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Extra Space Storage CEO Joe Margolis Speaks to Project Destined Interns

Extra Space Storage recently announced a partnership with Project Destined, a leading social impact platform that provides diverse students with paid internship opportunities to explore careers in real estate. Its mission is to transform minority youth into real estate owners and stakeholders in the communities where they live, work, and play. With over 2,000 properties across 41 states, we know a thing or two about real estate, and we’re thrilled to be part of Project Destined’s mission.

As part of their Executive Speaker Series, Project Destined invited CEO Joe Margolis to speak about his self storage experience and how he got into real estate. Recording and highlights of the virtual event are shared below.

Q: How did you get into real estate?

Margolis: When I was in college, I took a constitutional law class taught by Archibald Cox. He was the prosecutor during Watergate and was a great constitutional law scholar. The class was fascinating–he talked about constitutional issues like freedom of religion, the right to bear Arms, and freedom of speech–and I thought that was so cool that I wanted to be a lawyer.

So I went to Columbia Law School, and within three weeks, I realized it wasn’t that cool. It was all about litigation, civil procedure, Rules of Evidence, and how many days to file what motion. I was bored out of my mind.

The only thing I found interesting was property law and contract law. So I became a real estate lawyer. Real estate is something you can touch, see, and feel. Transactions have a beginning, you work the deal, and then you close them. You either feel success or failure quickly and move on to something else.

Q: What differentiates Extra Space Storage?

Margolis: It’s three things. One is our portfolio; we have a highly diversified high-quality portfolio in 41 states and over 900 cities. Diversification smooths your cash flow; it’s so important. We’re the second largest self storage REIT, and I think we have the highest quality portfolio.

Second is our platform and particularly our technology. Spencer Kirk, the CEO before me, graduated from the University of Utah and started building modems in his garage with a buddy. He grew that business from his garage to an international public company and later sold it. When he came to work for us, he brought a focus on technology. So when the world changed from the Yellow Pages to the internet, we were already there. We were so ahead on data analytics and technology that it’s been a huge advantage for us.

The third factor is our people. We absolutely believe we can’t have the best company if we don’t have the best people. We spend a lot of time, money, and focus making sure we attract the best people, train them, and give them growth opportunities. We retain the best diverse workforce we can because those are the people dealing with the customers. Those are the people coming up with innovative ideas. Those are the people solving problems. If we have the best people, we’ll have the best company.

Q: Where do you see the industry in 10-20 years?

Margolis: Two things make me confident in the [self storage] industry’s growth. One is the percentage of people in the U.S. who use self storage. In 1998 when I first got involved, about 6% of the U.S. population used storage. Now, it’s between 10%-11%. I don’t know where that ends, but we continue to have population growth and increased usage. The second thing is that it’s a highly fragmented industry. The big public companies only own about 30% of all storage. So our ability to aggregate and roll up the industry is still very large.

Q: What do you look for in new talent?

Margolis: The first thing we look for is culture and values. Most people we hire don’t have any self storage experience. We can teach them that. But we try to find cultural fits, and it’s important that the folks who come here have integrity, strive for excellence, and have passion for what they do.

And maybe the most important thing is that they are good teammates. I’ve worked at places where there are “sharp elbows,” and people want to get ahead on someone else’s back. Here, you need to put the team first and truly care about other people. If we hire people with the same values that we do, and they’re smart people, they can learn everything else.

Q: Any final advice for these students as they think about their careers?

Margolis: Be yourself. You don’t need to be me; you don’t need to be Elon Musk, just be yourself. Bring your real self to work every day, be unique, and be an individual. That way, you’ll be the happiest and the most successful. Because you are all taking the time to do this and have intellectual curiosity, I think you will be super successful. So just keep at it, and don’t give up.

Interested in joining the Extra Space Storage team? Search for job opportunities at careers.extraspace.com.