Newcomers – Welcome to The Parking Business
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand why the majority of new people coming into the parking industry seem to believe they’re not actually in the parking business at all. Could it be that they’re embarrassed to say they work in parking? I have witnessed these newcomers saying they work in the “Mobility Industry”. It seems these “Mobility” professionals are struggling with the fact that they have a career in PARKING and they decide that associating with things like scooters puts them in the mobility business instead of parking.
Those of us who have spent our entire careers in the parking industry not only believe we are in parking, but we are passionate about working in parking, and are very proud to say we that we work in parking. Over the last several months I have been in over 100 facilities and surface lots that range in size from 40 spaces to 4,000-space garages, in addition to 15,000-space airports. Every one of these locations was exclusively parking cars, which makes our career choice in parking an important part of the transportation network, because we are the parking aspect of transportation.
When someone asks us what we do for a living and we tell them we’re in parking, the reaction is typically a funny look. Let’s be honest, about 99 percent of people think that if you’re in the parking business, that means you’re a parking attendant in a booth or stand by the exit waiting for a gate to malfunction.
What most people don’t realize is all the behind-the-scenes business which consists of a large group of professionals in accounting, money management, human resources, training, customer service and ever-increasing technology research and development. Most newcomers have never actually visited multiple garages and lots, have never stood on an island, and have never watched the customers enter and exit facilities.
This lack of understanding that “Parking is an on-the-streets business - if you are not on the streets, you are not in the parking business” gives them the same view of parking as the person who asks me what I do for a living. Does it feel much better to say you’re in the “Mobility Business” instead of seeing the funny looks on friends faces when you say, “I’m in the Parking Business”?
The reality is we have very complex jobs in a very demanding industry. We need to be proud of what we do.. Don’t we want to be viewed favorably by our communities? Can’t we be proud to be professionals in the parking industry and have that respect and status within the communities? Do we need to try to hide what we are and who we are? NO. Have we had a poor reputation? Yes. Did we deserve it? Yes. Have we constantly tried to improve the parking business? Yes.
We are proud to have all you newcomers. We have a lot to do and we need you!
My only suggestion is: Get to know our industry, get to know us, get to know our customers, and get to know how many business demands are placed on the average parking manager before you try to change who we are. A little time spent getting to know us will help you stand up a little straighter the next time someone asks what you do for a living.
I am very impressed by the new young people and some more seasoned people looking at our industry today. These new groups have fresh ideas and bring a wealth of understanding of the relationships between certain technologies and communications to an older changing industry. What you have and what you can bring to our industry is extremely valuable, but I have two criticisms.
First, we are a service business, which means there are customers out there. Before you design systems and or processes that impact our customers, it is important that you hang out on the curb, stand on an entry/exit plaza, and communicate with a client/property owner with an open mind. Trusting only the generic clichés of cars circling, pollution, and mobility will not move this industry forward. Spending quality time in a busy downtown area, watching what is happening on the street and at the curb, and spending time watching cars and customers conducting entry and exit transactions in a garage will provide more focus to your view of shaping the future of our industry.
The second criticism I have is that we have management responsibilities that most other industries never face. We have to manage customers, and by customers, I mean each and every one, transactions, moving vehicles, by-the-minute space availability, technology, unproven technology, and technology that we expect the customer mentioned above will be able use. And it is all moving around us one mile away or 1,000 miles away - and we are expected to get it right. I’m not sure I can think of another industry where the average daily manager has that level of challenge or responsibility with so little to work with.
To all the newcomers in our “Parking Industry”, these are some of the challenges we expect you to address, however, you have to get on the street to understand the challenges. You cannot just read clichés from other people who have never actually been on the street, and believe you have the solutions.
Let’s stop being embarrassed and be proud of what we do so we can work together to help define this $220 billion dollar PARKING INDUSTRY we love so much!
Clyde Wilson is CEO of the Parking Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org