In 1984, when U-Haul was still renting anything and everything, U-Haul Pioneer Shannon Papa began her career with the Company. She was hired to answer the phones at U-Haul Moving and Storage at 51st and Glendale in Glendale, Arizona, but was soon assisting customers with anything they needed. After two years, Papa transferred to U-Haul headquarters in Phoenix to work in Methods and Procedures.
“That position pulled from my field experience, so that I could then help communicate policies and procedures,” Papa explained. “I also helped educate people in the different departments about what goes on at U-Haul stores.”
Following that position, Papa worked as a marketing account executive, assistant to the marketing company president (MCP) of UHC of South Eastern Wisconsin and storage analyst.
Eventually, Papa became a rate analyst for the Rates and Distribution Team. This experience became invaluable later when she was later tapped to become the Trailer Program manager in 1997, a position which evolved into Trailer and Support Rental Items (SRI) Program manager.
“(UHI President) J.T. Taylor said that he needed someone with a passion for trailers,” Papa recalled, “When I first became Trailer Program manager, the program had starting declining in revenue. My attitude was: ‘Okay, I’ll take my experience increasing trailer transactions in my districts as a rate analyst and see what I can do for the whole Company.’
“A part of my job is influencing rate decisions as well as equipment distribution so that we can have the equipment in the right place where there’s a demand for it,” she continued. “And I am constantly working to improve our customers’ rental experiences and make our front line more efficient.”
Every year Papa examines the overall trailer and SRI fleets and recommends production or acquisition to grow local markets and keep them supplied with equipment. Building trailers and towing equipment that fit customers’ needs is her number one focus.
“My all-time favorite trailer fleet is our 5’ x 9’ ramp trailers,” Papa asserted. “In 2000, we had about 200 units left of those that had been built in the 80s. They were getting great productivity and positive customer feedback, so I recommended building a significant quantity of ramp trailers that would serve as our one-way open trailer fleet. The immediate success of that trailer put us back in the game on open trailers and helped me get approval on many other open-trailer production runs.”
Shaping the future
When she first began working with the U-Haul Technical Center to produce new trailers, Papa was eager to prove herself and demonstrate her knowledge and credibility. But, that didn’t take long to do. Years later, her experienced insight and influence of the future of the Company’s equipment line-up is well established.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is choosing what gets built next,” Papa mentioned. “There’s a lot of analysis behind it, including studying our fleet performance, vehicle trends and customer preferences. After it’s approved, I’m also involved with the Tech Center in the design review of that model, what changes we want to make and where we’re headed with it.”
Throughout the design, development and production process, Papa serves as an advocate for our customer and directs how many of each trailer model needs to be produced in each plant throughout the U.S. and Canada
“When I first took this job, I had to figure out what the job would entail and how to be effective,” Papa remembered. “Those first two years were rough and I struggled at times, wondering if I made the right choice. Today, I am certain it was the right choice, I love my work.”
During her tenure as Trailer and SRI Program manager, Papa spearheaded production of more than 95,700 trailers, plus the conversion of more than 10,600 trailers. Since 1997, she has also seen to the productions of hundreds of thousands of appliance, utility and furniture dollies as well as millions of furniture pads.
Interested in joining Team U-Haul? Take a look at our current job openings.