When Tony Gradford joined Public Storage 25 years ago as a call center agent, he was immediately drawn to the organization. Not only was everyone friendly, but he also noticed the diversity at all levels of the company.
Today, he is a vice president who oversees operations and sales for nearly 10 percent of all company locations, and is responsible for some of our most important markets out of Southern California, Arizona, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about working here, and having spent a lot of time in our corporate office, is our executive team is always easy to communicate with,” Tony said. “If you do a good job you hear about it, the leadership lets you know.”
We’re happy to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing Tony and his many contributions throughout the years to the Public Storage team and to our customers.
25 Years of Career Growth
One of the reasons he has enjoyed working for Public Storage is because there’s always been room for growth and development. And over the years he has been promoted many times.
Just six months after joining the company, Tony was promoted from agent to floor supervisor. After his first year, he expressed interest in customer service and spent the next year in that crucial position. During that time he began to develop an interest in moving into field operations.
Tony said his supervisors recognized his ambitions and talent, and two years after joining Public Storage, he got the transfer he wanted into the field. He was eventually promoted to district manager where he oversaw eight properties in Los Angeles.
“I understood district managers were really responsible for putting the field teams in place to serve customers onsite,” he shared. “It was during my first year that I realized I wanted to eventually move into field operations.”
One thing Tony says he doesn’t miss is all the paperwork.
“When I went into field operations we were receiving reservations by fax in the call center—it was not electronic. They were fax reservations,” he said, with a chuckle.
Back then the company had a DOS-based system and used dot-matrix printers to print out leases.
What has impressed Tony is the company’s desire to always strive to do the best for customers and be the leader in the self storage industry.
“This company is not afraid to change, they are always willing to try something new,” he added.
The fax-machine era is quite a contrast to today’s eRental program, the Public Storage app and self-service kiosks.
25 Years of Team Building
What he enjoyed most about his role as district manager was the ability to hire, train and develop teams.
“I knew I could build that team to really be able to provide the great customer service for the organization at the property level,” he shared. “That was the big draw, to be able to be in a place that builds a team to properly serve our customers.”
Tony excelled as a district manager, a position he held for seven years, and was often tapped to help other team leaders in the region.
After a two-year post as senior district manager, he was promoted to regional vice president. That’s when Tony began to work under the direction of Pete Panos, who is now our president of third-party properties. Tony was soon promoted to senior regional vice president and ultimately replaced Panos when he moved into a new position.
“Tony cares deeply about his people and he strives to develop successful people that can grow in the company,” Panos said. Then added that Tony’s work ethic is second to none.
“His successes have come from the fact that he knows how to hire, get people trained well, hold them accountable and help them achieve their career goals,” Panos continued. “Tony believes in paying it forward.”
While keeping an eye out for talent and ambition as his supervisors did for him, Tony kept focused on his district managers’ key strengths to help them work together as a tight unit—and any time he onboarded someone new, he made sure they were a great fit.
“I was able to leverage my experience from my time in sales and customer service, and my experience at the property levels, to ensure a successful outcome for our customers,” he said.
Thank you, Tony, for a great 25 years. Here’s to many more!