Owners of small businesses, and in particular startups, should assess their storage needs early on to avoid inventory muddles or delivery delays as business progresses. Making an informed decision at the outset provides a solid business infrastructure, leaving you free to concentrate on customer service and efficient stock picking and packing.
What are you selling? The type of items in your inventory will determine how much and what type of storage space you need. Small items can possibly be stored at home, although this has it’s drawbacks.
As business expands, or for those who sell larger items, offsite storage areas streamline business operations by providing a dedicated stock area. These generally fall into two broad categories:
- Warehouse Space
- Self Storage Units
Renting warehouse space can dramatically increase your overhead when you factor in additional costs like VAT and business rates or utility and service charges. Check carefully and do the maths before signing on the dotted line.
Further considerations include access to stock and whether you can get into the warehouse out of business hours if necessary. Business startups in particular can involve long working hours, often extending into the evening. Consider how you’ll manage your stock and when you’ll need access.
Stock management also means knowing by how much your stock levels will fluctuate, either seasonally or through supply and demand variations. Will warehouse space give you flexibility if you need to expand or reduce the storage area you’re renting?
The second offsite storage option is self storage. Doing away with access issues, units offer secure, convenient and private spaces. In addition, one fixed fee keeps overheads to a minimum during the stretched early months or expanding subsequent years.
Again, consider the type of stock you’re holding. Multiple small items, stacked and packed logically, don’t need extensive warehouse space, and you’ll likely find self storage providers are able to offer greater flexibility should your storage needs change. Nimble financial juggling can make for greater profitability when margins are stretched tight.
Whichever type of offsite storage you choose, make sure everything is clearly labelled, counted and recorded. Nothing will damage your credibility and customer-trust rating faster than selling something you don’t have.
Storing small items in clear boxes makes it possible to do a swift visual assessment on a moment by moment basis. Clearly labelling larger or closed boxes saves time when searching for an item. As well as meticulous computer records, it’s a good idea to keep a running total of the number of items in stock on the front of the box so you can reorder when stocks are low. It only takes a moment to physically amend the quantity but serves as a double-check on stock levels so you don’t get caught out.
Storage and Efficient Working
By choosing the storage option that best suits your business, you’ll pave the way for more efficient working methods. For some, this means having enough space to not only store, but to also pack and dispatch. Self storage units are probably best if a joint working and storage area would suit your operation.
Choosing a space that’s slightly larger than you need purely for storage means you can also have a work area with a desk and packing materials to hand.
Storage can work either for or against any small business. When you make an informed decision based on facts and hard figures you give your business a head start in efficient management.
Photo Credit: Flickr/romana klee