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Comments From a Manager

The Boys of Summer – A Baseball Metaphor

Robert Milner

With the essence of spring in the air, the mind-set of baseball fans begins to descend on a “fresh” new start. Thinking of the feeling of revitalization this gives, I began to ponder how the parking industry could prosper from such a zealous warm-up. Hey, if it’s good enough for Major League Baseball, then it sure is good enough for me.
Let’s see, close your eyes and let the mind wander into the depths of solid long-range planning ... First comes the draft, then a step up to the farm system and finally into the major leagues. Undoubtedly all of these steps lead to the top. And that, my friends, is where we in the parking industry want to be – the top. In recruiting, selecting, training and molding the best.
Imagine the process, beginning in the “infancy” stage (or if you prefer, the “recruiting” stage). A person is drafted, by a parking organization, immediately upon graduation from high school. You recruit, you financially compensate and then you take the odds of either sending the “draft” choice to college (and working part-time in a nearby office site) or setting them out to “field” in their own affiliated garage (perhaps just a small quiet lot).
In this “parking farm system” the draftee also is given a “rookie card.” It denotes pertinent information, such as what round they were drafted, prior management experience, business classes attended, etc.
Instead of batting average or home run statistics, the card might include such stats as number of employees supervised and projects overseen. These can more commonly be referred to as “human capital.” Scorecards would list human capital value (which could increase or decrease, according to the rookie’s development and productivity).
In actuality, the human capital theory holds that organizations and individuals participate in education and training primarily to increase productivity and gain higher pay. To further exemplify, economist Adam Smith commented in 1776 that “the improved dexterity of the workman may be considered in the same light as a machine or instrument of trade which facilitates or abridges labour, and which, though it costs a certain expense, repays that expense with a profit.”
Now may be a good time to introduce the term “human resource development” to the parking industry. That refers to an organization’s investment in its human resources to increase their utility. (I am sure we all do this; we just never knew the technical term for it.)
Now, back to the business at hand, namely the “parking farm system.” First, we must determine which skills need to be taught in the minor leagues. In order to gain control of the game and plan for victory, among the many skills our “rookies” (aka, managers) will need to possess are organization and planning; delegation; control and follow-up; computer literacy; and budgeting and finance. (As an after-thought, I wonder if a degree in computer science would be an added perk in deciphering today’s complicated revenue control systems and meters applications?)
Having gained these attributes, we could have not only a single-A team, but double-A and triple-A teams as well.
However, what each organization in this farm system would now have to realize is that having invested all this money in each manager’s “human capital” when decisions are made such as to promote or demote, these might not be made on achieving short-term results, as I believe they are currently being made. However, I also believe these short-term decisions are a result of having no “green” or new talent in the organization, so in most cases they feel there is no other option.
Present-day history shows that there is a huge market in the parking industry for “free agents” who are naming their price and, in most cases, are successful in getting it. The problem with this is that, just like in baseball, very few teams have successfully built World Series champions with expensive free-agent talent. (Take my word on this one! I know firsthand, as I am a season ticket holder to a team whose owner has tried to use this approach every year since buying the team and has yet to succeed.)
As an added thought, complementary to the subject at hand, it appears the aphorism that “people are our most important asset” is actually true. There is compelling researched evidence that proves organizational success comes more from managing people effectively than from attaining large size or becoming lean and mean through downsizing (which, after all, puts many of your most important assets on the street for the competition to employ). While it is my educated belief that most leaders know that putting people first makes strategic sense, sadly, very few of their organizations follow suit.
In closing, as previously mentioned, my agent contacts me regularly with offers from prospective organizations, but I was recruited (as a “free agent”) by an organization with a Vice President who builds his team for the future. I also know our Vice President and his departments believe and do invest in people first; just ask any of his Directors.

Robert Milner is head of Transportation and Parking at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He can be reached at rmilner@af.umaryland.edu.

Article Abstract from April, 2008




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