Roger Clark, regional vice president for Public Storage in North Houston, will always remember Memorial Day 2015. That’s when a major flood turned many of the city’s streets into canals, leaving residents to row in canoes to pick up stranded neighbors. Rainfall came relentlessly at four inches per hour. Houston emergency responders carried out more than 500 water rescues.
Public Storage was tasked with accommodating thousands of people whose homes had flooded. Employees flew in from other regions to support the customer traffic. Working furiously, they inventoried their product daily and sent out a constant stream of communications. What Clark remembers most about those days is the incredible amount of emotion and the helping spirit that prevailed.
“It was stressful, not because of the volume of demand, but because of the amount of emotion,” he says. “Every day, my property managers were hugging crying customers, often crying with them. My entire team worked early every morning and late every evening, seven days a week. It was hard, but it was also rewarding to know that the help we were providing was mission critical and meaningful.”
How Roger Clark
Roger Clark worked as a district manager with Mattress Firm and Vitamin World before joining Public Storage in 2009. He has moved up in the company from district manager to his current role as regional vice president. Along the way, he has cherished his roles as mentor and recruiter.
To achieve all that, Clark maintains his optimism and focus by committing to two activities daily. First, he reads and reflects on a topic that helps him keep his personal values at the front of his mind. The second is exercise. He and his family go to the YMCA together four or five times a week, where he lifts weights and plays basketball.
“Exercise strengthens all aspects,” he says. “It improves dexterity, endurance, strength, and focus. These benefits are realized not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Physical activity is important to maintain a healthy heart, and I mean that figuratively as well as literally.”
One year later, it happened again. This time the company was prepared. It had people lined up before the storm hit as just-in-case responders. Executives held conference calls assessing worst-case scenarios, necessary action steps, and prestorm and poststorm punch lists. They also knew to plan for property and community inspections right after the rain stopped. Employees handed out instructions on contacting FEMA.
“We were able to give more than a comforting shoulder this time,” Clark says. “We were able to give confident instruction. It was a dramatic reminder of how important it is to really connect with people.
Clark says that he is grateful for the experience because it brought him back to the true purpose of his work.
“The real purpose of my company and the product we offer is to provide the physical means for people to maintain emotional attachments,” he says. “The things in these storage units are not just couches and dressers and bunk beds. ‘This is grandma’s couch, and we miss her. This is my mom’s photo album with baby pictures going back generations.’ These units hold mementos of people’s life experience and are a staging area for their future plans.”
Hearing him speak, it’s clear that Clark “bleeds orange,” the phrase the company uses to indicate commitment and loyalty to the mission, and the color of their logo and their iconic storage unit doors. However, when he was first recruited, Clark says his dream was not exactly to rent storage units as a career. He went through the process with a healthy dose of skepticism. After visiting a property with the district manager, he realized the job was really about coaching sales performance and customer service in an industry that was not sexy on the surface but highly emotional.
“These are things I’m really passionate about,” he says. “I am passionate about driving human performance. That’s when I knew this was a place I could thrive.”
His passionate embrace of the company culture makes him the perfect person to lead the company’s hiring efforts. In fact, he has pioneered the leadership recruiting program. Without the flash of trendy companies with celebrity endorsements, it can be a hard sell, but Clark keeps that in mind when proactively positioning Public Storage in the job market.
“We are no longer interested in hiring the best person that happens to apply,” he says. “We want to get the best people in the world.”
To do that, Clark has led an effort to make the company and the caliber of its employees more transparent. He began advertising the job opportunities online using the company’s best people. Now, job seekers can search Public Storage on LinkedIn and see the work experience, accomplishments, and promotion time lines of leaders across the company.
“This allows the most talented people in the country to see what we are all about, who works here, and what kind of opportunity is available in an industry that most people don’t think about while they have their coffee,” he says. “We always had the brand awareness, but now we have the career opportunity awareness, too.”
The company has also changed its interview process. It doesn’t hire on a probationary basis. If someone is hired, it means three levels of executives have signed off on that person and believe he or she will make the company better.
“That collective agreement means that when that person struggles, they still have our confidence,” he says. “We all saw something valuable in this person, so we will back them up, dust them off, and support them. Getting hired at Public Storage is hard. It should be.”
If there are a lot of applicants eager to bleed orange these days, that’s in no small part due to Clark’s passion and efforts.