29 Feb 2016
How Joe Shoen Got U-Haul Back on TrackTopics:
The most recent issue of Forbes magazine has a long piece on Amerco, U-Haul’s parent company, and its return to dominance following decades-long internal turmoil. Leading the charge is Amerco CEO Joe Shoen (MBA 1973), who has a longstanding habit of instructingcustomers to complain to him directly:
Dressed in black pants and a black U-Haul shirt, Joe Shoen, 66, is sitting in a conference room in the middle of a meeting. His cellphone buzzes. Brenda, a customer moving from Michigan to Florida, is furious about a U-Haul phone operator who hung up on her. Shoen scribbles some notes and apologizes. He directs her to the location finder on uhaul.com, where she can look up climate-controlled self-storage locations. Later he calls Mike Kinealy, vice president of sales and customer service, and tells him to follow up. Using Brenda’s phone number, Kinealy and the local manager identify and reach out to the employee to discuss her actions.
All told, Forbes notes that Shoen averages about three calls a day, but can field dozens in the span of a few hours.
Amerco is a family company—started by Shoen’s father—and the piece details the family infighting that brought the company down. There’s great detail about Shoen’s management style, too, with more anecdotes about his hands-on approach:
“He’s boots on the ground. That’s how he knows what’s going on. He’s always in our field operations, learning, listening, watching, doing,” says Bob Wesson, a longtime U-Haul exec. At each location Shoen prints out a P&L statement and asks the manager what Shoen can do to make the business better. He jots down ideas on a pad, then snaps a photo of his notes with his phone to text to his assistant, who then often turns it into a memo to the employees. He also spends a lot of time scouting for self-storage locations, a growing part of the business, generating $211 million in sales in 2015.
Class of MBA 1973, Section D