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Selecting A Document Storage Vendor

Wed, 06/07/2023 - 16:44

June 2023 Blog – Selecting A Document Storage Vendor

Storing digital and paper documents is often considered a chore rather than a critical process that must be carefully considered and monitored.

The initial phase of any storage process is choosing when, where, and how the data is stored. We use the word data because even the most minor receipt can become important in subsequent events. Proper storage can mean significant savings in time and money down the line.

Businesses have varying needs for storing their digital and paper documents. If your business deals with confidential information, it is essential to select your document storage vendor carefully.

When looking for storage of paper and/or digital storage for your business documents, here are some questions you should ask the document storage providers under consideration before making any commitments.

How long has the provider been in business?  Best to choose a records storage company that has been a longtime member of the records management industry and understands the importance of protecting and managing information assets. Also, research reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings, etc.

  1. What is the provider’s knowledge and experience of storing records in your business’s line of business?

Each industry encourages a different record-keeping compliance process. Only when the provider has shown it has handled similar clients will you be comfortable that the vendor can adequately support your company’s needs.

  1. How are your business’s documents protected?

Look for a provider who makes protecting your business’s valuable records a priority, one who can explain in detail the physical or technical protections they have in place to protect our documents from being accessed by competitors, hackers, and other criminals with ill intent. 

The storage facility should have the following:

  • High-level, 24/7 monitored security and surveillance systems
  • Secured entry doors with locks and security codes
  • Motion and intrusion detection sensors
  • Environmental control
  • Emergency retrieval protocols
  • State-of-the-art fire detection and mitigations systems
  • Note: A dry system doesn’t send water into the pipes until an alarm is triggered.
  • Protection against sudden floods
  • Evaluate if the vendor has adequate security measures to protect the records against physical, artificial, and natural disasters.

Even if your business’s files are locked up tight, does the provider do background checks on its employees? Does it require them to sign confidentiality agreements, take fingerprints, or use biometric scanning?

Finally, ask the provider if they have an industry-recognized certificate, such as PRISM Privacy+, proving they have the most advanced security and physical safety procedures.

Further, consider whether a screened and uniformed courier should deliver your business records in a GPS-tracked and alarmed vehicle. An electronic receipt should be provided with every delivery.

  1. How does the provider take inventory of your business’s files and index them?

Some record storage providers will inventory and index your business’s boxes before storing them to provide an accurate offsite storage inventory when asked. 

  1. How does your business get its records offsite?

Another important question will be understanding how records are safely transported from your business to the storage facility. 

  • Understand the frequency of transport and how secure this transportation system is. 
  • How are records packaged, loaded, monitored for tampering on the way, etc.?
  • What kind of checklists and reports does the provider produce from the point of pick up to delivery?
  1. How is access requested, and how long does it take for documents to be delivered?

Requesting documents and files from your document storage provider should be easy. Understand the different options between asking for document locations or requesting receipt of your documents. Check if the provider offers:

  • Next-day delivery
  • Same-day delivery
  • Two-hour retrieval and delivery
  • Scan on Demand digital delivery

Ask about the vendor’s information tagging and search functions.

  • Can you find the information you need quickly? 
  • What if you can’t find something—what kind of help do they offer?

Further, we may want some people at your business to view our storage documents, but not everyone. 

  • Does the vendor have a way to enforce your business’s governance and security policy?
  • Do they validate records requests? 
  • How does the provider train their workers to handle requests for files?
  1. Where is the document storage facility located?

It is essential to understand where your business’s records will be stored. The longer the distance from the provider facility, the higher the accessorial charges of each record retrieval and delivery will be. 

If the provider has scan-on-demand services, then locations do not matter, and it can offer your business significant cost savings over many years.

  1.  What are Your Certifications and Insurance Coverages? 

It is vital to get independent verification that the document storage service your business sells. Find out about the provider’s certifications (such as NAID) and insurance coverage (such as Downstream Data Coverage).

  1. What value-added services does the provider offer?

Some records storage providers can assist your business with additional services like media storage, document scanning, and shredding. Having one provider for our entire records management function is often easier.

If the provider offers imaging services, you also want to ask how they secure online documents. 

  • Are they using cloud storage? 
  • Who can access documents? 
  • What firewalls and security measures are in place? 
  1. How is the providers’ security checked?

It’s no use protecting business documents from spies and wannabe thieves if the storage provider’s staff are going to interfere with them directly. Ask if the provider should have gone through DBS checking, been security vetted to BS7858, and signed the Official Secrets Act! 

  1. Will the provider come and collect business documents?

The collection isn’t strictly essential, but will the provider come over to your business, get everything boxed up – even bring the boxes and tidy up after themselves?

  1. How does the pricing work?

Ask about the provider’s pricing:

  • Is it per box or file, or based on the dedicated storage space your business wants to contract? 
  • What are other factors that can influence the pricing? 

As time passes, records keep getting generated in volumes, and your storage cost can climb multifold. Evaluate how the pricing works incrementally. Understand their contract terms so that your business will not be surprised at a future time.

  1. What about compliance regulations?

There are many laws governing the retention periods for various types of documents. Ask how the provider keeps track of all of them. 

Also, query:

  • Can your business access this information with the press of a button?
  • How does the provider handle document destruction? Documents must be destroyed after a certain period and in a certain way. Someone must do it and provide documentation. 
  • Will they send your business alerts when it’s time to destroy documents and verify they have done so?
  1. What industry associations does the provider belong to?

Your business can gain insight into a prospective document storage vendor by verifying industry memberships. The following affiliations confirm your provider’s commitment to industry best practices and standards:

  • PRISM International (Professional Records & Information Services Management)
  • NAID (National Association for Information Destruction)
  • AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management)
  • NRC (National Records Centers)
  • ARMA International (Association of Records Managers and Administrators)
  • NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency)
  • DPA (Data Protection Agency)

In summary, if/when we’re looking for a trusted and reliable document storage company, asking these questions and verifying the answers will help your business choose a document storage provider that offers dependable service, unparalleled security, and personalized support.

It is best to put out a detailed RFP asking these questions, then speak with two or more providers to compare and contrast their offerings and how they meet your business’s needs. Please only settle for a vendor once you find one who answers your firm’s questions and meets your business’s needs.

Above, we have provided a long list of do’s and don’ts. 

Consider the consequences if your files are breached or stolen. The time and money you spend today to give you security may never be necessary. It will be priceless if something untoward happens in the future.

Value of Partnerships

Sun, 05/07/2023 - 12:25

Sometimes, small business growth moves faster when two or more entities draw together. Often labeled strategic alliances, these undertakings occur when two or more businesses enter into an agreement to work together toward a common goal while still remaining independent. This type of partnership enables you to go further as a team than either of you could go alone.

Why are partnerships so important?

Partnerships increase your base of knowledge, expertise, and resources available to make better products, reach broader audiences, reduce costs, and spread risks. An added benefit is the 360-degree feedback partnerships instill can fuel your business to grow. The right business partnership will also enhance the ethos of your firm.

How do strategic alliances create value?

Strategic alliances allow partners to scale quickly, build innovative solutions for their customers, enter new markets, and pool valuable expertise and resources. And in a business environment that values speed and innovation, this is a distinct competitive advantage.

Here are ways a strategic partnership can be a boon to your business.

  • Access to new customers – you will widen your reach by being able to reach your partner’s clients.
  • Opportunity to reach new markets – both partners have the ability to explore a new frontier and benefit.
  • Added value for existing customers – a partnership adds value for your loyal customers; reaching customers during a growth period can further loyalty and perhaps foster positive word-of-mouth.
  • Increase brand awareness – get out there and let people know who you are, be exposed to your logo and branding; create recognition.
  • Build brand trust – when people see you create positive relationships with others, they will be more willing to help out and support your business.

While partnerships have significant upsides, business alliances are notoriously difficult to get right.  But, the effort is worth the added effort as the competitive advantages are key to success in our increasingly fluid economy.

A mutually beneficial strategic partnership can be forged when both parties have:

  • skin in the game,
  • a shared vision, and
  • an all-in-this-together mindset.

What is also crucial is cultural alignment. Both parties must share:

  • core values,
  • transparent objectives, and
  • a willingness to share data.

Both parties should be co-developing new customer propositions or business models through a shared ecosystem of service and product offerings. A strategic partnership should be both exciting and daunting.

However, in the past, strategic alliances have tended to flounder after the initial excitement and press release—cultural differences, conflicting priorities, and logistical hurdles can derail the best of intentions. Apparent infidelity and growing mistrust have caused several major corporate partnerships to unravel. In some cases, alliances have consumed a great deal of time and resources without producing much in the way of results.

These elements must be identified and addressed before the final agreement.  If they are left for the post-announcement stage, the partnership might never flourish.

If both parties understand the key elements of successful partnerships; have identified complementary goals; and have a willingness to share, joining together can positively spur growth.

Explore partnerships with care, act with discretion, and if you do act, jump in with both feet.

Gray Work Force

Sun, 04/02/2023 - 20:06

To grow and be successful,  your business needs committed workers with good attitudes.  These attributes are found in abundance in the so-called Gray Work Force.

In today’s volatile job market and with reports of recession already being here, you may be nervous enough to not want to invest in added full-time workers.  But to grow or even maintain current revenue goals, your business, like many other small businesses, might need added help.

A remarkable resource is available to you right in your own locale. Consider tapping into the graying workforce, which is often looking for part-time work. By employing them as part-time employees, you get the benefits (committed, experienced, good attitude) without having to pay benefits.

Here are some ideas for economically finding part-time workers to minimize recruitment costs.

Advertise your part-time role locally.  It will remove relocation costs, cut down on commute time, and draw candidates familiar with your company and the area.

Highlight flexibility of perhaps location and schedule so the worker can complete what is required yet still maintain his/her desired work/life goals.  FlexJobs is one resource for posting jobs that have built-in flexibility.

Look at full-time jobs that can be scaled back or divvied up. Look at whether multiple discreet tasks can be distributed among multiple roles. The benefit to your business is that dividing the role might enable you to afford a more experienced hire where it counts, while providing new opportunity for a junior person or a chance to increase automation – a one-time investment that pays year-after-year.

Job share with another part-time worker. An experienced worker often has a wide network of colleagues at various levels and specialties, and they might have another person in mind with whom they can share a role. Sometimes ½ + ½ is greater than 1. Or, consider pairing –up an older and a younger worker as a team.

Finally, consider a consultant. While not the same as a part-time worker. They can work part-time and fill your business needs. Look for consultants with a track record and perhaps have set up their own consulting business.

Hiring part-timers may be a solution to your business needs.  Adding a Gray Work individual could help your business soar.

Bad Clients

Thu, 03/02/2023 - 12:14

Every small business manager or owner has a story or few encounters with bad clients – someone who demanded the impossible, nickeled and dimed a project, used profanity during business calls, and threw tantrums about deadlines.  If you ask around, no doubt you will hear about client encounters that may shock you for their audacity and unreasonableness. 

So what are the early signs of a bad client?

  • The client starts making unreasonable demands from the beginning and continues.
  • Early in the relationship, the client is skeptical of your abilities; this happens twice as often for women than men.

Some of the most common types of bad behaviors include:

  • Being mean and/or abusive to you or your team members
  • Being dishonest
  • Not paying on time or at all
  • Costing more time and effort than the revenue/profit they bring to your business

All are unacceptable, but only about a third of small business owners fire their clients, and the majority continue to work with their bad clients.

If you decide to fire a bad client, here is how to do it professionally.

  • Finish any work in progress.
  • Use email to put it in writing that you will no longer provide your offering(s) to the client.  Thank the client for the opportunity to work together and then provide a reason for not doing so going forward.
  • Then follow up with a telephone call to ensure your client reads your email and understands that you won’t work together anymore.  Your call is also an excellent opportunity to discuss the next steps, such as returning any necessary files and/or collecting an outstanding balance.

Remember, never fire a client when you’re angry. If you are tempted to have a heated conversation with a difficult client, sleep on it before making any rash decisions.

If you decide to keep a bad client, here is how to manage better.

  • First, identify what makes your client so difficult to work with.
  • Then, create and implement the right strategy to transform your client.

Here are some common issues and how to handle them; hint, the primary tool is communication via email:

  • Late Payment – send reminders at specific intervals (5 days, 30 days, or even 60 days) of when payment is due.
  • Having too many Chiefs on a project – via email, designate the lead person in your business and in your client’s.
  • Not respecting your time by expecting you to be available 24/7 and/or the client runs on tight deadlines – again, a carefully crafted email that sets boundaries and establishes workflow with time frames helps.
  • Poor or lack of communication – give your client a gentle nudge via email.
  • Out-of-scope requests – inform your client via email of additional fees associated with additional work.

Finally, here are some steps for you to get better clients.

  • Define your perfect client – this will give you criteria that you can use to assess all future clients.
  • Discover where your ideal target clients hang out – determine what social media platforms they use and/or in-person events they attend.
  • Find and connect with better clients – consider writing content that establishes you as a thought leader or that is relevant to better clients, be active on your target clients’ preferred social media platforms, and attend gatherings where you can interact with target clients.
  • Perfect your pitch – be sure it is on-point, tailored, and directed to the right person.
  • Offer unique value – communicate your unique merits, and include them consistently in all your communications, such as on your website and when speaking with potential clients.

Clients bring in revenue and can make referrals for your business.  Dealing effectively with bad clients and preferably finding better clients is essential to your professional well-being and the success of your business.