This article was originally featured on the Tenant Inc. website.
This national Women’s History Month, to celebrate women in leadership, Storelocal is recognizing our own Chief Operating Officer Anne Mari DeCoster as a leader in the self storage industry and in life.
A woman of many accomplishments, Anne Mari has an extensive history in leading and consulting companies of all sizes and industries. From Fortune 500 firms to small businesses, Anne Mari specializes in strategic planning, business acquisition, and operations.
She served as the Executive Director of the Arizona Self Storage Association (AZSA) from 2010-2020, where she doubled the services and events for the association while improving membership retention. She did this by developing relationships, engaging the members, and building business networks.
“Teamwork is crucial,” Anne Mari said about her leadership at AZSA. “Everything we did at AZSA was voluntary, so we had to work together collaboratively to get anything done. Those are helpful habits in any work environment, particularly Storelocal, which is also a membership organization.”
Anne Mari DeCoster and Victor Calanog, head of Commercial Real Estate Economics at Moody's Analytics.
He was a speaker at the AZSA conference in 2018.
How Anne Mari Entered the Self Storage Industry
Anne Mari started her own business consulting company in 1994 and transitioned into self storage by just being in the right place at the right time.
At a time when her husband was very ill, Anne Mari was the sole provider for her family. A friend of a friend mentioned that he needed help with his business, as he was an owner/operator and self storage developer. That was in 2002 in Arizona. Anne Mari worked her business development magic as she took projects and acquisitions, developed them, and flipped them for a high sell price. Fast forward to 2010: Anne Mari became the Executive Director of the AZSA.
Anne Mari’s career path didn’t start in the B2C/B2B world of self storage. With a Master of Science in International Business and National Security from Georgetown University, Anne Mari started her career in Washington, D.C. at Booz Allen & Hamilton, an American management and information technology consulting firm with 80 offices around the world.
Under contract with the Secretary of Defense (OSD/NA), Anne Mari developed and conducted global, policy-level war games examining the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the economic reform of China, and the unification of Europe — all before they occurred. Wargaming helped develop strategic plans and focus for research and development funds.
“We asked what does a world without superpowers look like? Will China modernize or Japan remilitarize? What happens to the world with biological and chemical warfare?”
The program was conducted in the 1980s before the dissolution of the USSR.
“Products that came out of the research initiated from those wargames: drones, exoskeletons, voice recognition technology, small batteries and ultimately cell phones, were all commercialized by the private sector, after the ground-shaking R&D was done by the military industrial establishment,” Anne Mari explained.
“As a result, I’m watching aerial videos of self storage properties on my phone. Exoskeletons help quadriplegics. It all started with defense,” Anne Mari commented.
Barry Hoeven, founder of Westport Properties (Storelocal member) - a beloved member of the self storage industry
who died after a long battle with cancer, and founded Kure It Cancer Research Foundation.
Advice for Aspiring Women in Leadership Roles
With Anne Mari’s vast business and leadership experience, we asked her for some advice to women in the self storage industry and aspiring women in leadership roles.
What steps should a woman in the self storage industry take to improve their standing within the industry and in their current position?
“Do your best at everything you do; be a lifetime learner, seeking new skills and opportunities; make your boss look good!”
Is there a potential for leadership skills of one generational era to lose relevance, and if so, how can women in leadership adapt?
“Styles change, but leadership does not. The same things that made Ben Franklin, Queen Victoria, or Hannibal successful still make leaders successful today.”
“As a leader in any organization, I support and encourage the team, challenging each member to grow and stretch. I also advise them to form and enforce healthy boundaries and work-life balance. It is easy to pour everything into a job and have nothing left for the rest of life. One day you wake up and realize you failed to invest appropriately in other areas of your life. In the quest for what the world defines as success, sometimes we miss the really important things in life, the things that give life meaning. “
What career advice do you have for young women?
“Get letters after your name. Whatever certifications or degrees you can or need, get the letters. I ask working women with children or considering children: Are you willing to subcontract out the most important job of your life?”
“I knew I couldn’t do both: Be the powerful force in business - committing all that it takes to succeed, which corporate America expects, and also be the nurturing mother I knew my children needed me to be – present, aware, attentive, playful, relaxed. There is no replacement for that, and there is always a replacement for you in business.”
Anne Mari stepped away from Booz Allen Hamilton to start a family and her business consulting ventures.
Who is one woman in history that you admire and why?
“Hellen Keller. She and Anne Sullivan opened the world to the hearing- and vision-impaired, charting a brave new course for those who followed. Hellen Keller was born, more or less, without a ‘user interface’ – something we work on every day for our software. Sullivan and Keller together created a user interface for Keller to enable her to interact with the world.”
One of Anne Mari’s favorite quotes is Helen Keller’s: “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
Anne Mari cites another strong woman in history, Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
And speaking of great things, Anne has been a longtime supporter of Compassion International, and has sponsored children around the world. Anne Mari is also an English tutor, speaking four languages. She has taught people from around the world, including El Salvador and China.
Anne Mari leads the life she recommends: a balanced life of family, volunteerism, and career.