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Changing Attitudes in Self-Storage

Changing Attitudes in Self-Storage

By Cary McGovern

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

A New Mindset

For years and years, records management has been considered incompatible with self-storage--self-storage consultants who do not understand the nature of the records business have fostered that myth. Commercial records operators have been busy grabbing existing business from self-storage businesses. This is true because most self-storage operators do not understand the reasons that their customers left them for the traditional, commercial records centers. The best part of the records business is its longevity; 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 educate the self-storage industry in records management. I believe that I have been somewhat successful. This year, my company answered more than 300 requests from self-storage operators that were received by fax, phone, e-mail and personal visits. We have assisted nearly 100 operations this year alone in getting started in the records-management business. My monthly column in this magazine has been a principal means for delivering the basic 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 also delivered the message at each of the Inside Self Storage Expos and provided several start-up seminars for clients.

Available Resources

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

Software. The resources for software have been fairly consistent over the last few years. Both the O'Neil system and the Andrews system continue to be the only traditional commercial-records software that I recommend. However, I consider the self-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. For those clients, a metered, Internet-based software product is available where you pay only for each transaction.


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

ARMA International is the organization of practitioners in records management. With some 5,000 members, it is the largest organization in the world dedicated to continuing education in that arena. In affiliation with ARMA is the ICRM, the Institute of Certified Records Managers. This is an organization that provides certification for records-management professionals. The ICRM is recognized in our profession as a symbol of both 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 primary focus for education and idea exchange for the records-storage industry. PRISM and ARMA jointly sponsor an annual event focused on commercial records management.

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

Elements for Success

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

  • 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. You already do records storage if you are in the self-storage business; records management is the next step. If you don't provide the service, you are the primary target for new business of traditional, commercial records centers.

Recently, I interviewed a salesman for a client. This salesman has worked for one of the competitor commercial-records centers in a major market. He told us that he has been in 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-storage industry as an easy mark to find new records-management customers. Keep those accounts by transforming 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 the surface in getting the self-storage industry into records management. You are positioned to provide the services better than any other industry. You have all of the requirements. All you need is the desire.

Regular columnist 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-room management and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more 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; e-mail: [email protected];

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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