Magazine

Linking your Location Managerís Performance to Todayís Industry Demands

By Colleen Niese

When our consulting company asks parking executives to name the one employee position that they rely on most heavily in terms of operational performance, commonly the response is a variation of title representing the Location Manager: Facility Manager, Account Manager, Area Manager, Project Manager.

As the conversation turns to recruiting, training and leading, invariably we find that the company relies on “old school” tactics to support these professionals. “Throw them the keys, and see if they sink or swim,” is often still the approach.

Interestingly enough, when our company discusses performance expectations from a client perspective, the view is quite different, as best described by Laura Longsworth, Parking Operations VP for Brookfield Properties, during a recent conversation:

“Operations Managers were once looked upon as primarily the caretaker of the facility – making sure the equipment works and the cashier booths were staffed.  And while revenue control remains a primary responsibility, we look for parking professionals who can also serve as business partners, specifically:

How do they leverage technology to affect pricing and revenue?  What’s their approach toward improving the customer experience? 

We now assume they have the skills to maintain a location and [we also] require the critical thinking needed to bring financial results and intrinsic value to our properties.”

What our consulting company discovered over time is that a competitive advantage often overlooked is leveraging the skills and expertise of the Parking Manager systematically through an established employee development program to meet this spectrum of client requirements, regardless of infrastructure and resources.

When we work with clients to achieve this objective, either through our consultancy or providing our uDrive online resource, we can tie a direct link between improved operational manager’s performance and better financial results every time a company leverages its recruiting, training and leadership practices.

Help Wanted. Review the job description and recruiting practices for the Location Manager through a critical eye. Does the description represent both the transactional and strategic aspects of the position? How is HR or the hiring manager “selling” the job to candidates?

I know I can capture the full attention of a qualified candidate every time I describe the parking manager as a small-business owner responsible for his own portfolio of properties, while having a full suite of administrative support at his disposal to help manage claims, market the facility and hire good talent.

Candidates become highly engaged when discussing the prospect of running their own business within a corporate framework and hiring managers can more easily evaluate the talent when measured against the specific skills required to do so.

And given that this position serves three different key stakeholders – the operator, the client and the customer – an often-overlooked core competency of the job is evaluating interpersonal skills. Organizations can easily access a behavioral assessment to gain an objective understanding of the candidate’s personality composite. We recommend the D.I.S.C. tool as a solution, because it’s specifically designed to assess profiles within the work environment. However, most assessments will meet this objective just as well at an affordable price.

What’s My Job? On-boarding and training new managers is the crucial centerpiece to ensure performance meets both operator and client expectations. Effective programs include training modules such as leadership, operational standards, customer service, equipment, revenue control, etc., and as important, lessons in finance and accounting and contract management.

Hiring Managers who still maintain that this level of management can’t know the numbers or deal terms due to proprietary concerns are inadvertently asking their managers to run the business in a vacuum.

The primary score card that tracks whether a company is succeeding is the bottom line, and the best way to enable managers to meet or beat these targets is a comprehensive education in both building and managing annual operating plans and managing locations in accordance to the contract terms.

When developing these types of lessons, be sure they include the supporting workflow process with policies and procedures, software training and roles and responsibilities so that managers learn the complete picture, and as important the bits and pieces she is accountable for.

Lead Me. When on-boarding this type of manager, corporate departments and the direct Hiring Manager dedicate a substantial amount of time, money and effort throughout the orientation and training process.

But what happens to the manager the day after she “graduates” from new employee training, from a leadership perspective? When we interview managers at this level, we commonly hear a missed opportunity when they evaluate their leader’s effectiveness, specifically in the area of inclusion.

Recently, a Line Manager told me he was invited to a client presentation and was given two directives: Wear his best suit and speak only when spoken to. We receive this feedback all too often and I am reminded of the two-pronged unintended consequence: The manager himself is a bit more disengaged and the potential client has a very limited understanding of this manager’s talent and expertise, which actually plays a role in their own decision-making.

If there are barriers to improving performance through inclusion – in this case, the Hiring Manager didn’t trust his Location Manager’s presentation skills – close the gap through training and coaching. When Senior Managers include their Location Manager on decisions, client interactions and change implementation, they enjoy a much higher degree of operational success within a shorter timeframe, while gaining the loyalty and trust from their team.

Our consulting company works with a CEO and his team who are collectively very disciplined when it comes to hiring and developing the Location Manager. They view this line of management as a primary lever for new business growth and client retention across their portfolio, and their recruitment practices, learning systems and leadership styles reflect this continuous strategic goal.

And through no coincidence, for the past three years, this CEO and his team have achieved double-digit growth and far exceeded their EBITDA target within that same time frame. They will tell anyone who asks that their “secret to success” comes directly through their Location Manager’s performance and client relationships.



Colleen Niese, a Principal of the Marlyn Group, can be reached at cniese@marlyngroupllc.com.



 

Article Abstract from April, 2014




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