Starting a small business is no small feat. There are so many things to consider.
Many businesses require a working inventory, whether that’s in the form of supplies or finished retail products.
At first, it’s easy to keep track of inventory using a spreadsheet and a part of your house. Eventually, though, a small business will outgrow their spaces in the homes or offices where they started, and inventory can become almost impossible to track without a ton of time and resources. In this case, owners must quickly come up with plans to accommodate this growth.
Maintaining an accurate inventory is vital to the success of a small business. However, if capital and space are limited, you’ll have to get creative with how you keep track of your inventory. We’re exploring some smart ways to simplify inventory management for small businesses. Do these tips help you solve a current problem? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Keep best sellers at the forefront of your inventory.
Most small business owners will agree with the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of your sales will likely come from only 20 percent of your merchandise. That means you’ll have a few items that are big money-makers for you and your small business. It’s important to keep these best selling items close at hand and not tucked away in the back of a storage space.
To keep these items handy, you can set up and use a bookshelf in your office or your garage (if you work from home and your HOA allows it). This way you can ship those items quickly while also keeping your office area free of excess clutter. Keep stock in storage as well so you can replenish your office or home supply when it runs low.
2. Move remaining inventory off-site to clear up space.
You can’t efficiently get your work done when your office space is cluttered with inventory. Moving those items out of the office and into self-storage units is the easiest and often most cost-effective solution. You might be thinking, why not just use my garage? Not so fast. Many homeowners’ associations prohibit residents from using their garages to store inventory.
Even if there are no restrictions, most people like to use their garages to house their vehicles. Also, many self-storage units are climate controlled, adding further benefit to housing inventory in a self-storage space. Most storage spaces cost significantly less than commercial warehouse space.
As your business grows, you can authorize other people to retrieve items from storage without giving them your house key, and you can always move to a larger unit if needed.
3. Upgrade your small business inventory management system.
Inventory management systems don’t need to be complicated and expensive to be effective. Most importantly, it just needs to work for the particulars of your business. For instance, an antique shop that sells one of a kind items will require a much more specialized management platform than a company that sells the same thing over and over.
First and foremost, make sure you have a system for how your store inventory. Organize products by type and in the same place, so they’re easy to find. If you store items in boxes, you can also make inventory management easier by placing digital photos of items on the boxes’ exteriors. Stickers with stock-keeping unit (SKU) numbers can also help you label and track your inventory.
4. Find a helpful inventory management app.
Not every small business has the funds to set up an expensive inventory management software system, but apps are available to make it possible to digitally manage your stock without spending big bucks.
Here are some inventory management apps to consider:
Prices range from free to $100 per month, depending on what features you want and how hands off you want to be. As your business grows and your needs change, you can change your inventory management technology as well.
5. Hire outside help as your business grows.
If you are selling thousands of items at a time and going through a vast rotating inventory, sometimes it makes sense to hire a third party to help keep things in order. It’s essential that tracking inventory doesn’t become your full-time job. This way you can devote time to other more integral components of growing your business.
Warehouse Anywhere, a subsidiary company of Life Storage, is an inventory management company that uses tracking technology to turn storage units into mini-distribution centers in any city you need. Learn more about how this company can help you manage your small business inventory effectively here.
We hope this article inspired you to revamp your small business inventory management system. Sometimes all it takes is a little planning and organization to get started. It’s helpful to put these habits into place when a business first starts out, but no time is too late to improve upon a system that is no longer working for your business.
Editor’s note: This page originally appeared on the Life Storage Blog on 10/26/15. It has since been updated to provide the most accurate and helpful information on inventory management for small businesses.