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What if?

We hear daily from those writing about the pandemic that we are entering a “new normal.” This new life means that the typical business style of coming to an office, interacting with your colleagues in person, having in person meetings, both formal and informal, is permanently changing. The ‘new normal’ is working from home, interacting through Microsoft meetings or Zoom, and meeting customers over the phone or through video calls. Webinars are the way information sharing and training will be held.

But what if they are wrong?

The people writing about this new normal are primarily youngsters from Silicon valley. They have grown up with smart phones and laptops. The media interviews them and naturally falls on board. But is it possible that they may be overstating the case?

A couple of decades ago, during the heyday of ‘flexitime’, a major bank decided to close a number of its offices and require its staff to work from home. Think of the savings in time, rent, and the like. Productivity plummeted and within five years, the plan was scrapped and it was back to the office for the staff.

We are by nature social animals. We feed off interaction with others. Whether it is work related or simply gossip, we thrive in settings where we can talk, see each other, and feed off the input of others.

You hear about the ‘water cooler effect.’ Three of the staff are standing around the water cooler, or in the kitchen getting coffee, and they are discussing one project or another. Just random thoughts about how things are going. One of them gets an idea. It may be unrelated to the project under discussion but it had its birth in that moment when discussion was free flowing. Maybe the idea was useless, or maybe it was the beginning of Amazon or Google.

Training has a similar issue. A good trainer doesn’t stick rigidly to a series of facts, but reacts to his or her class and adjusts on the fly. They can see when their students are beginning to doze off or are full of the spark that makes the session worthwhile. I know when I talk to groups, I try to walk around the room and interact with those present. I can tell if I’m getting my point across or just following a script. You simply can’t do that on Zoom.

Certainly if I’m trying to convince someone of the quality of my product or service, there is a much bigger chance of success if I’m in front of them than behind a phone or camera.

I’m no expert, but it makes sense to have your staff where they can work as a team, bounce ideas off each other, and share in each other’s successes, and failures.  We may have a few hiccups along the way, but I predict that our work space won’t look a lot different a year from now as it did a year ago.

JVH

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The Virtual World…A Few Questions

I have been trolling around the NPA PMX LIVE Event this morning and find it technically amazing. There are dozens and dozens of presentations that are filled with information from speakers that have decades of experience in our industry.

One of the beauties is that you can go back and look at seminars at your convenience. Even the keynote speakers are available at your pleasure. The virtual tech is spellbinding.

I won’t get in to just how many people actually attended vs how many registered and how many were vendors vs attendees. I’m of the opinion that an event with only vendors can be successful. A lot of business is done between companies. And as an industry we could use more of that.

I would like, however, to learn from our experience of the past two virtual shows. Let me ask you some questions. I would appreciate the answers here, but even if you consider the questions at your office, there may be some benefits.

  1. When you attend virtual events, do you even minimize the screen and do other work (multitask) at the same time?
  2. Do you jump from seminar to seminar – You find one not full filling, so you go to another?
  3. Think about interactions with the speakers – do you feel you get good answers to your follow up questions in the dialogue box?
  4. Let’s talk about exhibitors. When you enter a ‘booth’ do you get the information you want?
  5. If you see a number of booths on your screen, what would attract you to visit one over another?
  6. Would you prefer booths be listed by category?
  7. When you browse, do you have a specific goal or are you simply looking?
  8. At an in person event, has something caught your eye that you weren’t looking for, and you ended up considering a purchase?
  9. When you talk to the booth staff, in the dialogue box, do you feel comfortable?
  10. Would you prefer a “Zoom” like conversation with the booth staff?
  11. And the big question – do you prefer in person or virtual events?

The “Western States Acquirers Association” has issued the following news release:

The Western States Acquirers Association (WSAA) had initially planned to host a series of virtual sessions as an alternative to our 2020 WSAA conference.  After conversations with a number of our Sponsors and leaders in the Merchant Services industry, it has become apparent that, as an industry, we are heavily focused on year-end recovery efforts as a result of the ongoing COVID pandemic.  WSAA is very sympathetic to the difficulty of everyone impacted by the pandemic both directly and indirectly.  As such, the WSAA Board of Directors has elected to forgo the previously announced virtual sessions to allow our fellow industry professionals to focus on the business of getting back to business.

Does this make sense to you? Let me know of you have any answers to the above questions. No need to address them all.

JVH

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I Wander Virtually Around PMX

I’ve spent the last couple of hours visiting exhibitors at the NPA PMX Virtual event. I attempted to ask questions that would elicit answers in 400 characters or less. Not easy. Many of the booths I entered were not staffed, but a few were and here’s a sampling:

Mike Bigbee at Orbility filled me in on where his company is going. “We have been a US PARCS provider for over 50 years, in the last 10 years have safely and securely processed over $10B (“B”) in parking revenues for our customers.

We offer cloud or on-prem. We offer purchase or lease. We’re on our 6th generation of PARCS equipment. Loaded up with APIs. Solid technology, forward looking/thinking h/w & s/w developers, new products coming online multiple times per year.Our airport experience definitely informs our work in normal offstreet garages: by having worked on high performance/high volume/high throughput environments, we know where all of the little ‘gotchas’ are that can negatively impact a smaller facility.

Shannon Lange at Rytec told me about this fantastic company. “Rytec is a high-speed, high performance door manufacturer. We are based out of Jackson, WI. Rytec has been in business for 35 years and we serve a wide range of industries, with parking and auto being at the top of our list!

I noted that I had seen rolling doors early on in my PT career. I went to Chicago when PT began and took a picture of the John Hancock building. It had doors on the garage to keep the heat in. I learned something.  May not have been their doors, but I understood the importance of them. She said that they have many doors all around the world! She believes they do have doors on the John Hancock building in Chicago.  She’s not positive on that though. There are many in CA. She’s assuming I saw one of Rytek’s Spiral doors, which is their top selling door. Check out their video.

Andrew Rose at Designa set me straight about their Airports business. He said the airport  vertical is their strongest one.  They have won the Port Authority of NY and NJ, Miami International, Charlotte International and Denver too. They just got the contract for Ottawa International.

Sabrina Zahn at FlashParking attributes her company’s success to a simple concept – keeping the customer at the forefront. Listing to their needs and taking action. They take action in two ways: 1. Providing access to the most advanced technology and 2. maintaining its edge with cloud built updates over the air;

Dave Donner over at Toledo Ticket Technologies was riding high on the announcement of their new name. There is a video at their booth where Tom Carter details the reasons behind the change from Toledo Ticket Company to Toledo Ticket Technologies.

Kacey Siskind, Senior VP at Honk told me they’re here to provide the best contactless payment experience to the parking industry! Drop by their booth and find out why.

Colleen Niese at the Marlyn Group was introducing Zephire, their monthly parking solution that serves individual and group tenant parkers.  It was built in partnership with six operators ranging from national to local to ensure the operators’ needs and objectives were front and center.  It’s comprised of three portals and I’ve now run out of room !

I added: So its a dashboard that combines data that operators need at their fingertips to better run their businesses? Yes! She said- combines KPIs and actionable links to manage the life cycle of any type of monthly parker in real time.

Dropped in on the keynote speaker where Eric Qualman regaled the attendees on how to embrace the digital world. I was non plussed.

More tomorrow…

JVH

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NPA’s PMX Live is On the Air – Join JVH There.

The NPA’s Virtual Trade Event is up  and running. You can link to it here.

I have been wandering around the show and find it easy to navigate. Today is focused on dozens of webinars that are filled with information from technology to planning. You can scroll through them at your leisure and update your parking knowledge. Its interactive to the point that you can get questions answered on line.

Also today at 5:30 Eastern, their Parkapoolza Virtual Party will air with a wild playlist, everything from Black Eyed Peas to Bon Jovi. — OK you can turn the sound down if you like. Its a huge chat room and everyone who is anyone, including yours truly, will be there.

Tomorrow is more knowledge, but I’m looking forward to the opening of the trade show floor. In addition to dropping by Orbility and Rytec I’ll be cruising the floor, chatting with vendors of all stripes. I’ll report back and give you and update throughout the day tomorrow and Wednesday.

JVH

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9/11

Where were you when the twin towers were attacked? If you are more than 25 years old I bet you know. Just as if you are more than 60 years old you know where you were when you heard Kennedy was shot. How about when the Challenger exploded. Horrendous bad news seems to ingrain itself in our very consciousness. Does good news do the same?

For the life of me I can’t think of ‘good news’ that seemed to have the impact that the events I mentioned above did. We get good news all the time. Someone who is sick turned the corner and will get well. A baby is born. That loan you applied for is coming through. I got the job. She said “yes!” But somehow that good news doesn’t seem to have the impact of bad news.

In truth the assassination of President Kennedy didn’t really affect me personally very much. Sure it was a sad time and a revered leader was killed, but really, my life didn’t change much at all. The Challenger disaster had no effect on me at all. Certainly the good news listed above affected me personally much more. What’s that all about.

On September 11, its reasonable to take a few minutes and think about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Although they may not have affected us directly, but they certainly affected the nearly 4,000 people who died, and their friends and families. Perhaps its important to consider the lessons learned from such disasters.

As time goes by and we are distanced from tragic events whether they be world wars, terrorist attacks, or even a Challenger disaster, we do have a tendency to take things for granted. Its easy to shrug our shoulders and forget the sacrifices some people made, whether voluntarily like the first responders on 9/11 or unknowingly like the passengers of flight 93.

Perhaps if nothing else, these bad news events remind us that we are human, that bad things do happen, and perhaps worst of all, evil exists in the world. They tend to rock us out of our complacency and remind us that our lives are pretty damned good.

JVH

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On the Road, Well at least the Internet, Again

Willie Nelson would be proud. We are on the road again to attend the National Parking Association’s trade show next week in New Orleans. At least we would be had not events intervened. So we will miss the great food, music, and most importantly the personal interaction with colleagues and friends in the Big Easy. However…

Christine Banning and her crew are holding a virtual event running Monday Thru Wednesday next to celebrate our industry. It’s called PMX Live. You can learn all about it here.

There will be speakers, events, and yes, my favorite, a virtual trade show. You will be able to meet, live and in person, the people who make all the technology that keeps our parking garages and on street spaces humming. Take time and visit. See what our industry has to offer.

I’ll be attending and live blogging here throughout the three days. I’m being sponsored by Orbility and Rytech so I’ll be doing my best to give you some hints about the places to go and people to see. Check back over the weekend for some ideas, dates and times. Let’s learn about virtual events together.

See you next week in New Orleans, well almost.

JVH

 

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If You are Going Through Hell, Keep Going

That line is from Winston Churchill. He knew what he was talking about. His time as leader of the UK during the war with Germany wasn’t a walk in the park. It makes the last eight months here in the US look like a weekend at the sea shore. Bombs were falling every day for over a year. The German high command couldn’t believe that after throwing everything they had at the hapless Brits, they didn’t surrender.

I’m not saying that the battle we are having with the Corona Virus and the rioting in our cities has been wonderful. But the hand wringing and whining we hear daily is getting a little tiresome. Each of us have had to deal with some aspect of the troubles.

Every one of you had your challenges and faced them head on. You can see, I think, that the end is in sight, but you will always remember the time you spent alone, a time no zoom call or telecon would replace. You knew what you had to do and you did it.

PT is no exception. It started in March when we were forced to cancel the Parking Industry Exhibition just three weeks before it opened. Then, like other members of our industry, we faced three solid months of almost zero income. We were able, unlike so many others, to keep all our staff employed and at work through those months of lockdown and zoom calls.

We are fortunate that none of our staff got physically ill, but only through their intestinal fortitude did we survive the emotional stress brought on by changes in how we went about our work. We had just hired two new staff less than a month before the virus hit. They were in sales. Think about their frustration having to make sales calls and knowing that the person you were calling just might not be employed there any more.

We called and spoke to each exhibitor at PIE, explaining how we were handling the cancellation. Out of nearly 150 exhibitors, we got only a handful of pushbacks. Virtually all understood and worked with us as we transitioned to PIE 2021. Of that we are so grateful.

Like our brothers and sisters in the parking industry, we spent months sitting with banks and vendors, working out solutions to common problems. We became experts at dealing with the SBA and that moving target called the PPP. If I never talk to another government bureaucrat it will be too soon. How many times did we explain to someone who never ran a business or made a payroll that we needed just a hand to get over the hump? Why? You weren’t profitable the last few months, they would say. There is a pandemic on, we would respond, it’s in all the papers.

I have never been more proud of a group of people in my life. They went above and beyond. They fearlessly went where angels feared to tread. My heartfelt thanks go out to Marcy, Astrid, Kelley, Sue, Jordan, Shelly, Melissa, Robyn, Romina, Carla and our newbies, Marilyn and Brian. These people are the best.  Without them, there would be no Parking Today Media.

Each one of them, when asked about the past few months, would tell you that it was our customers and our readers that made survival possible. Without your constant understanding and support, the road would have been unpassable. Not only is the PT team the best, but so are you.

We all went through Hell, and Kept Walking.

JVH

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The Most Important Key

If I asked you what is the most important button on your phone or computer, what would you say? “E” is the one used the most. “Space” is necessary to make the sentences readable. What about “forward” or “archive” or “send.” I’ve been thinking about this and I have come to the conclusion that the most important button on your communications device is “delete.” Preferably used before you read the message.

Yikes. How can you delete a message before you read it? Won’t you miss something important. First of all, I doubt the world would come to an end if you deleted every message before you read it, however I grant that some need to be read. However I find that I delete maybe 80% of the messages based on the sender or the subject line.

Let’s face it, a message from a Nigerian prince, or from Amazon touting something you just bought, or from Costco subject “New and Exclusive” can go straight to trash. How about “Joe Schmoe has send you a message on Linkedin.” Oh Please. I have never heard of Joe Schmoe. I don’t want to hear from Joe Schmoe. And the chances are that Joe Schmoe wants to sell me something. Come on, if Joe really had something important to say, he could find my email address and write directly. Delete

How about messages from “Team” something or other. Frankly I don’t trust ‘teams’ that write to me. If someone is afraid to give me their name, then do I want to talk to them. Into the trash.

How about ‘downers.’ You know who they are. They add nothing to your life but negativity. You just had a new baby and they will tell you all the bad things that are going to happen now – late nights, colic, dirty diapers, doctor visits, the cost of college… Delete

You know your sister in law has a list of things to tell you that will tick you off. She has never sent an email that didn’t give instruction, comment on something, or tell you what you are doing wrong. Why subject yourself to all that. Delete before reading.

The most important key  – “Delete”

JVH

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If You Can’t Stop the Praying, Stop the Parking

You have probably read about Grace Community Church in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. They have gone to court and won an injunction against the County of Los Angeles who was attempting to prevent them from holding services. Over the past three weeks the courts have continually ruled that the Church could continue to hold services. You can read the article over on Parknews.biz.

The Church leases from the county a parking lot across the street where the majority of congregants park each Sunday and has been leasing it for 45 years. I guess the county figures that if they can’t close the church, they will simply close the parking lot. It has notified the church that effective October 1 the church can no longer park there and if they do, the cars will be confiscated by the county.

To quote the Church’s attorney:

“We maintain that their health order is unconstitutionally burdening the right of churches to worship, and there exists no rational basis, much less a compelling interest, to try to shut down indoor services at this point, particularly when the county is allowing strip clubs to operate and massive riots to take place – and not seeking restraining orders against them. We look forward to making those arguments at a subsequent proceeding, where we will ask the court to properly check this power grab by Los Angeles County and the State of California’s executive branch.”

I think she has a point – The President can have 1500 people at his nomination acceptance speech, many thousands can show up at a demonstration on the capitol mall, marches can take place across the country with mayors, city council members, and other officials joining in, riots are seemingly allowed with impunity (going on for 85 consecutive nights in Portland) , you can buy pot, liquor, and of course go to Costco, your supermarket, and Home Depot, but you can’t go to church, even though everything points to the fact that we are on the back side of this pandemic.

It seems a tad ironic that after having used police, health officials, closing down parties by turning off power and water, issuing citations, and running down surfers with power boats, the power that be are now cutting off parking as a means of enforcing their will.

What part of “the court is not issuing an injunction against the church” don’t you understand, County of LA.

JVH

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Millennials are Buying Cars

Over on Parknews.biz, Astrid has posted an article from the The Atlantic Magazine. The article posits that millennials are buying cars. Yes, this group that shunned personal vehicles are buying them in very large numbers. Although the person quoted in the article (its actually a podcast interview where an Atlantic writer is interviewed, for some reason) claims to dislike car ownership and is concerned about the future of our cities because of it, he bought a car anyway.

This can only be good for the parking industry.

What I found interesting was the reason for these auto purchases: FEAR!!!

Yes, these healthy young people, all under 35, are afraid to ride in rapid transit, trains, Uber or Lyft or even rent a car, for fear of catching covid. Their progressive politics, environmental causes, anger at congestion and air pollution, were all put aside due to the fear of possibly catching the virus.

I wonder what has happened to our younger generation. When I was that age, I was invincible. I was heading out to slay dragons as were my friends. Now it appears they are cowed by a virus that from all information we can find, is not a true threat to those in that age group. The vast majority of those succumbing to the disease are those nearing 80 or those who have certain preexisting conditions. Are there 25 year olds in perfect health that have died of the virus, I’m sure there is. But that number is approaching zero. The media has driven fear into the hearts of the young. But that’s a discussion for another time.

In the Atlantic interview, this young man didn’t mince words. He was afraid.

For those of us who make a living dealing with the storage of cars, there is an upsides to this epidemic of fear that has the younger generation in its grip. The more cars, the more that need to park.

For instance, according to the article, they are finding that if they own a car, they can partake in more activities than they could without one. Visiting the country for picnics or hiking is difficult on rapid transit. Making a quick decision to go to the beach might be impossible if your only way to get there was through a car rental. It also turns out that owning a car means that you have more flexibility in your choice of jobs, and therefore you might be able to find a more lucrative or interesting position that was outside walking distance of the metro or bus stop. In every case, you have to park your car somewhere.

These folks actually discovered that purchasing and owning a ‘used’ car costs very little more than taking Uber or Lyft or renting when necessary.

Perhaps they will find, as their parents and grandparents did, that car ownership is actually a good thing. The freedom and flexibility having transportation at your fingertips far outweighs a crowded bus, train, or the “who rode here last’ Uber.

Plus, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out, “It’s fun to drive.’

Welcome to car ownership, my friend. You are gonna love it.

JVH

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