Itís the Team That Creates Professionalism
April, 2007Professionalism Ė How can we as an industry grow and prosper if we donít act professionally? Not just the parking operators, although there is certainly room for improvement there, but also the owners (read that airport, office building, city, university, hospital, etc.) for whom they work.
Consider the parking manager in San Francisco, who, on learning that someone was scamming parkers at one of her surface honor box lots, commented to the media that putting an attendant there to stop the problem wasnít financially feasible and noted that the incident was an aberration, when the reporter had evidence that it was widespread.
Or how about the asset manager who ignores management issues in his garage because heís getting such a good deal because, after all, the operator was the low bidder? Or how about the city that was shocked to find problems in its parking operations, the same operations that it bid out on a contract for $1 a year?
I have seen hundreds of such situations as I audit my way through Americaís parking operations. There seems to be a common theme: The operator and the owner donít work together.
Iím certain that part of the problem is the approach the industry takes to operations. The operator and the owner see the process like this: The owner hires the operator to run the garage. The operator is an expert in all things parking, and the owner feels that he has an expert so he can let the operator have at it. Send in a monthly report, keep complaints to a minimum, and all is right with the world.
But is it? This is a multimillion-dollar asset that the owner is allowing another company to manage all on its own. Itís not just the parking operation, but also the structure itself, the equipment, the lighting, the maintenance. Itís not just the value of the money received from operations; itís the value of the asset.
One of the largest commercial building owners in the country has two, count íem, two people to supervise its parking in more than 160 properties. They hire the operators, oversee their management of these assets worth certainly more than a billion dollars, and when asked about problems at certain properties, shrug their shoulders. ďWhat can we do? We are only two people?Ē
I sat with a manager of parking operations for one of the countryís 15 largest airports. He told me he had worked with two operators during his tenure. In both cases, he treated the company as if it were a part of his staff. He involved them in his training, his internal meetings, and for all intents and purposes, they were an extension of his office.
When he realized that the operatorís senior manager on-site had no one to back him up if he were to leave, rather than shrug and note that it was the operatorís problem (ďThey had a contract, let them live up to itĒ), he met with them and, as a team, they began a search to find replacements to have in the pipeline ďjust in case.Ē
He also met with the operatorís senior manager and got a commitment that he would stay on until they had a replacement in place and trained. The manager stated that he had no intention of leaving, loved his job, and was there for the duration.
In less than three months after the replacement search process and the managerís commitment were in place, the manager told his customer that his wife had ďan offer she couldnít refuseĒ 1,000 miles away and they were moving. He did, however, honor his commitment.
Since the search was already under way, two of the operators middle-level managers had been identified and been moved to the customerís airport. Each had some of the skills needed to take over the departing GMís position. The one with more political skills was given the GMís position; the one with the technical skills was made his assistant. They were trained and online before the GM left.
The moral: Had the owner in this case not been closely involved with the commercial operator, he might not have even noticed the potential problem. He simply would have awakened one morning with one of the key staff positions at his airport empty. And in potential trouble. It might have taken a year to locate, train and bring a new GM up to speed. Instead, the transition was seamless.
Professionalism is built both by the operator and the customer. They must work together to bring the high level of performance necessary to ensure that the project runs smoothly and efficiently.