A lot of time – and money – is wasted by small businesses when it comes to suitable storage. The issue of where to put things often arises at moments of flux (when the business is expanding, downsizing, or at busy times of the year), and therefore a solution will need to be found quickly. Without the luxury of time on your side, many businesses are forced to take storage that doesn’t exactly meet their requirements – with high overheads, long contracts and in less than suitable locations. However, with a little planning, small businesses can streamline their storage to make sure they control their space. Here we look at handy tips from the professionals that will help optimise your storage.
1. Go virtual where you can
Every business has ‘dead space’ where important documents and contracts are stored, but over time that filing cabinet in the corner can grow to two and then five and then… Looking at virtual alternatives can help reclaim this space and put it to better use whether you’re working from home or in an office. First, use online collaboration tools like Basecamp to keep all your project management virtual (cutting down on dead paper). Next, look at ways to upload your documents and files to the ‘cloud’ – invest in a scanner and use uploading services like Dropbox or Google Drive (Google recently convinced a bank to start using cloud storage). If you’re not ready to invest in a scanner, there are several smart phone apps that do a good job too. Once you’ve uploaded all your docs, keep only the most important hard copies and turn the reclaimed area into additional office space, valuable emergency storage – or rent it out to another freelancer to make extra income from it.
2. Look for local shared storage
With traditional warehouse space, you’ll need to consider the necessary evils of business rates, service charges, utilities and VAT (you will get VAT back eventually, but its an initial outlay) – plus upfront deposits. This outlay can make it unappealing, especially for start-ups wanting less overheads. One solution might be to look at space sharing with other smaller companies, finding partners that will contribute to hiring a room in a warehouse, a floor or the whole building. There are security issues though if several different parties have access, and make sure to negotiate terms of service in the contract.
3. Be clever with your space
If you want your own storage space, and a warehouse is too big or expensive, self storage might be the answer. The greatest draw is flexibility. Take, for example, a small company selling gift wrapping paper. They can hire two self storage rooms (one for Christmas and one for Birthday wrapping paper) and shut down the Christmas room as soon as the product sells. If there’s a good offer on a new product, the company can quickly open a bigger room and scale down to a smaller sized one as stock is turned around. Once all the stock is sold, the rooms can be shut down completely until a new order comes in (this is especially good if your stock is seasonal).
4. Work out of your storage space
Most people think about work and storage space as intrinsically separate, but in these times tough, many small businesses are looking at ways of cutting costs. One idea is to turn storage into a distribution hub, using the space to not only store stock, but to turn it around for delivery as well. There are many types of activities that won’t work in a storage space (wielding, for example), but if you’re using a warehouse or self storage unit, discuss the options with the manager (and remember that although you might be able to customise your storage space to help make it a better place to work, you often won’t be able to attach anything to the cladding, i.e. shelving will need to be free standing). If you do decide to use your storage room as a distribution hub, a good tip is to find a space near a Post Office for a smoother turn around. If this model works for you, you can invest more in actual storage space, removing the need for a ‘conventional’ workplace and slashing costs.
About the Author: Drew Davies writes for Big Yellow Self Storage. For more information about how storage can help your business, see the business storage section of their website.