If you’re a small business, expansion isn’t always about getting bigger, it can also mean a more effective use of the resources you already have. Take storage for example. Whether you sell products and need space to keep merchandise, or run a business working out of a spare room at home, the right storage can not only remove hassle, but can streamline your business to help it move forward. Here are our top tips:
1. Re-evaluate your office space
For anyone whose business has grown overnight can testify, space comes at a premium. If you’re moving offices, expanding or (in this economic climate) downsizing, a short-term storage solution can be a life raft. But storage can also help your business make money too. Most SME’s have unused space in their office, or space that’s not being used well (often filled with filing cabinets or extra furniture). As shared office spaces are getting more popular, by putting the items you don’t need into storage, you could sublet the space to another company or a freelancer (sites like Office Genie can be a good place to start), helping keep your overheads as low as possible.
2. Plan for overspill
Whether you’re an eBay seller or a traditional retailer, planning for the unplanned is vital. Most businesses don’t consider overspill until its too late, but by future-proofing your storage needs, you can make sure you have a cost effective solution. Consider access, security, and location and of course – cost. Making partnerships with other local businesses ahead of time can ensure you always have a next-door area if your stock room is full (and offering extra space for their overspill can mitigate extra costs).
3. Don’t get tied into long contracts
No one knows what the future holds, but making sure your business isn’t locked into long contracts will help you stay flexible. With warehouses 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. Consider how you would segment the warehouse space to make sure stock isn’t mixed up, and think of the security ramifications if you’re sharing an open space.
4. Go virtual but take precautions
Cloud based, or virtual storage for businesses, is very topical right now. Using online storage is a great way to save physical space – scanning documents and uploading them to a safe repository, for example – and many small businesses are making the shift. A vital thing to consider first however is support (is there someone available to answer questions if you have them?) and back up (is there any chance you can lose your online data?). Google offers limited support for its free suite (gmail, google docs) and so it might be worth upgrading to a more comprehensive service that can guarantee your stored information will be secure. Apple, Dropbox, Amazon, Microsoft all have online storage solutions.