U-Haul Pioneer Ray Smith

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” After many years of hard work and dedication, U-Haul Pioneer and Area District Vice President (ADVP) Ray Smith has solidified his reputation for cultivating the growth and success of fellow team members.

When Chuck Hertzler became ADVP of the neighboring district, he began working closely with Smith.

“I quickly learned from Ray that tasks are important, but nothing is more important than U-Haul Team members … specifically, clear direction that encourages the professional and personal growth of each team member,” praised Hertzler, now executive vice president (EVP). “Ray counsels his people about U-Haul business, but he also encourages his team on a personal level.”

In it for the long haul

Ray Smith 1970s
Smith outside a U-Haul location in the late 1970s.

When Smith began with the Company in 1966, it was as a U-Haul Dealer. Once Smith learned more about U-Haul, he took a job as an area field manager (AFM) in 1968.

“What convinced me to make the jump was that as a dealer I came to know a lot of people who worked for the Company,” Smith reminisced. “All of them had been with the Company for some time and they all clearly enjoyed their jobs. So when an AFM position opened up, I leaped at the opportunity … and I’ve never regretted it for an instant.”

Since then, Smith rose from AFM to senior AFM, traffic controller and marketing company president (MCP). He was named ADVP in 1985 and today oversees U-Haul operations in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and a small part of Eastern Georgia. During his rise through the ranks, Smith witnessed and grew with the invention of the Internet and its implementation in U-Haul Company’s daily business.

“The Internet had a most dramatic impact on how we do business,” Smith asserted. “When I was in traffic control back in ’72, dealers worked with manual contracts and we used markers to handwrite information on big, plastic-covered boards. Then computers came in, and now much of what we do has ‘e’ in front of it—email, e-commerce, e-Customer Service Form. We’ve become much better at providing a better and better product and service to more and more people at a lower and lower cost.”

Valuable lessons

Ray Smith circa 1985
Smith circa 1985.

Smith is coming up on 50 years with U-Haul, and after all this time, his focus has never shifted from learning from and educating his team members.

“I’m continually energized by co-workers I come into contact with,” Smith revealed. “I thrive on opportunities to make decisions, and the flexibility I have to fine-tune my part of this amazing organization. As everyone knows, sometimes things don’t work out right the first time, but U-Haul continually gives team members the opportunity to try again, and that’s how we eventually achieve success.”

Always educating, Smith had some advice to pass on from lessons he’s gleaned over the years.

“I’ve worked with a lot of fine people over the years,” Smith volunteered. “Most of them have been my superiors and have taught me a lot. Without the people who have come before us, we wouldn’t be in business today.

“Work hard,” Smith advised. “Follow the policies and programs, and stick with it through the good and bad times, and your career will eventually flourish.”

Are you a longtime team member where you work? What advice would you give to people trying to have a lasting career like this?

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