Do you need a storage unit?

September 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Organize your samples off-site for peace of mind.

The old adage, "Have a place for everything and everything in it's place," is still timely. What happens, though, when you run out of places to put everything?

Whether you're using a spare bedroom or a converted basement as your home office, space is undoubtedly at a premium. Rather than stash samples, sales materials and promotional items wherever they'll fit within your home, consider moving everything off-site.

Although many people rent storage units to store personal items that are hardly worth the unit's monthly rental cost, salespeople who rent storage units for business purposes may find the investment to be invaluable.

Most storage units range from 5' x 5' to 10' x 30'. A quick survey of various storage facilities showed that the price for the smallest unit, 5' x 5', starts at approximately $35 per month. The price for a unit depends upon its location (real estate prices can affect the price), whether the unit is on an outside wall or an inside wall and the length of rental commitment.

Before you make a monthly investment in a storage facility, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have enough space within your home (i.e. garage, basement or spare bedroom) to store all of your supplies and sales materials in one place, or do you find yourself using other parts of your home for business storage as well?

If you are using your garage or basement for storage, have you installed safeguards to keep children and pets out of your materials and medical samples?

Is there a storage facility near your home? Is it on the way to the hospitals or offices you visit often?

If you answered no, no, and yes, respectively, consider investing in a storage unit. There are several advantages that a storage unit offers that a garage or basement does not:

Security. Most facilities offer round-the-clock security and many have managers who live on-site.

Safety. Even if you don't have children of your own, you never know if a visiting friend's or relative's child could gain access to your garage or basement, and ultimately your samples.

Accessibility. If you have to drive out of your way to get what you need from your storage unit, then you'll not only waste money on the monthly rental, you'll waste time. If your storage unit is located near your home, you simply have to drive up, take a luggage cart out of your car and load the boxes and supplies you need.

Privacy. Since you will be the only one going in and out of the unit, you won't have to worry about misplaced boxes or cartons being opened by others.

Climate control. Sweltering summer temperatures and chilling winter winds can wreak havoc on your supplies and promotional items. You can take advantage of the climate control feature offered by many storage facilities for slightly more money than a unit without climate control.

Organization. A storage unit helps you separate your business life from your personal life by keeping products and supplies from overflowing into other parts of your home. Even though you have a home office, you may find it difficult to separate business items from personal items.

Time management. When you accept shipments at home, many freight companies assume you'll be there at all hours (after all, it is your home) and will show up at their convenience. With a storage unit, a freight company is more likely to schedule a time with you to deliver the shipment.

Organizing a storage unit

When Sharon Toback, a territory manager for Parke-Davis, moved from one apartment to another, she lost a garage but acquired an off-site storage unit. In order to maximize her use of the space, she devised an organizational plan.

For instance, Toback saved time tracking new and old shipments using a color-coded system. After she received a new shipment, she took time to inventory each box and then placed a colored sticker on each box according to its product. Then she stacked the boxes to the ceiling if necessary. The colored stickers made it easy to see what she had stored where and eliminated the need for opening each box to see what was inside.

Within her 5' x 10' unit, Toback used metal shelves to store sales and promotional materials and display boards that took up space in her home office.

Although Toback invested in industrial shelves, a bookcase would work just as well. The objective is to organize. If you designate each shelf for a particular product, you'll save time finding what you need when you need it.

As a pharmaceutical representative, your responsibilities will continue to grow with your territory. Educating physicians about your products is one of the many tasks that you will be expected to perform, but worrying about how and where to store the tools you need doesn't have to be one of them. PR

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