Faith is more than a five-letter word. It’s a commitment, like the one made between husband and wife. It’s a process, like making approximately 2,300 cold calls before finally securing your first client. And it’s a foundation, like the one that eventually formed the Bulverde, Texas-based Parham Group.
The Parham Group, which now consists of three companies (NDS Construction, Noah’s Ark Development, and Joshua Management), was the vision of Mike Parham. As an engineer and a dreamer, Mike loved Disney and wanted to replicate that multifaceted company in the self-storage industry. He started working on his legacy in 1986, when he founded National Development Services, the construction company that would later be known as NDS Construction.
Ann Parham, who met Mike in an Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) at Stephen F. Austin State University in 1977 and married him in their junior year at 20 years old, recollects that 1986 was a rough year for the couple to be starting a business, with high interest rates and the birth of their first child, Rachel. But Mike was determined to get the company off the ground, so he picked up the phone and began dialing (and dialing). While he was making cold calls, Ann was working as a savings and loan officer at a local bank. During that first year, Mike had no salary, but they managed to stay afloat on her income and their savings.
“We had faith it would work out,” says Ann, “and it did.”
Their perseverance paid off with NDS, but the Parhams had plans to continue building both their company and their family. In 1993, with two daughters and one company under their belts, the Parhams grew again, adding their son David and Noah’s Ark Development to their lives.
Four years later, Mike built the family’s first self-storage facility with future phases already in mind. It was a single climate-controlled building on a hill in Bulverde, Texas. Though Ann thought he was “crazy” at the time, she served as its first property manager.
“It was a baptism by fire,” she says, acknowledging that she knew nothing about managing self-storage at the time. But her life experiences as a Commissioned Army Officer, a bank manager, and a mother all enabled her to take on the position with extraordinary acumen.
Following its construction in 1997, that successful property has undergone several expansions; it is now 72,000 net rentable square feet and houses their corporate office. After getting the development and construction businesses in place, the Parhams founded Joshua Management to round out their collection of companies. Ann took the helm of that division as president, leading it to great heights and securing placement on Mini-Storage Messenger’s annual Top Operators list numerous times.
Throughout the years, the Parhams have built and sold three different portfolios of self-storage facilities. They currently own and operate four Noah’s Ark Self Storage facilities in Florida and Texas—two of which are award-winning properties. In 2014, Noah’s Ark – Stone Oak location in San Antonio was named Mini-Storage Messenger’s Facility of the Year Construction Winner and Noah’s Ark Self Storage in Buda, Texas, received the Overall Facility of the Year award in 2015.
A Family Affair
Obviously, starting any business can be a time-consuming venture. But founding several businesses while raising a family takes it to the next level, requiring a flexible strategy as well as a group effort in order to succeed. Even with three kids and three companies, Mike and Ann managed to master that juggling act by working as a team, filling out day planners, and involving their children in the storage business from a young age.
As children they would frequent job sites with Mike, which Rachel fondly referred to as “field trips,” and help sweep empty units. All of their family vacations were storage related, oftentimes sightseeing near various job sites around their work schedules. Then, as teenagers, they were learning to drive on golf carts and earning minimum wage to complete more labor-intensive cleaning jobs. Rachel spent a summer serving as a receptionist for one of their facilities and even helped write the operations manual. At 18 years old, she was officially working on her first self-storage development site.
For David and Rachel, self-storage is simply second nature, and they’ve both managed to find their own niches within the industry. His somewhat recent transition to vice president of Joshua Management “feels natural” for David. “I grew up seeing what it means to be a great leader,” he says about having Mike and Ann as parents.
Rachel, who attended Texas A&M University for a bachelor’s degree in land development, adds that they lived through the ups and downs of the business alongside their parents. She stepped into the role of president of Noah’s Ark Development after Mike’s untimely passing on Nov. 18, 2014.
A Lasting Legacy
Following the heartbreaking loss of their larger-than-life husband, father, and leader, the Parhams vowed to continue his legacy with passion and dedication. Ann became CEO and president of the Parham Group, and the family maintains the same core values and principles on which Mike founded the companies.
Although each company within the Parham Group has its own slightly different mission statement and vision based on its area of expertise, there are underlining values that all unify the companies. One of those core values is collaboration. “Everyone is part of the team,” says Rachel, who goes on to say that the company is relationship driven. Regardless of their job title or duties, everyone’s input is sought and valued to ensure the success of each project they take on.
For example, when someone hires Noah’s Ark Development to conduct a feasibility study, Rachel and her teammates solicit applicable data from both NDS Construction and Joshua Management to incorporate into the study. In other words, hiring one of the Parham Group’s companies means clients are receiving shared, expert-level knowledge from all three companies.
They also seek insights and feedback from their property managers about office designs and the placement of security cameras as a way to fine-tune site layouts. Truly, no voice goes unheard to ensure that no stone goes unturned.
“Their input is invaluable,” says Ann, adding that she experiences no turnover because she treats her managers like family members, business partners, and an important part of the team. With her military background, she remarks that it’s important to “take care of the troops.”
“Find a great manager and treat them like they’re golden,” she says.
What’s more, their managers are trusted to problem-solve and think on their feet—not just adhere to canned, impersonal scripts. “Not all responses can be typed,” says Ann. For that reason, the company’s team members serve as “test customers” for managers in training to enable them to learn how to handle various situations that may arise on the job.
Honesty is another core value that the company vehemently upholds. This is accomplished by being transparent and “honest with people upfront,” says Rachel. “I try to guide people. I don’t want to see them fail.” Her father, who was known for that same level of integrity, could be found sporting a button at all industry trade shows with the phrase, “Ask me how I know that.” Mike learned and shared his mistakes to keep others from repeating them. “He used to say, ‘An educated industry is a successful, smart industry,” she says, adding that it’s a thought process they want to carry on. This “honesty is the best policy” mindset also extends beyond client interactions, with the Parham family establishing and fostering a familial environment for its teammates that allows for supportive exchanges.
Last but not least, the Parham Group strives for excellence by being both innovative and adaptable. Recognizing that not everything works everywhere, and no two self-storage properties are alike, the Parhams are advocates of custom solutions. By knowing their customer base they are able to design market-specific sites instead of one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter facilities. Even their property managers are selected to fit the market on hand, and the way in which they manage sites is based on the demographics. According to Ann, operating every property the exact same way, regardless of the city and its people, “doesn’t fly.”
It’s this unwavering devotion to Mike’s foundational core values, as well as an exceptional reputation for excellence, that earns the Parham Group so much repeat business. In fact, NDS Construction “has garnered an 88 percent repeat business clientele in the self-storage and commercial industries,” according to the company’s website.
“We strive for perfection and give 100 percent,” says David, comparing the family-run company to San Antonio, which “is a big city that feels like a small town. The Parham group is like that.”
While the Parhams have confidence in their own skills and experiences, as well as their teammates’ capabilities, they also have a strong faith in God. This is evident in Mike and Ann’s name choices for their companies and their children alike—all of which can be found in the Bible. The logo for Noah’s Ark Development contains a dove with an olive branch in its beak, which is a biblical symbol for peace. Their Noah’s Ark Self Storage facilities feature a logo of an ark with animals, signaling that the properties provide a safe place for customers to store their belongings through any of life’s storms.
“Everyone has a story,” says David. “We want to help them with their transition.”
The facilities also have free Bibles available for anyone seeking to learn more about Christianity—a practice that David intends to continue. The name Joshua Management has a Christian connotation as well; its logo is of a Joshua Tree branch, which is said to resemble lifted praying hands. Second in command to Moses, Joshua was responsible for leading the Israelites to the promised land after Moses’ death.
But the Parhams aren’t interested in merely spreading the word of God, they also do His work through their charitable giving and community outreach. For starters, they make donations to In His Steps Foundation, the Christian charity foundation that supports nearly 50 ministries through endowments. They’ve assisted people with medical needs; provided funds for scholarships; and contributed to countless clubs, organizations, and sports teams within local schools in various ways. The Parham Group also supports Food For Kids, a program that helps make nutritious meals more accessible for low-income families, and participates in an annual Angel Tree program that enables prisoners to provide their children with Christmas gifts thanks to the generosity of others. In 2020, their company-wide participation aided 125 families. Currently, they are providing free building services to Bracken Christian School, the one that both Rachel and David attended during their childhood. David also serves on its board of directors.
“We want to be more successful so we can continue to give back,” says Rachel, noting that helping others has always been important to the family and its companies. “We have servant hearts.”
Clearly, the Parhams have excelled at maintaining the legacy that Mike started more than three decades ago. Now, seven years after his death, they are poised to expand on his vision with younger team members, fresh ideas, and new technology.
One business aspect they’ve been working on is licensing for NDS Construction. The company is currently licensed in Georgia, Louisiana, and Nevada. “We are working on Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Ohio,” says Rachel, who mentions that they also use local builders and general contractors to cut costs. “We provide development and construction consulting services all over the country.”
The other Parham Group initiative surrounds its third-party management services. Similar to the branding opportunities offered by various REITs, David has plans to establish Noah’s Ark as its own brand. It would include usage of the Noah’s Ark logo, signage, and other business components.
“I want it to be a known brand,” he says, adding that it’s also about replicating the well-functioning business model that makes their Noah’s Ark Self Storage properties so successful to help other self-storage owner-operators thrive.
David goes on to say that the Noah’s Ark branding program would enable owner-operators to have the same personal approach Joshua Management provides to its clients and their customers. The personal approach he refers to includes being a “good neighbor” and helping the local community in which the property operates as well as personalization at each property. The Noah’s Ark branding program would be available at a flat rate as well, “without nickeling and diming” clients for various third-party management services.
Carrying The Torch
Clearly,the Parhams possess a passion for self-storage that cannot be extinguished. As a matter of fact, it’s a fire that Rachel and David intend to intensify and eventually pass on to their future children.
“We are keeping the same principles and values but adapting,” says Rachel, who believes her innovative father would have favored the technological advances that are gracing the self-storage industry. “We’ll uphold his legacy … but make it more and better.”
The Parham Group Companies
Mission:To offer the highest quality of diverse construction services at a fair and competitive market price.Vision:Uphold the core values as a family member of the Parham Group Companies, while building and nurturing relationships with their suppliers, subcontractors, professional design team, and clients.
Values: Quality, Thoroughness, Professionalism, Perseverance
Services: Construction management, general contracting, design and engineering, material packages, site plan and unit mix, metal building erection
Noah’s Ark Development
Mission:To offer the highest quality of development services at a fair and competitive market price.
Vision: Uphold the core values as a family member of the Parham Group Companies, while building and nurturing relationships with their suppliers, subcontractors, professional design team, and clients.
Values: Quality, Thoroughness, Professionalism, Perseverance
Services: Market and site analysis, due diligence, surveys, site plan and unit mix, soils report and environmental, economic feasibility
Mission:To offer the highest quality of self-storage management services that are backed by years of knowledge and experience.
Vision: Uphold the core values as a family member of the Parham Group Companies, while expanding its portfolio of facilities and growing its continuing education platform.
Values: Trustworthy, Leadership, Respect, Dedication
Services:Facility management, new store start-ups,employee/owner training, marketing plans, product sales and services, independent auditing