An Executive’s Journey Developing the Next Wave of Leaders

Nov 22, 2023 / Liset Marquez

As Public Storage celebrates 50 years since our founders rolled up their orange doors for the first time, we’re talking to longtime employees who have helped us become an industry leader in self storage.

John Sambuco has been one of the main pillars in shaping Public Storage into the company it is today.

For 30 years, Sambuco has poured his heart into serving our customers and, along the way, developed a lifelong passion for lifting up employees to become the next wave of leaders.

“I’m really happy to see all the people I’ve worked with over the years now in leadership roles and see their careers progress and develop. It’s been great,”; said Sambuco, the company’s president of asset management.

Leading with Grace

Talk to anyone who knows Sambuco and they will mostly likely share an anecdote on how his guidance helped make them a better leader.

“John is always calm, cool and collected. He approaches any issue methodically, always asking the questions which will help a person discovering the next steps on their own,” shares Steven Lentin, executive vice president of operations.

When Lentin served as a divisional vice president, he reported to Sambuco and recalls his then-boss allowing him to manage his own team. If he had advice, he would certainly offer it; however, he encouraged Lentin to identify the best solutions.

“John really instills confidence in his people as he trusts them to make the right decision,” Lentin shared. “John is very strategic and a great developer of people. He provides everyone the tools necessary to be successful and then gets out of your way. While he might get out of your way, he is always there for support and consistently checking in.”

Roger Clark can attest to that. For him, Sambuco made him better by asking simple questions that caused “lightbulbs to shine bright in my mind,” explained Clark, vice president of continuous improvement.

“John is one of those rare leaders that inspires people and makes it look effortless. He is the only person I know that can operate so calmly and cause people to do their best,” shared Clark in an internal memo recognizing Sambuco.

For the last 4-1/2 years, Bernadette Reyes McDermott has worked with Sambuco as part of the property of tomorrow improvement efforts and partnered with him in various company initiatives.

“John’s leadership style is much like a coach,” said McDermott, vice president of architecture and design. “He provides the right motivation and coaching that helps you persevere and perform at your best.”

McDermott describes Sambuco as a sincere and down-to-earth individual who motivates and empowers the people around him to perform beyond their own expectations.

“Through the time I’ve worked with John, he’s provided a big-picture perspective for various company efforts we worked on. It truly helped me stay focused and push myself to think creatively to best support our teams.”

Joining a Relatively New Company

public storage executive john sitting at his desk smiling at camera

Today he oversees the company’s asset management team, which includes continuous property improvement, our sustainability efforts, as well as a focus on store branding.

When he joined the company in 1991 he began his tenure as a district manager, overseeing Orange County and a swath of LA County that included the city of Long Beach. His district at that time included 18 properties.

It was still a relatively new company that was run by cofounder Wayne Hughes, with about 500 locations. In comparison, today we have more than 2,700 locations.

“It was also a product; although people had seen it that truly wasn’t widely understood by people like it is now” he recalled about the self storage industry.

When he joined Public Storage we had just begun the transition from a paper-based accounting system to computers.

“It was kind of hard to believe,” he chuckled.

At that time and still the case today, Public Storage has been at the forefront of improving the customer service experience. That outlook was something that has always intrigued Sambuco about the company.

For example, Public Storage was one of the first to go to a computer-based management system.

“Once we did it, competitors followed,” he said. “It’s very much what we do now. Like the eRental process, we put it in place and our competitors followed.”

He held onto the district manager role for a couple of years before being elevated to senior district manager and then regional vice president. When he was promoted to divisional vice president he left Southern California and relocated to Northern California for a few years.

In 2007, after we acquired Shurgard Self Storage, he, his wife and two daughters relocated to Europe for two years while he served as chief operating officer of the company.

At Shurgard, he focused on improving the operating processes while also helping educate consumers about the brand—most people didn’t even know what self storage was, he explained.

Sambuco enjoyed his time in Europe, especially getting to work with the team there.

“It was about training them to be successful in their roles,” he said.

Developing New Properties

He returned to Public Storage corporate offices as an executive vice president. In 2018 he was named president of asset management. Sambuco’s scope of work means he’s interacting closely with other departments in the company such as operations, real estate and even our acquisition team.

It also requires he travel quite a bit. Although the pandemic slowed some of that down, it’s not unusual for Sambuco to travel to a market before they launch a property improvement project.

Other times he traveled to a site in the middle of construction to evaluate the progress. Or he’s visited newly acquired properties to ensure the branding is done correctly.

While he feels a sense of pride anytime he sees one of his project sites completed, Sambuco is most content when he hands it over to our team members and sees their reactions.

Sambuco is especially excited about the company’s focus on sustainability.

“We’re really fortunate to be doing our property of tomorrow initiative, which is a huge strategic initiative for the company,” he said.

And while that kind of forward thinking has meant new titles and roles for Sambuco throughout the years, it’s also brought new challenges, which he claims have only helped him thrive.

“It’s not just the promotions—it’s that the company changes, evolves and gets better over time that caused me to stay here my entire career,” he shared.

So can he pick one memorable moment in his 30 years with our orange doors?

“I have lots of memorable moments, there’s been so many that have been fantastic moments,” he said with a laugh. “There’s not enough time to go through all of that.”

We are grateful for his commitment to helping us become the No. 1 self storage company in the country.

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