Beating the Dreaded Business Space Squeeze

Businesses all over the country are feeling the pinch, from rising wholesale prices to soaring office rental costs. Controlling overheads so you can maximise profits is quite a balancing act.

The key solution is finding a more efficient system for both storage and working areas.

Options for Storage

There are three broad options when you need storage space for stock or equipment:

  • Keeping stock at home. It’s not the best, but if you’re just starting out it can get you up and running while you figure out something more permanent. The fundamental downsides are that it’s likely to impinge on the quality of your family life, interrupt your work/life balance, and potentially cause delivery problems. The last is especially relevant if there is challenging access or your residential street makes parking difficult, especially for large vehicles.
  • Renting space in a warehouse. This is probably the most expensive option since you’ll have to also factor in costs for utilities, VAT and business rates. It may also be impractical for owners of smaller businesses where storage needs are not that great. There’s the potential to partner with another business provided you can work out a mutually suitable agreement regarding responsibility, division of space and what will happen should anything go wrong. If you take this route, make sure your agreement is in writing.
  • Self storage facilities. A practical solution for many a small business owner, self storage units are familiar with business needs and are happy to accommodate them. A couple of immediately obvious advantages include transparent charging (no VAT or business rates), easy delivery access, and a large choice of storage space sizes. Short term contracts are another attraction, making it possible to size up and down as needed, even on a regular seasonal basis if you have fluctuating stock levels.

Organising for Efficiency

Having chosen a suitable storage area, the next step is organising things for maximum efficiency. You defeat the object of having a quickly accessed store room if you then spend the otherwise saved time hunting for items.

Top tips include:

  • Having best sellers by the door. These are the items you’ll reach for most often, so have them right where you need them.
  • Plain labelling. Put labels on boxes and on the shelf where they live. When you see an empty space on the shelf, you’ll know what’s supposed to be there, and when you’re sorting new stock you’ll immediately know where it goes. It will also make locating items easier for new staff members.
  • Hang a notice board by the door. A small whiteboard is ideal, and gives you somewhere to jot notes to staff or yourself. Everyone will see it and there’s no danger of paper memos going missing.
  • Stocktake regularly. You’ll reorder items more efficiently and remove the risk of selling something that’s out of stock, especially if sales are made online.

Sole Trader Strategies

Being a sole trader has pros and cons. The pros include not being answerable to anyone but yourself and your customers, while on the con side you have to do it all. Savvy storage choices can help you work efficiently:

  • Minimise travel by packaging items in the same place you store them. The versatile space options with self storage make this easy. Simply rent a room slightly larger than your storage needs, then pop in a small table and somewhere to keep packing materials.
  • Choose a place that’s easily accessible. Try to avoid steep or numerous stairways or receiving deliveries on busy main roads. It can be tempting, for instance, to commandeer a store room in your office building, but if it’s hard to manoeuvre heavy or bulky items up stairways, your job will be more complicated.
  • Review your storage needs regularly. If you’re wasting space you’re wasting money, and if your storage area is cramped and overflowing, you’re probably risking your health as well as wasting time hunting for items.
  • Factor storage needs into future planning. Look for flexible options that allow goals to change or that offer contingency planning for when things don’t go according to plan.

When every penny counts and margins are slim, storage space should be versatile, flexible and convenient. Storage should offer a firm foundation that facilitates business operations, not become an operation in its own right.

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