Joe Krueger has a spring in his step as he exits the door at U-Haul Marketing Company Office 723 in Chandler, Ariz.
It’s 7:30 a.m. The sun is already beating down.
Krueger walks toward a new propane-powered vehicle. He calls it his “rolling tool box.” His name and title garnish the doors. Between the seats of this extended U-Haul box truck is a yellow cooler, and behind the cooler sits a gallon of concentrated Gatorade fruit punch with some jugs of water for mixing.
The agenda is set. Krueger, an area field manager (AFM) since late 2014, has given us a front-row seat for a typical work day in his life as a U-Haul Team Member. An AFM is responsible for managing, directing and growing a network of independent U-Haul Dealerships.
Though fairly new to his current position, Krueger can draw on 12 years experience as a marketing company president from his time in Tucson and San Francisco. The Milwaukee native also operated U-Haul stores in the Midwest, so his multiple points of view offer a unique knowledge of the Company’s framework.
On the docket: servicing Coolidge Mini Storage and U-Haul Dealership prospecting calls along the route. Krueger is AFM for a territory south of Chandler that encompasses Casa Grande, Coolidge, Maricopa and Queen Creek.
The truck rolls into Coolidge Mini Storage. Jonathan Robinette, the facility manager, comes out to say hello. The Robinettes are sold on what U-Haul can do to enhance their businesses. Jonathan’s father, Jerry, runs a U-Haul dealership at CG Mini Storage in Casa Grande.
“There are three things you have to look at in a dealer,” Krueger noted. “Is the business successful? Is the owner involved? And do they have the space?”
It’s time to put on the work gloves. The five storage doors on the side of Krueger’s truck are opened. He wasn’t kidding. It is a mobile tool box. Generators, portable cable, air hoses, motor oil … it’s all in there. And what can’t fit in the side doors, like replacement tires, are neatly secured in the back of the truck.
A dealer service report, which occurs at each dealership within every 90 days, entails a safety inspection of U-Haul equipment on the property. There are 18 pieces at Coolidge Mini Storage: trucks, trailers, auto transports and tow dollies.
Krueger has his iPad handy for this process; his U-Haul apps and programs are launched. There is a checklist AFMs go through for each piece of equipment. Krueger likes to start with the tow equipment and work his way up to the trucks.
“You want to know the life of an AFM? It’s dodging desert creatures,” Krueger said. “From wasps to black widow spiders to rattlesnakes curled up under trailers where it’s cooler … you have to watch out.”
Fortunately, the only thing spotted this day is a curious lizard.
Krueger is meticulous as he inspects the equipment. The tread is worn on a tow dolly tire past the point of acceptability. It is replaced. An auto transport marker light is burned out. He attaches a new one and fuses the wires. When he comes across an issue he can’t fix, like the metal tongue on an auto transport that has become off-centered, he enters a repair request for the shop to handle.
By the time Krueger gets to the trucks, the temperature is rising. “Eighteen sounds like a lot, but I had 52 (pieces of equipment) at my last dealership,” he said.
Keys are turned. Gears, lights, tires, seats and even radios are checked. Hoods are popped to check the oil and Krueger adds some in the trucks that register a bit low. Each truck is topped off with windshield washer fluid.
Krueger receives a call from another dealer with a request. The call should have gone to U-Haul Traffic, but dealers get comfortable with their AFMs and want to call someone they know. There is a trust factor. That’s a good thing.
Krueger points to one of the SuperGraphics on the side of a U-Haul truck.
“Has anyone ever told you about the greatest time-waster? And everybody loves it,” said Krueger, referring to the tiny “Sammy U” image hidden in every SuperGraphic. It’s the U-Haul truck version of “Where’s Waldo?”
“People love that little logo,” Krueger added.
An AFM is part mechanic, part evaluator, part salesman and part PR specialist. That’s a lot of parts. Once Krueger concludes the mechanical phase, he switches hats.
There is a dealer audit to analyze on the business’ recent U-Haul transactions, followed by a brief meeting with Robinette. Krueger offers his words of wisdom, which include several compliments and suggestions where improvement can take place.
Krueger shakes hands with Robinette and heads to the first of two prospecting stops. The goal is to meet the owner or manager of a business and instigate a friendly relationship. If a U-Haul Dealership is spawned from this relationship, both parties are the better for it.
Krueger purchases some drill bits at the first store he visits, but the manager isn’t around. He’ll visit again soon.
There is time for some stomach fuel before the final stop. KFC® gets the nod. Krueger goes with the chicken fingers, a side of corn and a biscuit. He has earned a hearty meal.
The last prospecting stop renders a pleasant conversation with a business manager. “It’s a whole process,” Krueger said later. “I’m finding my niche.”
The drive back to Chandler lasts 40 minutes. It’s late in the day. The MCO parking lot is full. Meetings are taking place. Krueger parks the truck. He poses for a picture. Then it’s inside to his office.
There is always more work to be done.
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