There are many gaping chasms and bottomless potholes in the path to business success. Ask most what they think these are and the answers might range from cash flow to marketing problems or staffing and skill gaps. All are valid and the problems they create can make or break a business, but there are other danger zones we often don’t consider, and those revolve around space and how we use it.
Recognising Problem Areas
A popular, ever-expanding business model is that of the online retailer, who faces two initial problems:
- Whether to rent an office or work from home.
- Where to store stock held for sale.
Often, the most attractive solution for startups is to combine all operations from a home base. This, however, only works in the very short term. While low stock levels are easily stored in the garage, loft, or spare room, keeping overheads and risks to a minimum, any kind of success soon leads to a pressing need for more storage space.
An obvious alternative is to rent offices from the outset, maybe with accompanying storage space in the form of additional rooms or by renting an office bigger than is needed for admin. The financial risks are clear, since office space is expensive.
The solution to both lies in thinking outside the box rather than following conventional wisdom. There’s a growing band of entrepreneurs who’ve discovered the flexible business/storage opportunity offered by self storage facilities:
- It’s instantly scalable — short term rental contracts allow for rapid upgrading or downscaling when necessary. Space sizes are ideally suited to startups that just want a secure lockup for a few items, right up to established companies with grander needs, and everything in between.
- Inbuilt Security — there’s no worry about break-ins or vandalism when you’re renting storage space as that’s all taken care of. CCTV, individually locked rooms, secure perimeter fencing and vigilant staff make sure your investment is secure.
- No hidden charges — businesses often flounder on unforeseen expenses, but with self storage you know exactly where you stand. Unlike with warehousing where you’re also eligible for VAT, utilities and business rates, self storage is taken care of with one, all-inclusive monthly payment.
- Easy access and safety — home storage presents many access and safety risks, from large vehicles to trip hazards, but not so with self storage. Large parking bays, trolleys, lifts an pallet trucks make loading and unloading quick and safe.
- Pack and dispatch compatibility — self storage takes care of the two big issues for online retailers: storage and pack/dispatch areas. The smart business owner does it all from one versatile location by renting a room slightly larger than is needed for storage alone, then incorporating a desk to work on.
But What About the Office?
Paying over the odds for office space is another common problem. Either through overestimating the amount of space needed, or by finding alternative storage and working solutions but being unable to downsize the office because of the current contract.
One solution is to put free space to work, generating additional income. Read your small print, and if the contract allows, consider hiring out a desk to a fellow business owner or freelancer. Done right, it can create a win/win situation for both parties, raising capital for the office owner and providing workspace without long term commitment to someone who needs a desk in a professional environment.
If the idea appeals but you don’t have free space, consider how you could create some:
- Make more use of the cloud for document storage. Banishing paper (as far as possible) could mean smaller or fewer filing cabinets.
- If you have part time coworkers, introduce a hot desking system. Here, no one ‘owns’ desk space, but works at whichever desk is free. Under this system, if there is a free desk one day a week, rent it out for just that period. Logistically it takes some organising, but it’s very doable.
- Make the most of today’s small technology. You maybe don’t need a copier and a printer, for instance, when you can get an all-in-one machine.
- Streamline stationary storage so you can use smaller footprint furniture.
- Consider storing or selling any equipment or furniture that’s not used at least weekly.
Obviously, not all ideas will work for all businesses, and few enterprises are super-efficient in all areas. We can’t take all the risks out of doing business but, with a little lateral thinking, storage and space needn’t be one of them.