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January 1, 1998

5 Min Read




By Cary McGovern

Records management in the second half of the '90s offersself-storage entrepreneurs new opportunities to expand theirbusiness and increase revenue. Whether you realize it or not, ifyou operate a self-storage facility, you may be in therecords-storage business already. Think about it: Do you havecustomers stacking boxes of records in their units?Unfortunately, if you're not offering management services ofthese records, you're probably short-changing yourself extraincome.


The "Big Boys" Are Active in the Commercial Records Center Business. Iron Mountain and Pierce-Lehey are the two largest commercial records centers in the United States. Each has centers in many U.S. cities and is acquiring businesses at an increasing rate. They are usually the biggest players in most large markets. There is more acquisition activity now than at any time in the past. But, while the "big boys" are acquiring additional locations, new start-up operations are growing as well--all of this at a time that technology is zipping at rates not thought of in the past.

What does this mean for self-storage entrepreneurs? It appears that although they typically corner the large corporate market, local or regional businesses prefer doing business with local folks. Of course, there are many medium and small businesses, and they far outnumber the corporate giants. Although no one knows what the future holds, it is likely that records-management and storage services will continue to be needed.

This new column will provide current informationabout records management in both its traditional form and intechnology-related areas. Additionally, I will be available forquestions and answers anytime. (See address information at theend of article.) As an extra service to readers, I will post asummary of the questions I receive, along with my comments, on myWeb site at http://www.fileman.

The column will cover topics that are current concerns in therecords-management business. Here are some of the topics that wewill focus on this year:

  • A perspective for records management and storage in the second half of the '90s.

  • A look at what forces are driving records management and records storage, and how technology will affect traditional forms of records management.

  • A spotlight on the players in the marketplace--the experts, the suppliers and the market-share leaders in the storage business--with a focus on how you can beat the "big boys" on your own terms.

  • Developing a business plan for a commercial records center.

  • "Prospecting for gold!"

Coming Up

The business plan. Records management is a "horseof a different color." Nevertheless, to be successful in anybusiness you must have a plan. The typical business concerns area bit different in this business than in most other enterprises.It has been said that records-storage businesses are more likeannuities because they grow annually from existing accounts at arate of 15 percent to 20 percent or more. This requires a planthat looks at the need for capital and facilities on an on-goingbasis. We will look at service levels, costs and revenue streamsand how to predict them.

What is records management anyway and why do we do it?Why do businesses and organizations keep records? We willdiscover the requirements from government, protection fromlitigation, fiduciary responsibilities and sound businesspractice. These are just a few reasons that records are not achoice but a requirement. In a sea of paper and computer data,which documents represent business records? All records aredocuments, but not all documents are records. If this is true,then how do you tell the difference and what does that mean toyour business?

Records management expertise: What is it, who are theexperts and where do I find the best sources for my needs?Whoare the experts in records management and what makes them theexperts? What are the organizations that the industry recognizes?Do I need an expert on my staff or do I outsource the expertise?These are a few of the questions that can help your business besuccessful. We will discuss the options.

The records management and storage market--vertical andhorizontal. Positioning your business may depend on yourspecific community. You may provide services to a specificindustry type, such as healthcare, environmental protection orenergy. If so, what services will these industries need as far asrecords management? What expectations do vertical markets have oftheir records management and storage provider? We will discussthe value of your market-segmentation strategy.

Normal, everyday services in the records-management market.The basis of records management is the homogeneous groupingof like records. This in itself creates opportunity. Providingboxes, packaging, purging and indexing services is not onlyhelpful to your customers but also profitable to your business.Once boxes are in your facility, you will provide storage andretrieval services. There are many ways to provide these; we willdiscuss the alternatives.

Indexing: What is it and how can I make money at it?Indexing creates metadata, or "data about data." One ofthe most important issues in records management is defining"what it is and where it is." The "it" Irefer to is of course the record. The most expensive part of arecords-management program is finding your files when you needthem. Research by management consulting firms conclude that 50percent or more of all administrative work is relative to findinginformation. Companies have discovered the need for indexing butdo not typically have the inclination or resources to do itthemselves. Productivity is essential; you can provide thisservice and earn as much as a 50 percent profit margin. We willdiscuss the alternatives and methods that you have in providingthis much needed service.

The movement to digital and how it will affect paperrecords storage. Computers are everywhere, so why is there somuch paper? And...the $64 question is, "Will this paperphenomenon continue and for how long?" No one really knowsfor sure, but we will discuss what the experts believe and how itcreates opportunity.

The high end of the records management business.Records storage and retrieval services are the basis for recordsmanagement. However, this is just the beginning. You can offer awide array of services without a huge overhead.Records-management professionals and service organizations havefound that partnering is a key to profitability. No one has theresources for all requirements. This column will address thealternatives and how to find the resources.

Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified recordsmanager and owner of File Managers Inc., a records-managementconsulting firm that also provides outsourcing services,file-room management and litigation support services for thelegal industry. For more information about records management,contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc., P.O. Box 1178, AbitaSprings, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751;e-mail [email protected]; Web site http://www.fileman.com.

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