Dan's Corner with Director of Training and Publications Dan Loomis

Some of my favorite stories to tell are the ones about positive, unintended consequences. You know, those unexpected benefits that come about after making a decision based on a different, well-thought-out reason.

When I talk to associations about making a change to their training fulfillment workflow, the business case usually revolves around re-allocating resources and using in-house staff more efficiently. These are tangible effects of outsourcing and are easily quantifiable. On a recent customer visit, however, I learned about an unintended benefit to their members and staff that was a direct result of their action.

The State Bar of Wisconsin recently made the decision to outsource their longstanding inventory warehouse and fulfillment service. The business case for their decision revolved around the cost savings and staff resource efficiencies as usual. But what they found once they no longer needed to store all of their materials in-house, was that they had a large portion of their building that was now freed up for another use. This unintended result led them to question how this space could be used to benefit their employees and members.

To date, The State Bar of Wisconsin has remodeled a portion of their now-unused warehouse and mailroom to serve two new roles: a multi-purpose conference room and an employee lounge. Dubbed “The War Room” and “The Peace Room”, respectively, these areas are available to staff to use throughout the day. In addition, the multi-purpose conference room is available for members to reserve for neutral-site meetings and to use as a location for videotaping interviews. The association continues to explore innovative ways to use the additional remaining warehouse space in the future.

“But Dan,” you may be saying, “my members are from all over the country. How does this story apply to me?” Good question! The goal of sharing this story with you is to spark a thought. To create one of those “I never thought about it in that way” moments.

As your association begins to make budgeting decisions for next year, keep in mind that not every decision’s impact is strictly dollars and cents. Perhaps your current space limitations are prohibiting your goal for next year of adding extra staff. Or, maybe you are looking for ways to move your staff to a smaller building and need to reduce your square footage needs. Including some of these unintended benefits into your planning process can provide you with the results you need to make your organization operate more effectively.

If you’ve outsourced your warehouse or fulfillment services in the past, what did your organization do with the extra space? Did you find any other unexpected benefits of moving those services out-of-house? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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