Consult This!!!

I thought it was telling that the major awards given by the NPA and the IPI this year went to consultants.  The NPA presented one of its four outstanding member awards to Gary Cudney of Carl Walker, Inc., and the IPI gave its Parking Professional of the Year award to Chance Management’s Barbara Chance. These two parking pros and many other consultants spend a tremendous amount of time promoting the industry. They are to be congratulated.

November sees the “consultant’s” issue of Parking Today.  I have solicited some articles from consultants and most are headlined like “Consultants, Useless, a waste of money” or “12 Steps to Really Bad Customer Service” or my personal favorite: “Consult This!”

Remember, these were written by consultants. One might get the idea that they are feeling a tad put upon. Let’s look at their jobs, for a bit.  They design and ensure garages are properly built.  They write specifications for PARCS systems and then supervise their purchase and installation. They review management procedures and hopefully suggest ways to make a parking product better for less money. But those are the easy parts.  What about, as one author points out in November’s PT, providing political cover:

Especially in the current era of budget cuts and cost reductions, departments, institutions and agencies are being asked to make harder, and less popular policy decisions to make up for lost funding. Often, towns, schools, hospitals, and other entities know what they need to do, but are loath to add to the already considerable burden of their constituents. A  consultant can provide both the impartial voice calling for these changes and the focal point for community response. Change, as we all know, tends to be traumatic and emotional; a good consultant can manage this process and also absorb much of the initial reaction from constituents. A great consultant can structure the process in such a way that your parking and transportation staff, who have to live with the new policy long after we are gone, are partners with your constituents in the process, rather than antagonists.

That’s tough. City Councils, University Boards, Boards of directors make the decisions, the consultant’s take the heat. But what about when things go wrong.

I can imagine a scenario when a consultant’s customer wants to do “A” but the consultant recommends “B”. The customer is adamant. The consultant says, with reservation that they will proceed with “B”. A year later the job turns to dross. The customer goes to his board and says — I hired the best consultant in the business and they said “B” was OK.

The consultant gets the blame, the customer is saved.  But often that’s what a consultant does.  Projects sometimes can’t be moved off dead center without someone who will accept responsibility if things go wrong. Politicians often aren’t’ willing to do that, but a consultant will provide them the cover they need to make hard, risky decisions. Our author above is right. Not only can a good consultant provide a process to get the project or policy underway, but they can also absorb the “incoming” when necessary.

This is the hard part of the job. Its when you look at their invoice and think “gee, maybe its not too much after all.”



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