When small businesses outgrow their spaces in the homes or offices where they started, owners must quickly come up with plans to accommodate more growth. But if small business space and capital are both limited, how can inventories be managed in the face of fast-paced growth? The solution is simple and less expensive than you think.
Keep Your Quick Sellers Close
Most small business owners will agree with the 20/80 rule. Only 20 percent of your merchandise will make up 80 percent of your sales. That means you’ll have a few items that are big money-makers for you and your small business. “Because you constantly need to pack and ship your best-selling goods, they need to be quickly accessible without any hassle,” blogger Steve Chou recommends.
To keep these items handy, you can set up and use a bookshelf in your office or in 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 stay free of excess clutter. Keep stock in storage as well so you can replenish your office or home supply when it runs low.
Move the Remaining Inventory Into Self Storage
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 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.
“Self-storage is a great option for a home-based business that needs a little extra space or even a retailer who wants storage at a lower price than at a commercial location,” writes Jacquelyn Lynn in Entrepreneur. There are numerous benefits to using a self-storage facility. It’s a large space where you can set up shelves that will help you keep your inventory neatly organized. 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 as your business continues to grow.
Create an Inventory Management System
Sam Walton became an international success in retail in part because of the way his company managed its inventory. “Business students in colleges and universities around the world study Wal-Mart’s system, and smart companies copy it,” says Lynn. “Your own inventory management system doesn’t have to be as high-tech or complex, but it does have to be as serious.”
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. “Clutter and messiness is created when you have half-open boxes because warehouse personnel has had to look inside of each one to determine what’s inside,” writes Lynda Moultry Belcher in the Houston Chronicle. “If you have a digital image on the outside of each box, the need to do this is eliminated and each box can remain closed, making for a more orderly warehouse space.” Stickers with stock-keeping unit (SKU) numbers can also help you label and track your inventory.
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. Forbes recommends
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.