Whether he’s sprinting up a mountain trail or navigating the ins and outs of the storage industry, Rod Bolls knows exactly what path he wants to take. As managing principal of Boxwell LLC, the industry-leading supplier of customized, portable storage containers, Bolls spends his days ensuring that his customers and employees alike benefit from the values on which he has built his company.
After graduating from Linfield College with a degree in psychology, Bolls spent four years at the University of Alabama, where he not only completed two master’s degrees but also met a professor who was working on establishing an exchange program in Hong Kong. Bolls traveled to Hong Kong every summer to help his mentor build that program and, after graduation, he moved to Shanghai to teach English at a university level. Soon, though, his interests moved beyond academia.
“I came back to the US to start my own company where I was importing various products,” Bolls says. “I had relationships with a number of manufacturers in China, so I connected to other companies that needed products and served as the go-between.”
A few years later, the start-up went under and Bolls had to reconfigure his plan. “That was a masterful failure,” he says jokingly. “I didn’t know enough about cash flow, finances, and capital requirements to run a young business. But I really enjoyed it. I didn’t want to follow a traditional path; I was more interested in creating my own culture and opportunities.”
Just when Bolls thought he had lost everything, his life turned around. “I met my wife at my lowest point,” he recalls. “We’re both pretty active and love running. I remember asking her for breakfast after a run, which was our first date, and she got the check.
“I promised her things would get better, and they did,” he continues. In 2007, Bolls accepted a position as vice president at a portable storage manufacturing company, where he spent the next eight years sharpening his business acumen while growing the business. He learned not only about the operations of a company but also about himself and what he wanted from a business.
“There are certain principles that I live by, like honesty and integrity,” Bolls says. “I never want to be unable to uphold the promises I make to my customers, and I never want to be lied to.”
At Boxwell, Bolls keeps those principles at the forefront of the business. “It doesn’t matter how much money you make—your reputation will always be more important,” Bolls says. “We care about our customers—it’s a sort of social services mentality, but in business.”
Bolls makes a point of hiring good people, he says. He wants to employ the kind of people who prompt customers to call and say, “So-and-so is out here—they brought us donuts and were here all day waiting for the delivery. We told them to leave, but he insisted on staying.”
“We’re doing that extra thing that shows we care about what we do,” Bolls adds. “And our customers share those principles—we’ve come across customers that were not necessarily aligned with us, but we’re at a point in our business where those customers can go elsewhere. We don’t need or want that kind of business.”
To Bolls, having a good company culture means more than delivering on your promises to customers and partners—it’s about doing everything that you can for your team so that they feel happy and cared for as well.
“A big part of the culture here is about balance,” Bolls says. “I encourage everyone to get outside, be active, and pursue their passions outside of work. If they want to take a half day off work to go fly fishing, that’s great.”
Bolls himself is an avid outdoorsman and can often be found mountain biking, running, or fishing. “I love being in nature and finding a meditative state,” Bolls says. “We can all run 30 minutes or an hour, but when you get to the four- or five-hour mark, it becomes so much more therapeutic. Everything just melts away, and you’re able to focus on the important things.”
Recently, Bolls completed the Leadman races, a series of summer running and biking events in Colorado. Most of the events are 50 or 100 miles, Bolls says, a challenge made all the more grueling by the fact that the races take place in the mountains above Leadville, at elevations of 10,000 feet or more.
“The staff came out to support me, meaning they got to see me suffer,” Bolls laughs. “1,100 people sign up for the race, and maybe 350 people finish within the cutoff.”
And that says something, Bolls notes, to everyone watching and cheering him on. “Embrace the challenge,” Bolls says—whether you’re racing in the mountains or building a company that has priorities beyond simply making a profit. “Commit to something and get it done.”