Image: Ed Chambliss Image: Ed Chambliss

A new money saving trend in the business world is to operate entirely out of storage centres. This works particularly well for e-commerce and other industries where there is no need for a public-facing office or shop with a high street address.

It’s far from the only commercial use of these types of facility. Utilising commercial storage is surprisingly common. Just recently, The Self-Storage Association Annual UK Survey 2016 showed that 41% of all space occupied in storage units is for businesses. This figure has held steady over the past five years – this clearly isn’t going away.

Far from being sinkholes for forgotten junk, the judicious use of off-site storage can be a vital resource for an efficient and stream-lined business.

Those in the business world will be well accustomed to the acronym SMART, standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-specific. It’s the kind of thing oft-mentioned by those who like to ‘push the envelope’ and engage in ‘thinking outside the box’. For many, it is just another bit of business jargon that is overlooked in the day-to-day process of getting stuff done.

However, there is another SMART approach that is far more practical, will save you money, improve your image and help your employees work more safely and effectively. Here is the SMART guide to why storage centres might work for your business:

S - Secure

Whether it is for customer confidentiality, financial records or other sensitive information, having a highly-secure and off-site location to store data is very valuable. This security is also extra handy if your office is being relocated, refurbished or there has been a flood or fire. You can be sure documents will be kept safe.

M - Maintained

Certain products need reliably consistent temperatures; the cellar in your 19th Century townhouse office simply won’t do, and neither will the little storage room where the printer and boiler kick out heat. Not only that, but you need to know your precious goods and documents are protected from vermin and in a location with a fire reporting system and security alarms 24/7. It’s also incredibly handy to have a facility that offers a friendly reception desk to take deliveries – it avoids overloading your own reception staff with large, heavy and cumbersome items.

A - Affordable

Canny businesses have worked out how storage solutions can actually save them money, particularly when your organisation is growing. If you are employing more staff or need more space for stock, many people think it is time to relocate their entire office premises to somewhere larger. This can be a very risky move at a sensitive time – some give up a brilliant, high-footfall location to find more space, while others over-commit themselves with a higher rent. A small business can quickly end up in serious financial trouble.

Instead, it can be shrewder to gain space by storing stock and documents off-site. Premium office space should be used for daily operations and personnel – not wasted on storage. Storage facilities are frequently out of town or in less pricey areas, so getting the space you need is cheaper. Don’t forget too that there will be no business rates to pay on storage space in a centre, unlike when it is part of your usual premises.

R - Reactive

If your business grows suddenly, say with a major new client, or you face a downturn, then the joy of off-site storage is that you can very quickly cancel your booking or take on more space if required. Just a month’s notice is usual, so you’ll be fleet of foot and this keeps your business running efficiently.

T - Tidy

Any business that is client or customer facing knows how important a tidy and attractive premises is for giving a professional image of a well-run enterprise. Mind you, keeping it that way on a day-to-day basis can be challenging, especially when you are tight for space.

Storing off-site is a quick and easy way to avoid these business storage fails; boxes in the disabled toilet, confidential documents left out for longer than appropriate, cluttered meeting rooms, stock encroaching on staff rest areas and overloaded receptionists. None of these will give the right impression and are likely to lead to unhappy employees.

Making the right decision

If you do decide to look into off-site storage options, it makes sense to make the process as easy as possible.

Choose a storage company that can offer a variety of spaces, whether that is a simple ‘box’ offering floor space or more organised racking areas. It is also wise to choose an arrangement that can be flexible for short or long term storage. If the company you use can also offer options for collection, packing and re-delivery of goods and documents, this will make your life a lot simpler and avoid excessive manual lifting for you and your employees.

Running a successful business is an ongoing challenge. A volatile political climate combined with Brexit means that right now, the future in uncertain for everyone. You need to be ready to respond. Sometimes thinking outside the box isn’t enough, you’ve got to be a bit SMARTer than that and think about what you can store inside it instead.

By Kate Blincoe, freelance writer and author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting