For the small business owner, particularly for businesses which require access to tools and heavy equipment, self storage can be a real boon.
If you're a landscaper, carpenter, plumber, or electrician, you need easy access to the tools of your trade. You've probably sacrificed to scrape together the money to buy all the equipment you need to start your own business. But once you buy it, where are you going to put it? Maybe you live in a tiny apartment with no storage space. Or you may rent a house with inadequate space, or with a landlord who doesn't really want you storing all your equipment on the premises.
Self storage, close to your home or your primary work area, is a great solution. It will allow you to keep your home for your personal life (a fact your spouse or significant other will certainly appreciate) while providing an organized space for your professional tools and equipment.
First, you need to estimate how much rental space you'll need. Figure out how much space each piece of equipment takes up and then sketch out a possible organizational arrangement, using it to estimate floor space. If you have the room, actually lay out your tools and equipment in the front yard, and measure how much area it covers. (Be sure to leave room to move around in between the various pieces of equipment. )
Call around to the various self storage facilities in the area, and find out what the square footage is of their storage units and, particularly if you've got equipment that takes up a lot of vertical space, its height. Check the cost per month, and ask if there's a required minimum rental period. Do you have to pay a security deposit of some kind? first and last months’ rent? Does the storage facility insure the contents of your unit, or do you need to buy insurance yourself? Maybe the facility offers insurance for a fee; ask.
If you have equipment or supplies that need a certain environment, ask the storage facility staff what the conditions are. Is it dry? Is it heated? Is there lighting provided in the unit, or do you need to bring a flashlight when you visit it?
Is there an electrical outlet available? Is there room, either in the unit or in front of the unit, for you to perform basic maintenance or preparation tasks on your equipment as needed, and is that sort of thing allowed? (Obviously you do not want to operate a piece of equipment with an internal combustion engine inside the storage unit. )
Once you've rented your self storage unit, put a lot of thought into how you want to organize it. Make a floor plan which allows you ease of movement; set up storage shelves if appropriate; see if you can attach pegboard to the walls if you need to store small tools where they're visible. If you plan to store old business records, don't just shove them into a cardboard box and bury them in a corner; store them in filing cabinets or sturdy file boxes, clearly labeled and organized. If you use boxes, store them on shelving that allows easy access.
Do your research, plan well, and ask plenty of questions as you decide on a self storage unit. With the proper preparation, for a relatively small outlay of cash, you can provide a well organized, functional storage and work space which will give your fledgling company a real boost.
Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire and frequently contributes to Tips and Topics. She has published numerous articles in local and regional publications on a wide range of topics, including business, education, the arts, and local events. Her feature articles include an interview with independent documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and a feature on prisoners at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.