2023 Utah Business Leaders of the Year: Joe Margolis
CEO | Extra Space Storage
Utah Business is proud to present the inaugural cohort of our Utah Business Leaders of the Year award. These 12 honorees represent the greatest accomplishments of Utah’s business community in 2023 and were selected by the Utah Business editorial team.
hen Joe Margolis first became acquainted with Extra Space Storage as a joint venture partner with Prudential Real Estate Investors back in 1998, the Utah-born company had just a modest offering of 12 self-storage facilities. In 2017, he became the CEO when the company had grown enough to be added to the S&P 500 index.
Now, just six years later, he has led Extra Space Storage through the largest merger and acquisition in Utah history—a $12.7 billion deal—in addition to status as the highest publicly traded company by market cap.
While that all might sound impressive, Margolis refuses to take the credit. It took a village to make Extra Space both the largest operator of self-storage properties and one of the largest Real Estate Investment Trusts in America, he says.
“If you look at my executive team, I think our average tenure is 18 years. We have a lot of folks up and down the organization that have been here for a long time and are extraordinarily talented, dedicated and hardworking,” Margolis says.
It might be that kind of company culture that made such a massive transaction possible. As Margolis explains, the opportunity to become the biggest self-storage operator in the country came about earlier this year when Public Storage attempted a hostile takeover of Life Storage with a public bear hug.
Life Storage leaders, however, thought that Margolis and Extra Space would be a better partner.
“We do everything we can to maintain small company values and treat everyone the same.”
“I think the Life Storage folks felt that our companies were more similar with their cultures and strategies. They felt there would be more long-term value creation by putting the company together with us than with Public Storage,” Margolis says, adding that the financial benefits of pairing with Extra Space were also far more appealing to Life Storage and its shareholders.
To Margolis, culture matters. Sure, he could tell you how long each of his executive leadership team has been around, but the attention to his staff doesn’t stop at the top of the ladder. Margolis regularly meets with intimate groups of Extra Space employees for roundtable meetings and even takes every single newly hired corporate employee out to lunch.
With a 95 percent rating from employees on Glassdoor, Margolis is one of the most favorably viewed CEOs on the site.
But again, eschewing any credit, he claims that’s “just the way things have always been” at Extra Space. When the company’s founder, Ken Woolley, was running the business in its infancy and formative years, he knew every single employee at a personal level—their hobbies, spouse’s name and even their dog’s name, Margolis says.
As CEO, Margolis doesn’t intend to lose that personal touch, even now that Extra Space Storage has ballooned to a massive size.
“We do everything we can to maintain small company values and treat everyone the same. Whether you’re an assistant store manager who’s been with us for two months or an executive who’s been with us for 20 years, you’re worthy of the same amount of respect, the same voice, the same seat at the table,” Margolis says. “I think we’ve been pretty successful at it.”