Absolute Storage Management
Recently, the Storage Business Owners Alliance (SBOA) had a chance to interview a valued SBOA member. Michael Haugh is the President and CEO of Absolute Storage Management (ASM), a leading owner and third-party management firm in the southeastern US. Beginning with three founding partners and one property under management, the partners of ASM have grown the company to more than 80 properties comprising nearly 4 million square feet. Today, ASM employs 140 talented individuals and operates in 12 states, with its headquarters in Memphis, TN.
Michael Haugh, Tell us about yourself:
I grew up on a farm in a small Connecticut town and started working when I was 10 years old. When you are that young, you learn pretty quickly how to work hard to keep up. I learned from my grandfather who seemed to work every day, all day. And he insisted I was by his side, which was an irreplaceable experience. The other thing you figure out is that small town farming isn’t an easy or lucrative profession. Farming is, however, very entrepreneurial. I did that until I started college and then began my first business venture, a company that seal coated driveways. It seemed like everyone in central Connecticut had a long driveway, and they wanted it looking good. We completed thousands of driveways during the time I was in school. I don’t miss it! As I was finishing college, I decided to get into something more intellectually demanding, and I was fortunate enough to be hired for an internship with Storage USA during my senior year in college. At that time, Storage USA had 17 properties and the company was just about to go public. When I left in 2002, approximately eight years later, the company had 550 properties.
When I graduated from University of Connecticut, I went to work full-time for Storage USA. I started as a maintenance man/assistant property manager, and I got to do everything. I was dealing with customers but I was also fortunate enough to have time to replace doors, paint facilities, repair gate systems, perform asphalt work and literally a little bit of everything as it relates to the operation of storage facilities.
As it turns out, my timing was fortunate. Some may call it luck, but I think it is mostly related to timing in joining that organization just as it was taking off. I spent eight years going through and learning most of the key departments of the company. I spent time in operations as a district manager, in finance working for the CFO, in development and acquisitions by working directly for Dean Jernigan, and in revenue management by starting the revenue management department.
I was able to touch every corner of the business of a large growing company. They put me through business school. I got an MBA, my CCIM and CPM designations while I was at Storage USA. I consider myself very fortunate, and frankly I give Dean a lot of credit for my development in the business. When the opportunity and time came for me to leave with a couple of colleagues and start our own firm, I was essentially ready.
You have more than 80 facilities under management. How do you effectively manage all of those self storage facilities and keep them in sync with one another?
We took a lot of the good things we learned from the Storage USA days and are now mostly technology-driven. My partners Matt Bailey and Scott Beatty are also Storage USA grads and much smarter than me. They have pushed us forward with technology. We utilize systems with very integrated processes. For example, our payables system interfaces with our POS system, which integrates with our accounting system. It’s seamless and gives us checks and balances we didn’t have before the integration. It also saves us on accounting overhead. We probably are further along than most of our peer firms from a technology standpoint and it’s given us a competitive edge.
One of the reasons why we are able to successfully manage four million square feet and do what we think is an exceptional job is geography. All of the states that we operate in are