Bringing It Every Single Day Like a Parking Professional
I learned something about myself, our company, and this industry simultaneously the other day and it took one long and deliberate interview process to bring it to light.
I had been talking with a candidate about filling a key position here at Parker and I was going slow and being careful. You know what they say, slow to hire and fast to fire. I won’t bore you with the specifics; however, I will tell you that I pulled the rip cord on the candidate at the 11th hour because this individual did not align with our culture.
I’m talking about the culture of parking. What I came to understand and appreciate is there is a culture in parking. I believe it is what separates us from anyone who’s tried it before and realized that parking wasn’t their cup of tea, or nearly as easy as it looks from the outside.
This candidate was smart, successful, affable, and capable, but we spent more time discussing vacation and working hours than we did pay, and that’s when I realized the individual wasn’t a good fit to work in the parking industry. The net/net was this candidate was probably willing to go above and beyond every once in a while, but it wasn’t going to be this person’s default mindset. In fact, before they were even offered the job, they were trying to figure out how to do “it” more efficiently, which I translated as in “working fewer hours.” They weren’t going to do the dirty work that wasn’t in the job description, and they weren’t going to pick up the handle of a colleague’s “wagon” when they dropped it or had grown too weary to pull it any longer.
I’m embarrassed to say, it took me 6.5 years to put my finger on the intangible characteristic I value most as a leader, a teammate, and as a fellow parking professional. Every person at our company, top to bottom, in some way, shape or form, possesses three traits that separates them from those that wouldn’t do the job or couldn’t get the job. And these traits are unique to our industry. People must have these characteristics, or they won’t make it in parking. People in parking “bring it” every day, they “sign up for more” when there’s more to be done, and they are decidedly “low maintenance.”
Think about that from a parking perspective. Those cars are coming whether you’re ready or not. Your parking customers are descending upon your parking venue whether you are fully staffed or down three people. Your job is to make your staffing problems invisible to them. They don’t know and they don’t care if you have enough people to get the job done – they’re on their way somewhere else and they just want to park. So, what do you do?
When you’re severely understaffed, the leaders, i.e., everyone in the company, roll up their sleeves and jump headfirst into the fray. You survey the landscape to find the gaps and then fill them. You don’t go home until the last car is parked or exited. You don’t look for ways to dodge the work because you know if you leave before the work is done, you’re leaving colleagues in the line of fire without support. And you do all of this with a smile 7 days a week, 365 days a year, especially weekends and holidays.
But are we so much different than others? Yes. I’ve been fortunate to work in several other industries, including life sciences, pharma, and cloud technologies. To be sure, my colleagues in those industries worked hard and some of them displayed the kind of relentlessness and resilience that I’ve seen pervasively in parking. But there was one major difference.
Those people served the public from behind laptops and desks; they didn’t have to go “into the wild” every day, not knowing what to expect, but resolved to face each day as it comes to complete a mission of thankless convenience and comfort.
It reminds me of another word I don’t hear very often, but I see nearly every day in parking: grit. You, my parking colleagues, put on remarkable demonstrations of grit without batting an eye. You bring it every single day.
Bringing it every day means your DNA predisposes you to give 110 percent on the job and relentlessly focus on the prize – making sure the parking masses get what they want and need: quick and courteous service without being noticed, recognized or thanked.
And because the cars are coming, many times our jobs require us to “sign up for more” because there are no reinforcements coming – we’re it, day after day. Which brings me all the way back to where I started. This prospective employee might have done that, but I had doubts about their desire to go the extra mile routinely, not occasionally. We’ll never know if they would have risen to the occasion, because I didn’t give them a chance. I’ll sleep well at night with that decision made.
The final straw was a request from the candidate about their working space. I realized, if I hired them, I was going to do something that I simply don’t have to do today – I would have to manage requests for things that I don’t give a second thought about.
And that’s what made me think about all the people I’ve met in parking. With few exceptions, parking people are super low maintenance. We don’t need a lot of creature comforts to make us happy and often, we can find our happy with whatever we have.
It’s like a good game of five card stud poker. You can’t draw to a better hand in stud, you’ve got to play the hand you’ve been dealt. Sometimes you’re strong, and sometimes you must finesse your way to a win. Stud poker is not for everyone, and neither is the parking industry.
I’ve written in these pages before that parking people are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. What I discovered last week is that being nice is not the only thing that draws me to and keeps me here.
What really endears me to this industry is its relentless pursuit of taking all comers and getting ALL the work done before they go home, then signing up to do it all over again tomorrow.
I value those that put their nose to the grindstone and get stuff done and then seek out opportunities to be even more helpful, all without any special requests or complaints. You know, like parking people!