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Self Storage Milestone: Thomas Nannen Celebrates 7 years with Lockaway Storage

Peter Soto | Nov 17, 2017

Here at Lockaway Storage, we know our success is due to our wonderful team. The care they give our renters is unparalleled and we want to highlight their milestones along the way. Below is an interview with San Antonio team member Thomas Nannen, who is celebrating his 7-year anniversary with Lockaway Storage this week.

Thomas is a district manager for Lockaway Storage in San Antonio.

Thomas Nannen, District Manager with Lockaway Storage

Thomas Nannen celebrates his 7-year anniversary of joining the Lockaway Storage Team!

Peter: What year are we coming up on for your anniversary with Lockaway Storage?

Thomas: Well, I started in 2010, so this is my 7th year.

Peter: Congratulations! Wow, does that make you the longest serving team member with Lockaway Storage?

Thomas: No, I am sure there are others who have been here longer. Tristina has been here over ten years, but I definitely remember when we had fewer than 10 stores in San Antonio, so it has changed quite a bit.

Peter: What’s changed about going from 10 to 29 facilities?

Thomas: At the time, we didn’t have the company culture as defined as it is now, but in spirit, we run it the same way. Back then there were more differences with the stores, but the spirit of letting the managers run each store the way they see fit, taking the ownership, was there back then. That’s one of the things that still stands out to be about this company that separates us from other companies, is that culture. It’s the one thing that means the most to us. Managers have an impact on a store, so the store should, to an extent, take on their personality.

Peter: I’ve heard from a lot of managers that independence is important to them. Would you say that’s in line with what you’re talking about?

Thomas: Right and, honestly, I think that’s one thing that attracts people to self storage in general. Being a self storage manager from a customer’s perspective, I’ve had customers come in and say,“Wow, this must be a nice, easy, cushy job.” and not really know what goes on behind the scenes and how much hands on work there is day to day. You can’t really describe the job of a self storage manager until you have rented a unit and spent some time in their shoes. I think a lot of people are attracted to self storage, because they don’t really have someone there every second of the day telling them what to do. They can plan their day on their own schedule whether there are certain tasks that need to be done. No matter if they do their cleaning in the morning or in the afternoon, you have a variety of different tasks and you can plan your day out.

Thomas is a member of Lockaway's leadership team.

Thomas (back row, second from the right) is a part of Lockaway Storage’s San Antonio leadership team.

Peter: Correct me if I am wrong, but you started out as a manager and worked your way up to district manager during the last 7 years?

Thomas: Right, actually I started out as an assistant manager at 3 stores. Now, I oversee ten.

Peter: What’s different between being a manager and a district manager?

Thomas: Sometimes I joke and say that at one point I was an manager at a store and now I am an assistant manager for ten. I feel like my role is more of support for the managers, but, to be honest, I still pull a lot from being an assistant manager at three stores. I’ve shared this with a lot of managers and assistant managers that you have different challenges, because you are working with different personalities. Every assistant on our team works at least two stores, so they are working with at least two managers and those stores are not going to be exactly the same, so you have to learn to work for different personalities and figure out what works in different situations. I feel like it’s a fast track to learning self storage, because you learn from the experience of managers who have been doing it for years and you are getting to work with multiple facilities and the customers that you encounter, you may never see at another. You can combine those experiences and put them to practice when it comes time to manage that facility.

Peter: I bet it’s nice for company culture to have the assistants meeting more than just one facility’s team.

Thomas: I agree. Also, it helps that we try to reinforce that the assistants are not just there to cover the manager’s day off. They are the manager on duty and they have the authority to make decisions themselves We see a lot of instances of assistants coming up with ideas and those ideas being implemented at those stores. There are some who take ownership of the store and they will take over the marketing or certain projects. It’s important for people to have that passion and that drive. I’ve interviewed people in the past and i tend not to look for certain things like computer skills. I tend to look at things like their heart and their passion. You can teach all the other things, but I can’t teach passion, I can’t teach taking ownership. If someone is willing to do those sort of things, I feel like that is the heart of our company culture.

Peter: As someone who has worked their way up, what advice would you give to an assistant today?

Thomas: Try to do whatever you can to make the facility succeed. Working with multiple facilities, we talked about managing different personalities and respecting the way they do things. I think that is important, because that teaches you how to work with other people. Making the decision to come to work every day and succeed for whatever goal you set for yourself, whether that’s renting three units or doing something specific on the property, I think if you go in with the mindset that the property is going to be better than it was the day before, then day by day, you are going to make improvements and treat people right and give good customer service and represent the company the right way. That is going to be noticed, especially with this company. That’s something I’ve found, that no matter what position you are in, if you are a rockstar, you are going to be noticed. Where as there are other companies where people get lost in the shuffle.

Peter: I think you make great points and that is great advice. Outside of self storage, do you have any hobbies that people may not know about?

Thomas: I love working around the house fixing things. I recently built my own self storage shed in the back yard recently.

Peter: No kidding, haha!

Thomas: For tools and yard equipment and stuff. It was the experiment to see what we want the house to be. We’d been wanting to repaint the house, so when I built the shed, I painted it using the color combination we wanted to use on the house. Unfortunately my wife likes it so much that she wants me to paint the house next.

Peter: That’s a good way to figure out whether or not you like it.

Thomas: True. When the house is done, it will be a perfectly matched set.

Peter: Dang, you basically brought work home. Now you have at home storage now.

Thomas: Haha, that is hilarious. I feel for some of our customers, because I understand the need for storage, because when someone says that they are only going to need storage for a month,  I think about that shed in the back yard and think there is no way I am going to use that for a month and then tear it down. Once you move the stuff in, it’s difficult to move it out.

Peter: It’s just so convenient.

Thomas: Right, exactly.

Peter: Do you have kids?

Thomas: Yes, we have four kids.

Thomas at TSSA fall 2017

Thomas (second from the left) attended the Texas Self Storage Association’s Fall Conference with Lockaway Storage.

Peter: Congratulations, do you mind if I ask their ages?

Thomas: About to be 15, 10, 2 and a half and 11 months. They are spaced out pretty good. I would say I have the best of both worlds, but I have the best of four worlds right now.

Peter: Haha, that is great. Do you live in the San Antonio area?

Thomas: Yes.

Peter: Any local restaurants you like to go to?

Thomas: There are so many great Tex Mex restaurants in San Antonio that I could list one of those, but I tend to go to get sushi, so any place with good sushi is on my list.

Peter: Nice. At the end of all of these, I’ve been asking if there is anyone at Lockaway who you think deserves a shout out for helping you in the past. Is there anyone you’d like to shout out?

Thomas: Well, that’s a tough question, because I have gotten to know a lot of people from the home office over the years and at one point or another a lot of people have stepped up to be rockstars. Right now, I would have to shout out everyone on my team. I know that is kind of a blanket answer, but I get inspired every day by the different ways people show they care. The strat props we send out, the different ways we show what people are doing, when I read those, it doesn’t matter if I am having a rough day, when I hear about the different obstacles people overcome, they inspire me and make the day great.

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