The following is an interview with the Program Manager of Ready-To-Go Box, Dain Howell, and was conducted by Timothy Armstrong on August 1, 2016.
Tim: First things first, how long have you been employed with U-Haul?
Dain: I’ve had a couple of different roles within U-Haul, the first two being more of an internship role in the summer of 2007 and 2008. Actually, I went to business school and met Stuart Shoen there and got to know him. He knew my career goals and was able to find me those two internships at our technical center. Then I came on full-time with U-Haul a couple of years later in April of 2010 in our Art Department as a Project Coordinator.
Tim: What qualities do you see in U-Haul that’s made you want to stay for so long?
Dain: U-Haul is the first company I’ve worked for where I feel like we’re really helping people and improving lives, so that has driven me to work harder in my positions with U-Haul than I’ve ever worked before because I really see the value in what U-Haul provides it’s customers. To quote the primary service objective, “To provide a better and better product and service to more and more people at a lower and lower cost”, I see U-Haul actually go by that and strive for that. So that’s one that’s stuck with me – the value we create is great.
Tim: You kind of touched on this already, but which positions have you held during your time here, and which one do you feel taught you the most?
Dain: My first look into U-Haul corporate and all of our programs was my job in the Art Department as a Project Coordinator where I worked alongside Program Directors, Managers, and JT, our President. But really my current role in Ready-To-Go Box is where I have learned the most because it’s a new product. We started with the idea that we have plastic boxes and want to rent them to customers. That was it, there was no real direction. We knew our customers were renting our trucks and trailers and then renting these boxes from other companies, but we didn’t know if we should be offering them or at what cost. In this role, I’ve had a lot of interaction with Joe Shoen, and anytime you can sit down with him and strategize you’re going to learn something from him.
Tim: You also touched on this a little bit already, but what is your favorite aspect of what you do?
Dain: My favorite aspect of what I do is working with the field. On a daily basis, I’m their only contact for Ready-To-Go Box. I handle basically all operations including marketing, customer service and what our CSR’s do in the field. I enjoy working with them and hearing the success stories the customers tell them about how these boxes made it possible for them to move. I do love working at the towers and with all the people here, but working with the field is one step closer to our customers.
Tim: Growing up, what values were instilled in you that set you up to succeed?
Dain: It came from my mom, and my dad too, but a strong work ethic was always a big deal in my family. I was raised in a household that really supported what my brother and I were doing. It wasn’t so much about our success on the field as it was about trying as hard as we could. Also being honest, integrity, and what I think one of my callings is, which is to encourage others and really be kind to those around me and enable them to do their jobs better, and hopefully along the way I’ll do my job better too.
Tim: Where did you go to school, and what was the most important thing you learned in your studies?
Dain: I went to Ohio State University for my undergrad where I studied marketing, and then I got my MBA in a full-time program at ASU. Both schools I went to were really focused on the team element. You’re never really going to be in a situation by yourself, it’s how you work as a team. So being paired with 4 or 5 other individuals and being tasked with a problem and delegating based on people’s strengths, and really just the communication factor within that was huge. One of the neatest things is that at ASU they have a case competition and I was fortunate enough to be paired with some very intelligent people and we won a scholarship just by presenting a case to IBM. In the 10 weeks of being paired up with people with our different strengths and even being from different countries… it was an interesting dynamic but together we were able to do well and succeed.
Tim: Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self that you’ve learned throughout your working years?
Dain: To concentrate on what you’re presently doing and be excellent at that. At times I’ve looked more at the next step in my career. It’s good to have goals, but you need to be focused on what you’re doing that day and to be excellent in that and if you focus on that and keep learning and work hard then that future growth will come.
Tim: What are you passionate about outside of work?
Dain: My family. My wife also works at U-Haul and we have 3 children, a 7-year-old daughter Teagan, a 4-year-old son Bode, and a 3-month-old son Cade. Growing up, what drove me was to do well in school so I could focus on sports. That meant getting my homework done so I didn’t have to worry about it after practice. Ideally, I would love to be a major league baseball player, but really my passions were about being active and playing sports and that kind of goes into that whole “team” side of things. Outside of work right now I’m fortunate enough to coach my kid’s soccer team, the Wookiees.
Tim: Do you have any U-Haul role models? How have they helped you grow?
Dain: Multiple, one being Bob Wesson. When I came over to Retail Sales he was my first boss over there. Bob’s the kind of boss that any time you meet with him he is going to listen to what you have to say but he is also going to be teaching you about U-Haul. I see Bob as an educator and he’s very good at what he does. Also, Tom Stallings. He was my boss in the Art Department and he’s one of those guys that can teach you how to get stuff done around the towers. There are a lot of big projects that need to get done that can get held up; he helped me with that in the art department and now when I’m in a different role I still use those skills he taught me, like knowing who the experts are in different areas. I think one thing U-Haul really instills in its employees is to be an expert in at least one thing so they can lean on you in that subject. If you’re the expert in as many things as you can be then your value at U-Haul will carry on for years and years.
Tim: What are your hopes or goals for your future at U-Haul?
Dain: I started working at U-Haul a little over 6 years ago, and it didn’t take me long to realize this is a place I could spend my whole career. In terms of roles, I don’t really know at this point, but I really like what I’m doing and if our customers continue to find value in what we’re doing it would be great to continue to grow in Ready-To-Go Box.
Tim: Do you have any closing thoughts or words of wisdom?
Dain: In U-Haul there are so many amazing people you can learn from, whether it’s the 20-year-old customer service rep where it’s one of his first jobs right of high school, or it’s Pat Crahan who has worked here for a very long time – you can learn from everyone at U-Haul. I have my go-to people when I need to learn something who I can just call and they’ll have time to help me out. I was working on a project for trailering and was able to call up Shannon Papa. We went outside in the middle of summer and went over the proper way to hook up a trailer and she didn’t bat an eye at it. That all goes back to being an expert in your area. Don’t just know about your store, talk about things with your MCP and ADVP. At the towers, know what the different departments do and what they are good at. This is a great place to grow and grow friendships and strive for a common goal of helping people move to a better life.
Dain believes it is important to focus on what you’re doing today and be excellent at it. What is one way you can put that into practice today? Let’s talk about it in the comments!