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Changing Attitudes in Self-Storage

December 1, 1999

5 Min Read
Changing Attitudes in Self-Storage

Changing Attitudes in Self-Storage

By Cary McGovern

1999 marks theyear that records management changed in the self-storage industry. More and more operatorsare adding the service to their business lines. What's caused this change in attitude? Whyare more and more people interested in records management?

A New Mindset

For years and years, records management has been considered incompatible withself-storage--self-storage consultants who do not understand the nature of the recordsbusiness have fostered that myth. Commercial records operators have been busy grabbingexisting business from self-storage businesses. This is true because most self-storageoperators do not understand the reasons that their customers left them for thetraditional, commercial records centers. The best part of the records business is itslongevity; records tend to stay in your facility forever.

1999 in Retrospect

During 1999, I personally felt as though I was on a quest, which was to help educatethe self-storage industry in records management. I believe that I have been somewhatsuccessful. This year, my company answered more than 300 requests from self-storageoperators that were received by fax, phone, e-mail and personal visits. We have assistednearly 100 operations this year alone in getting started in the records-managementbusiness. My monthly column in this magazine has been a principal means for delivering thebasic message. Since we are limited in our ability to explain complex issues in columns,we have created much more in the way of educational and training materials. I have alsodelivered the message at each of the Inside Self Storage Expos and provided severalstart-up seminars for clients.

Available Resources

Articles. If you have missed any of my columns over the last twoyears, you can access them free of charge from the Inside Self-Storage Web site atwww.insideself storage.com; simply go the archive search and enter my last name or the keywords "records management." You can also access them at www.fileman.com. If you don't have Internet access, justcall me and I will get copies to you.

Software. The resources for software have been fairly consistent overthe last few years. Both the O'Neil system and the Andrews system continue to be the onlytraditional commercial-records software that I recommend. However, I consider theself-storage industry to be a more nontraditional player in the commercial-records market.Some owners aren't willing to spend the big bucks on software for a modest start-up. Forthose clients, a metered, Internet-based software product is available where you pay onlyfor each transaction.


Records management as an industry has been around since the late 1940s. As a matureindustry, there are several organizations that foster education and collaboration inrecords management. I highly recommend that you join them when you venture into thebusiness.

ARMA International is the organization of practitioners in records management. Withsome 5,000 members, it is the largest organization in the world dedicated to continuingeducation in that arena. In affiliation with ARMA is the ICRM, the Institute of CertifiedRecords Managers. This is an organization that provides certification forrecords-management professionals. The ICRM is recognized in our profession as a symbol ofboth professionalism and integrity.

PRISM International (formerly ACRC) is the Association of Commercial Records Centers.This organization of more than 500 traditional, commercial records centers is the primaryfocus for education and idea exchange for the records-storage industry. PRISM and ARMAjointly sponsor an annual event focused on commercial records management.

AIIM is the Association of Image and Information Management. This organization's focusis electronic document management, including electronic records. It is primarily a vendororganization and a showcase for new products.

Elements for Success

Remember these keys to a successful records-management business in a self-storagefacility:

  • Use of existing storage units

  • Leased racking, one unit at a time

  • Metered software (pay per access)

  • Standardized operating processes

  • Canned marketing techniques

  • Outsourced courier services

  • Retrievals done by the courier

  • Outsourced monthly billing with electronic deposits

  • Video, audio and computer-assisted training

You can be profitable in the business within 90 days with little or no new cost. Youalready do records storage if you are in the self-storage business; records management isthe next step. If you don't provide the service, you are the primary target for newbusiness of traditional, commercial records centers.

Recently, I interviewed a salesman for a client. This salesman has worked for one ofthe competitor commercial-records centers in a major market. He told us that he has beenin our facility dozens of times over the years to get the records business away from us.This is nothing new--for years commercial records centers have looked at the self-storageindustry as an easy mark to find new records-management customers. Keep those accounts bytransforming them from records storage to records management.

The New Millennium for Records Management

Look for more records-management columns in the year 2000. We have only scratched thesurface in getting the self-storage industry into records management. You are positionedto provide the services better than any other industry. You have all of the requirements.All you need is the desire.

Regularcolumnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and owner of File Managers Inc.,a records-management consulting firm that also provides outsourcing services, file-roommanagement and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more informationabout 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]; www.fileman.com.

Resources for Records Management


Andrews Software
One Andrews Circle
Beckville, OH 44141
(800) 807-2093

FileMan (FIRMS)
P.O. Box 1178
Abita Springs, LA 70420
(877) FILEMAN (toll free)
[email protected]

O'Neil Software Inc.
8 Mason
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 458-1234


ARMA International & ICRM
(800) 422-2762

PRISM International
(800) 336-9793

AIIM International
(888) 838-3165

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