There Is No Win
September, 2008I know I have railed about this before, but my frustration level is exceeding even catching squirrels, and thatís a lot.
I work, slave, even pant a little and turn in reports to my customers, and then they do nothing, zero, zippo, nada. They smile nicely, pay my bill and file the report away.
OK, I understand I have done my job, but itís disheartening to see this happen, time after time.
Iíll give you an example. I did an extensive study for a developer in the Midwest. He owned a number of high-end properties with parking. All the garages were pay-on-exit and had a lot of problems; most having to do with sloppy attention by the parking operators (he had more than one).
I got to looking at his properties and decided that a lot could be done to improve his bottom line beside jacking around his vendors. I turned in the audit reports and, sure enough, he called in the operators, yelled and screamed, got a check for the amount I had noted was missing, and then proceeded to extend their contracts. What was that all about?
These folks had done a mediocre job. They should have lost the locations. Perhaps then they would have straightened up their act. But they were basically told by the marketplace that if they were caught, it was a problem a checkbook could quickly solve.
But thatís not the end of the story. I went back and told the owner that if he automated his garages with pay-on-foot, he could save a lot of his operational headaches and lower his staff costs. He loved the idea.
I was given a contract to review his properties, pick two that would be likely candidates, write a specification for them and take bids. The idea was that we would find two potential vendors, award each one garage, and then see who did the best job.
I had done the numbers. The savings on personnel alone would pay for the project in less than 18 months. It was a no-brainer. I did my job and handed the final proposals with my recommendations to him. That was four years ago. To this date, nothing has been done and I can find no reason why.
Take a survey I did in a medium-size city in the South. A number of surface lots and garages were owned by the city and run by operators. There was a major problem in revenue control. Most of it had to do again with sloppy practices that could be alleviated by the installation or upgrade of revenue control equipment.
My report told the city fathers and mothers that I had done only a cursory overview of the problems and determined that there was a 10% loss. My projection was that if I were to dig deeper, I could find 20%, and really deep, 30%. We are talking about millions of dollars here.
The reaction was outrage, amazement and the fire in the belly needed to ďchange the world and fix this problem.Ē Politicians are just great.
Itís a year later and no contract has been issued to me, and my contact with this beautiful city is less and less. They are losing millions Ė I know it, they know it, but nothing is being done.
I have thought long and hard about this problem in both the private and public sector. The answer always comes back the same. People, even those in charge, donít have the political will to rock the boat. If there is a problem, we canít just fix the problem; we need to blame someone, and often that someone is very close to home.
If you have been in charge of a multimillion-dollar parking operation and it is pointed out that funds are missing Ė even if you are the one pointing it out Ė you will be held responsible. There is no win.
So you procrastinate; you stonewall. You put reports in bottom drawers or through shredders. Whistle-blowers who blow whistles on themselves donít last very long.
So whatís the answer? Corrections can be made usually only when change takes place. So when a new head of parking arrives, he or she has a very narrow window to make the corrections needed. After a few months, itís too late, because blame will be affixed to the newcomer, and we start all over again.
If you are new in the job, have an audit done. Ostensibly this will be to set a ďbenchmark.Ē Actually, it will be to find problems you can then set about to correct.
If you discover a problem after you have been in the position for a couple of years, good luck.