Small business owners often find there’s too much to do in a day to fully maximize their opportunities for growth and profitability. Often, the need to spend time working ‘in’ the business prevents doing the work ‘on’ the business that precedes growth. All the work has to be done, so clearly there’s a need to streamline work flow into more efficient working methods.

One of the key areas where business people can tighten up routines is in the storage and retrieval of stock and documentation.

Stock Storage and Space Management

Growing beyond the home environment is vital for business growth if the business sells physical items. Storing stock at home is fine for hobbyists or those dipping an initial toe in the waters, but as soon as a profitable niche is discovered, opportunities for growth are there if you know how to take advantage of them.

Look for off-site storage opportunities. Warehousing may be beyond the budget and way outside your needs in terms of square footage, but other options include self storage facilities. This flexible option is the ace in the hole for many small businesses:

Flexible in terms of rental periods and space available, it provides the opportunity to start small and quickly expand when need arises.

Secure, climate controlled, easy to access and with convenient opening hours, stock is safe and kept in good condition.

There’s the option to use the area for pack and dispatch, which online sellers find indispensable for cutting down travelling time between storage and packing areas.

Seasonal fluctuations in stock levels or types can dictate the need for additional space or a reduction in space. Self storage unit rentals are available from a week onwards, and only a few days notice is needed to change or add rooms (depending on availability of course).

Virtual Storage for Portable Documentation

In the days of purely paper-based offices, you needed to be in the building to access your records from the filing cabinet. Those days are long gone. Taking advantage of technology puts your office in your pocket and you can take it wherever you go.

Streamline your customer service with web-based email. You don’t need to be at your desk to respond to customer enquiries. All you need is your smartphone, laptop or tablet and you can:

  • Respond to customer queries
  • Place orders
  • Check inventories
  • Update websites or online stock listings
  • Send invoices
  • Make and take payments

Cloud storage and mobile internet combine to free you from the confines of the desk. Options to investigate include services from Dropbox, iCloud, Microsoft or Google Drive. Free options are a handy way to start if you’re reluctant to dive straight in. Using the free option for cloud storage often doesn’t restrict your usage, it merely gives you less storage space. It’s a good way to test the waters and put a new working method to the test.

Instant communication and document sharing between coworkers improves efficiency within the business, at the same time minimising mistakes; everyone can access the spreadsheet that tracks stock levels, for instance.

Putting new systems and working methods into place takes time and some getting used to. But in order to move beyond a home-based operation and start building a really profitable business, figuring out ways to combine vital operations and maximise efficiency is necessary. Between secure physical stock storage and mobile virtual storage for documents and communications, the foundations for solid growth are in place.

Drew writes for Big Yellow Self Storage.