Paying bills, putting together accurate financial statements, preparing and filing SEC documents, providing site support for any financial transactions—these are just some of the many responsibilities handled by the Accounting department at Extra Space Storage. Though the department works primarily behind the scenes within the self storage organization, the 92 employees who power the team are a vital part of growing the company and keeping the work of other departments moving.
To spotlight the Accounting department at Extra Space Storage, we spoke with Senior Vice President Grace Kunde, Senior Director Mike Picklesimer, and Senior Director Trent Erickson about Accounting’s work, recent accomplishments, and the ways in which they make us a better company every day.
Q: What are the Accounting department’s goals?
A: We have several goals for the current year. One is continued assistance and focus to ensure the successful rollout of our company’s new point-of-sale system to all stores. Another is scalability. We’ve redesigned our department’s structure to become more scalable for the future growth of Extra Space Storage. It’s allowed us to significantly increase our output, while minimizing the increase in our headcount. This has been a two-year project that will be completed by the end of 2020. Lastly, we’re beginning the process of upgrading our company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
Q: Are there unique teams within the Accounting department?
A: Yes, we currently have nine teams that handle everything from accounts payable and property accounting to corporate reporting. This will soon transition into many more groups under the new department structure. Each of these new groups will become much more specialized in specific areas to better support the overall goals of the department.
Q: Does the Accounting department’s work cross over with another department’s work?
A: Accounting has crossover responsibilities with every department at Extra Space Storage. Our primary goal is accurate and complete financial reporting. Every time there’s a transaction at Extra Space Storage—whether it’s a customer renting a unit, the purchase of a new store, onboarding a third-party owner, selling stock, opening a bank account, funding a new loan, or working on bridge loans—all of this has to be recorded by the Accounting department. Some of our systems handle the day-to-day transactions, but many others require a more hands-on approach or research into the accounting needed to accurately report the transaction. More specifically, we work closely on the following:
- Breeze: Our department has worked from the very beginning with the Information Technology (IT) team on the design of our Breeze application for the field and the backend accounting that happens in the point-of-sale system. Our team has worked to ensure a great product and successful rollout. We have a team of ten currently designated to testing daily and working with IT to deliver a product of the highest quality to the field.
- FP&A: Our accounting records feed into our data warehouse that’s used by FP&A to create operational reports and financial analysis that are used by many other departments. We work to make sure that our teams are aligned and providing accurate data. Accounting also works with FP&A in the budgeting process each year.
Q: What word best describes the work done by the Accounting department?
A: Accurate. All financial information needs to be right. Vendors want to receive the correct payment. And other departments in the company—as well as investors, partners, and third-party owners—want to receive correct financial statements. We’d say spontaneity describes our work, too, because every day requires new solutions to achieve the goals of our department. Just last month, everyone adapted to working from home with short notice, and we didn’t miss a beat with closing deadlines.
Q: What are some challenges the Accounting department faces?
A: The department restructuring has been a multi-year project that has continually challenged how we do our jobs. All of us have provided input and work toward this common goal while still carrying on with our normal duties. We’re now at a very exciting time, as we’ll begin to roll out these changes within the next few months. We’re all looking forward to what this new structure will bring and have really enjoyed working on this together as a team.
Q: How does the Accounting department promote morale and collaboration?
A: In our daily work, we recognize that none of us is as smart as all of us. We solicit feedback from all members of the team and respect differing opinions to come up with the best solutions for the company. We also like to get out and do things together unrelated to work. We have monthly activities for our department to promote integration and a strong culture of inclusivity, despite our diverse backgrounds.
Q: What are some of the Accounting department’s recent accomplishments?
A: We successfully closed the books for March with our entire department working from home due to the coronavirus. This has never been done before, and we didn’t even have to move back our normal reporting deadlines! It was very impressive to see how our entire department worked together to ensure we could all do our jobs effectively from home. We also had five new employees join our department during this time.
Q: Where has the Accounting department made the most impact?
A: Our department is behind the scenes, and our customers are the other departments of the company. If we don’t meet our goals of providing timely and accurate financial reporting, we get noticed. But because we have consistently performed at a high excellence level over time, we make it easier for others to do their job by giving them the information they need when they need it without exception.
Q: What are some of the ways the Accounting department has displayed Extra Space Storage’s core values?
A: Excellence, in that the financial reports we send internally and externally to our partners and investors are never compromised. We always strive to produce the highest quality in everything we deliver. And Teamwork, in that we’re a service provider for every department in the company. When provided with a problem, our team works together to give a solution that allows the customer-facing departments to continue providing the answers that our customers have come to expect. There are a lot of examples of people being willing to step up during work from home time, and similarly with being flexible and working as a team as we transition in scalability.
Q: What future project(s) is the Accounting department looking forward to?
A: Completing our scalability project at the end of 2020. In 2021, we will be upgrading our entire financial reporting system (currently Microsoft AX) from a server-based product to an online version known as Dynamics 365. This will be a project that will involve IT and FP&A.
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This article is part of an ongoing series of department spotlights at Extra Space Storage. Check back for more!