Move It Self-Storage Leader and Shepherd: An Interview with Tracy Taylor

via Bill Peel
April 12th, 2015

Tracy Taylor is Founder and President of Move It Management, LLC and a 40-year veteran of the self-storage industry. He has owned and/or operated over 100 self-storage properties and is one of the industry's most respected and well-known leaders. Move It develops, acquires and manages income-producing properties in Texas, Tennessee, the mid-south, the southeast and southwest U.S. The company is recognized as a Top Operator in the self-storage industry.  

More than 70 people are employed at Move It’s 30-plus sites. The mission of Move It is “to honor God by treating customers with excellence, provide employees with care, and manage storage properties with diligence.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy about how he leads Move It to fulfill its mission.

How does the company’s mission affect how your business standards?  .

Taylor: Leadership begins at the top of every company. Every employee should be able to look to the leader to set standards for integrity for how they deal with customers, vendors, and fellow employees.

At our company we’ve set a high ethical standards, and we’re committed to bending over backwards to “do what’s right” for employees, customers, vendors and investors. A commitment to do the right thing is not always the most profitable path, and it’s affected our bottom line negatively on several occasions. But we know that this kind of commitment will pay off in the long run.

When you’re committed to doing the right thing, this attracts higher quality people at every level of the company. It also creates trust. Investors have told me that they appreciate our high standards, so raising capital for the company hasn’t been a problem.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Taylor:  I believe the company belongs to God, so this is a powerful motivation to take my leadership role seriously. I just try to model what Christ would want from me as a leader. The way I see it, God is my Shepherd, and He has called me to be a shepherd to the people who work for me. I think it’s important for every person on our management staff to understand this—no matter what their religious beliefs. Whenever someone new comes on board, I draw a diagram on a whiteboard to illustrate how I’m under the authority of Christ, who’s the ultimate owner of the business. More than half of our employees are not professing Christians, but they understand my commitment.

How do employees respond to the shepherding concept? 

Taylor: Well ... as I try to be a good shepherd-leader, this affects how others in leadership roles treat our employees—and also how our employees treat each other.

We work hard at good communication. Actually we’re obsessed with good communication. We want every employee to see the important part they each contribute to the overall vision of the company to serve our customers well. We do this with regular phone calls, email, personal notes and site visits. This practice has led to numerous opportunities for prayer and has opened doors to speak about Christ.

As we sincerely care for every person who works for us, this builds relational capital for times when I’ve had to make decisions that may be unpopular with some of the employees. 

Is there a specific instance that comes to mind?

Taylor: One of the hardest things business leaders have to do occasionally is to terminate someone’s employment. Sometimes it’s because the company just can’t afford to keep a person employed. Sometimes it’s because they violate company standards. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was let a person go whom I had led to Christ a couple of years earlier. We had promoted him, and it wasn’t long before we knew he just wasn’t able to do the job we needed him to do. That was our fault—obviously not a good decision. But he wasn’t interested in moving back to his previous position, so we had to let him go. He wasn’t happy with me about that. As I was wrestling with this decision, I worried about how this would affect his relationship with Christ. But keeping a person in a job that’s a bad fit is never the right thing to do—for the person or the company. It sure is hard for a person to see that at the time, though. Thankfully, after some time had passed, we were able to reconcile our relationship.

How would you describe the working environment at Move It?

Taylor: We’ve created a “family-like” atmosphere, and we strive hard to maintain it. This has to start with the hiring process. We’re not just interested in warm bodies. We want to hire the best people with good job fit. We use an assessment tool to identify each person’s giftedness. Then various managers memorize the new employees’ giftedness profiles and lead them accordingly.  We also offer frequent training seminars and webinars, as well as a ladder of opportunity to move up in the company and participate financially in its success.

A few years ago we started something else that contributes to our family-like culture in a big way. My wife Diane is Vice President of the company. She started making annual visits to each of our properties to do yearly performance evaluations. Our site managers welcome Diane’s visits and appreciate her warm and supportive spirit. She gives them the opportunity to tell her anything they want to say or ask. Frequently they share personal stories about what is going in their lives. This gives her the opportunity for follow-up discussion. When appropriate, she tells them she will pray for them and their situation in her personal prayer time.