for your business. Remember that your training effort is important to thesuccess of your overall operation.

1ARMA International is The Association of Records Managers andAdministrators, www.arma.org/hq (800) 422-2762 and PRISM International is formerly theAssociation of Commercial Records Centers www.prismintl.org (800) 336-9793.

Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and owner of FileManagers Inc., a records-management consulting firm that also provides outsourcingservices, file-room management and litigation support services for the legal industry. Formore information about records management, contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc.,P.O. Box 1178, Abita Springs, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751; email [email protected]; Web: www.fileman.com.

Records-Management Training Resources

The following resources are available from Amazon Books at www.amazon.com or other book providers. These books discuss scripting, tracking and measuring results, all of which are very important to your telemarketing effort:

  • Successful Telemarketing: Opportunities & Techniques for Increasing Sales & Profits, by Bob Stone, John Wyman; paperback; August 1993.

  • Emarketing, by Seth Godin; paperback; February 1995.

Specific training resources also include those that you receive from your software provider, such as:

  • O'Neil Software; www.oneilsoft.com; (949) 206-6949

  • Andrews Software; www.andrewssoftware.com; (800) 807-2093

  • FileMan Internet Metered Software or So you want to be in the Records Management Business, a 301-page records storage start-up operating manual; www.fileman.com; (877) FILEMAN.

Some very specific training resources include:

  • The popular training video Buried Alive is available from ARMA International (purchase) and FileMan (rental). Both PRISM and ARMA have extensive libraries of audio cassettes from prior conferences that are available for purchase. Several of these are available through rental check-out to FileMan customers.

  • The Basics of Records Management and Storage video, audio and workbook will be available during the first quarter of 1999 from FileMan.

  • The well-respected, college-edition textbook Information and Records Management: Document-Based Information Systems by Roebek, Brown and Stevens (Glencoe/McGraw Hill Publishers, 1996; ISBN 0-02-0801793-5) is available from Amazon Books at www.amazon.com and from the ARMA International bookstore.

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