Having worked with Extra Space Storage for 13 years to date, Noah Springer, Senior Vice President of Third Party Management, has seen his fair share of career growth and company growth.
We recently sat down with Springer for a Q&A to discover more about the Management Plus sector of Extra Space Storage’s business and what he’s learned about his career over the years.
Q: How did your career path lead you to Extra Space Storage?
A: Upon graduating from the University of Utah, I began interviewing for different jobs. I went through a series of interviews for a company that unfortunately ended up hiring someone else. Eventually, I was hired by Zions Bank to work in their fixed income trading department. My plan was to stay there for a few years and return to school for a graduate degree, but out of the blue one day, this plan was interrupted. I received a call from the hiring manager at the initial company I interviewed with. Even though they hadn’t hired me, he had remembered me, and he had a friend who was looking for an acquisitions analyst. His friend happened to be Ken Woolley, Jr. The rest is history.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
A: The “inverted pyramid.” This idea was preached by Spencer Kirk, Extra Space Storage’s previous CEO. The idea is that it is human nature to put the company at the bottom of the pyramid, your department in the middle and yourself, naturally the most important, at the top. While this might serve the individual well short term, the company will suffer long term if we all act as individuals only looking out for ourselves.
The inverted pyramid places the individual at the bottom, followed by the department, and then the company at the top. If we all place the company first, above ourselves and our department, eventually it will all flow back to the individual. While this view takes more time, the individual benefits far exceed trying to put yourself ahead of the needs of the company.
Q: Which experience(s) in your career influenced who you are today?
A: Early in my career at Extra Space Storage, I was introduced to the concept of an “F.O.K.” or Friend of Ken. These were friends of Ken Woolley that had known him for many years—some even as far back as high school. Extra Space Storage managed sites for many of these individuals, who often felt entitled to what they wanted due to their special relationship with our founder. Because I was new and the low person on the totem pole, I was tasked to deal with many of the FOKs because no one else wanted to.
I quickly realized that there are many opportunities available where others see problems. I learned that every owner has a story and aren’t as difficult as others may think. They just want to have their issues heard and dealt with. We can learn a lot from our partners and work together toward finding a solution to their problems. Eventually, these FOKs turned into some of our best and most long-term management partners, and I hope that someday they call themselves FONs!
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?
A: Living in the moment and getting today’s job done instead of wanting tomorrow’s opportunities. I have always been ambitious and have a tough time being satisfied with my current state. While those personality traits can be strengths, it can also prove difficult when managing a long career. I like to ride bicycles, and when I ride long distances, I have to force myself to focus on the next pedal turn, not the distance to the finish line. The same applies to my career—I remind myself to do the best job on what I am working on today instead of thinking, “If I had my next job, what would I be doing?”
Q: What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your career?
A: It has been very fulfilling to see the growth of Extra Space Storage as it has become such a great company. I love to tell people that I work at Extra Space Storage, and they know who we are! It’s fun to think back to when we were small and unknown and see how far we have come, and now how other companies want to be like us. Many years ago, storage would not have been considered an investment grade real asset class by other large real estate companies, banks, and investment firms. Today, many are envious of what we have built.
Q: Describe your most successful endeavor with Extra Space Storage.
A: Starting Management Plus has been both successful and fulfilling. In 2008, a small handful of us decided to really push third-party management and see if it could turn into a major contributor to our company. In a few years, it has become the largest management platform in the industry with over 500 stores. We are now bringing on about 150 stores a year, but this was not always the case. There were many quarters we added very few, if any, new stores. For me, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and have been very happy that Extra Space Storage has allowed me the opportunity to be one inside the safety of a great company.
Q: What advice would you give to future Extra Space Storage leaders?
A: Run toward your problems. It might feel better to pretend that you don’t have imperfections or don’t make mistakes, but you are wrong. Identify what is broken and fix it. When you, your department, or our company makes a mistake, own it, and come back with a solution. By quickly identifying your problems, shortcomings or mistakes, don’t try to hide or shy away from them. Find solutions and others will respect you and you will gain respect for yourself instead of pretending that you are perfect.
This article is part of an ongoing series of interviews with Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR) team members. Noah Springer is the Senior Vice President of Asset and Third Party Management with the Extra Space Storage Management Plus team.