The following is an interview with the Program Manager of Moving Help, Russ Baldwin, and was conducted by Timothy Armstrong on April 14, 2016.
Tim: So first of all, how long have you been employed with U-Haul?
Russ: Since 2004, just hit 12 years on February 20th.
Tim: What qualities do you see in U-Haul that has made you stay for so long?
Russ: They care about their employees and have a lot of room for advancement. I’ve had a lot of jobs moving up in the company. Also, it’s team oriented and they allow you to make choices and test what you know without micro-managing you, which I like. I only had two other jobs, but in my other jobs I was kind of told what to do all the time. With U-Haul it’s the exact opposite, which I prefer. I like to change things and try new things.
Tim: So you said you’ve had a couple positions here. Which ones have you held, and which one taught you the most?
Russ: I was a Receiving and Dispatching Manager for the shop in 2004, I was an Assistant Manager in 2005 and then got moved to GM which is where I learned the most. Then I was a Field Relief Manager for a couple years, and back to a GM once a Center I had been waiting for became available. I was also a Traffic Control Manager, an Area Field Manager, a Hitch Pro, and now a Program Manager.
Tim: So basically everything.
Russ: Ya, pretty much everything except MCP and jobs in the Towers, but I thoroughly enjoyed being a GM. That was my favorite. I was a GM at one of the larger Centers for about five and a half years of my career. I learned the most through working at the Center.
Tim: And having that face to face contact with the customer was probably enjoyable as well.
Russ: Yeah, definitely. It’s one of those jobs that changes every day and has it’s peaks and it’s slow times. Customer interaction is great and is one of the things I miss. Being a Program Manager for almost a year, I miss the customers. I try to get out in the field as often as I can though just to get that interaction.
Tim: Describe your current role, what are your favorite aspects of what you do?
Russ: I’m the Program Manager for Moving Help. I train everybody on the in’s and out’s of their job, and focus on ways to improve the Moving Help marketplace and website. It’s more of a computer driven position; working on website enhancement and stuff like that. I do have, in a sense, customers, which are Moving Helpers. So we have over 4,000 customers that we deal with on a day to day basis which is beneficial to keep the whole “customer service” side of what I’ve learned going, but on the other hand I focus on how to make Moving Help better. We just opened a brand new site called MovingHelper.com which is for the Moving Helpers to access their accounts, schedule their jobs, enter their payment codes to get paid; stuff like that. We’re rolling out a whole new system right now. Phase one started last Thursday, and phase two comes out in 30 days so my hands are really full dealing with bugs and tweaking it to what the Moving Helpers want it to be.
Tim: Wow, that must keep you busy I’m sure.
Russ: Yeah, these last seven days I haven’t taken a day off yet, I’m ready for one!
Tim: Next question; growing up, what values were instilled in you that set you up to succeed? You’re obviously successful so far; what got you there?
Russ: My dad, Rod, he’s the Marketing Company President for 785, and my brother Ryan has been with the company for about 16 years. Growing up, my dad let us go to work with him when we were off school in the summers, so when I was 10 years old I was doing storage walk-throughs as opposed to playing outside with other kids. I also had a fond relationship with a GM. When my dad was first starting as a manager with U-Haul the GM taught me a lot because I saw him more than I saw my dad. He let me work with him at a U-Haul Center any day I didn’t have school. It taught me a lot about the company. Then in 2004 I decided to give working at U-Haul a shot, and the rest is history; I never wanted to do anything else after that.
Tim: Where did you go to school and what was the most important thing you learned in your studies?
Russ: I went to school at the University of Central Florida, I have a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with minors in U.S. History and Marketing. I think the most beneficial thing I learned at UCF was marketing and business to business marketing as well as white collar crime. I fell in love with that particular portion of my studies and learning the in’s and out’s of business law. For the most part though I focused on history. I just loved it. My college degree didn’t teach me much about U-Haul, my years of experience did, although some of the marketing has applied to my job today.
Tim: Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self that you’ve learned throughout your working years?
Russ: Yeah, I would say definitely try to be a little more patient at the end of the month, because EOM’s get a little crazy! Early on as a GM it was difficult to try and grasp that you’re going to have hundreds or thousands of customers flowing through the door and they’re not going to stop coming. It was so busy around 2010 and 2011 that you kind of had to reset and readjust every day and realize that you’re going to be working some long hours, but if you put in the long work you’re going to reap the benefits of increased profit. At the time it was difficult to keep a positive mindset because of how busy we were all the time. So I would tell my younger self, “a little more patience, and a lot more employee recognition.” I recognized my employees a lot, but I never felt like I did it enough. I still wish I could go back and do an employee of the month or something like that. I think working in the towers has shown me that, because my boss, David LoPresti, gives recognition to everyone who excels. He is amazing. If you do something good he let’s you know you’re doing good, but when you’re working in the field you don’t really have time to sit back and say, “Hey, let’s recognize so and so”, and if you do it slips your mind because you just got done putting in a twelve hour day. I wish I would have done that more.
Tim: What are you passionate about outside of work?
Russ: U.S. History and golf. I don’t watch television, the only TV I will watch is the History Channel or a documentary if it’s worthwhile. And golf, I golf every weekend.
Tim: As far as U.S. History goes, is there a certain aspect that you most enjoy?
Russ: I kind of fell in love with the colonial era as well as the western frontier. I was big into finding out about the Wild West. It’s funny, when we moved out here I was excited to come out and be in the west. I told some of the people when I first started working here that I couldn’t wait to go to Yuma because it has so much historical background, and they all laughed and told me, “You don’t want to go to Yuma… there’s nothing there!” But I was excited to go out and experience what I’ve read in books. I still have about a dozen or so textbooks that I go back and look through sometimes.
Tim: Do you have any U-Haul role models, and how have they helped you grow?
Russ: My brother, Ryan, in U-Box. He is my better half as far as brothers go. We’re only ten and a half months apart; we’re as close as twins can get without being twins. We’re two peas in a pod, we think alike and we do alike, but he knows so much more than I do, and he’s so much more patient than I am. He helped me get acclimated to everything going on in the towers and he’s a sort of “know-all, do-all” kind of a guy and I look up to him for that. As well as David, he has taught me a whole heck of a lot in just one year’s time, so I’m excited to see how much more I learn this year.
Tim: What are your hopes or goals for your future at U-Haul?
Russ: I don’t have a set way in which I want to travel as far as my career goes. I’m happy with what I do now and I can see myself doing more as far as helping with the things that I’ve learned over the past 12 years. Whether it be a Program Manager or maybe something else, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to broadening my horizons and doing other things. I just love what I’m doing right now and couldn’t be happier. I have an amazing team, and I mean amazing. I’ve never had a group of individuals that I’ve worked so well with in my life, and I can honestly say there isn’t a day where I don’t look forward to going into work. That’s 100% from the heart, I love everyone I work with. So I’m not worried about where I’m going tomorrow as long as I’m having a good time doing what I’m doing right now.
Tim: Do you have any closing thoughts or words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Russ: It’s difficult when you’re in the field to see any room for advancement because there are so few levels of management that you can move up to. I had a difficult time trying to move past being a GM. It’s hard because there aren’t very many MCP or ADVP positions and it’s easy to get discouraged when you’re ready to take the next step. But U-Haul has shown me that as long as you’re willing to stick with it and keep trying, the sky is the limit. I honestly didn’t think that a year ago, and then I got a call from David and that changed my mentality on it. I was ready to move up and did not have the ability to because the MCP’s in my area were performing. I wasn’t upset because they were doing well, I just didn’t see a way of it happening in the near future at all. But I found I was mistaken when David told me to come work for him. So I would just say if at any point you’re struggling with how much you’re working or you’re ready to move up, just stick with it and good things will happen; they always do.
As Program Manager of Moving Help, Russ has made an impact on U-Haul and continues to make his mark each day. It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but based on his determination and work ethic, it’s easy to see his current position is just one step in a long story with U-Haul!
Russ believes employee recognition should always be a priority, tell us your favorite way to recognize excellence in the comments!