Randall Wempen is our November Rising Star. The co-owner of Kato Moving & Storage, Birchwood Cottages and Owatonna Self Storage, he spends most of his time on operations and expansion. In this interview, he shares his passions and the secrets to his success.
What steps did you take to get here?
I started buying rental properties right after high school. As opportunities to buy Kato Moving & Storage and Owatonna Self Storage and to build Birchwood Cottages came up, my father and I, along with our respective partners in each of these projects, took a chance and went for it. As time went on, we added storage units and warehousing opportunities and have found ourselves busy with the growth of all the businesses.
Why did you choose this career path?
From a fairly young age, I knew I could not be stuck behind a desk all day. So, I spent plenty of time trying to figure out other things I might like better. As business opportunities came up, I found myself not only interested but excited about taking the risk and working hard to make it successful.
What personal strengths help you excel in your chosen career?
I try to look at a problem from many angles to try and come up with the best overall solution. A lot of times, there is not a perfect answer, so you do the best you can with what you have. I also know many trades, so I can be useful when and where it’s needed.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy the variety and challenge of things I have not done before. No day is ever the same. Somedays I am unloading a truck; others, I am going over the budget.
What advice would you give to other young professionals?
First, treat people well and things will probably be alright. Second, my advice for anyone would be to come up with a plan that makes sense for you in any part of life you are attempting to change or improve. Write it down, along with some practical steps for achieving that goal. Then follow up on that regularly to hold yourself accountable.
Is there any training or event that has had a big impact on your career?
There was not one big thing but many small ones. Many of my family members have business or finance degrees or backgrounds, so from as early as I can remember, Thanksgiving-type conversations would include discussions about compound interest or Medicare mixed in with school and sports topics. Outside of family, I would have to give a big thank you to Kyle Smith for taking the time to help someone he had never met. At about 16, I reached out to him to see if he would meet with me. One of my teachers at the time, Marti Sievek, ended up getting a meeting set up. He went through a lot of things with me, which was extremely helpful and took some of the uncertainty out of getting into business. I am extremely fortunate to have had these chances, along with a strong family background.
What books, podcasts or videos have helped you?
A friend bought me a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki in high school. I think there are a lot of good principles for good financial health in that book, whether it is for you or your business.
What app can’t you live without?
I use the Weather Channel daily. The weather has a big impact on our move crews and their safety. Also, when the lakes are not frozen, we have a good group of people that we water ski with several times a week, so, for example, a strong wind out of the north means we probably are not going to the lake that day.
Looking back on the beginning of your career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
You don’t know what you don’t know. It is crazy how long you can do something, and then all of a sudden, you learn a new way to do it. Then you are telling yourself, “I can’t believe I was doing it the hard way all this time.” Always listen to people; you never know what you might learn.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have been trying to write my 10-year plan for the last two years and still do not have that figured out yet. On the work side, we are always looking for ways to improve our processes and build our team. We have some of the best people around, which makes everything we do possible and fun. I will try my best to have a good work-life balance. On the life side of things, I would like to do some traveling and spend more time with my family.