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“Never Let a Serious Crisis go to Waste…”

Over on the IPMI Forum, Casey Jones is holding forth on the famous phrase “Never let a serious crisis go to waste…:’’ It is traditionally attributed to Former Chicago Mayor and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He was lambasted after he made the statement and clarified it by adding the phrase “And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Casey dutifully included the complete quote and then went on to comment how the current crisis has put many in the position of instituting policies or new procedures that probably would not have been considered outside the pandemic, and that many will find their way into permanent practice. Fair Enough.

But that’s not the reason for this blog. It turns out that Rahm was not the first person to use that phrase, but it was originally voiced by, you guessed it, Winston Churchill. He was discussing the formation of the United Nations and the fact, as he saw it, that it never would have happened without World War II, certainly as serious a crisis as one can name. Rahm was lobbying for gun control after the horrific shooting of Arizona Representative Gabby Griffiths in 2011.

My concern is that we see a crisis, and then jump to create solutions with little or no thought to the long term ramifications of those solutions. Sometimes the solutions are for parts of the crisis that may not even exist. Emotion kicks in, and clarity of thought goes by the wayside.

I think ‘defund’ might be such a case. We have a terrible killing, and want to do something. The knee jerk reaction is get rid of the problem by getting rid of the police. The result we see is unabated rioting across the country and the police being prevented from doing anything about it. We see the baby being tossed with the bathwater.

Cooler heads seem to be prevailing, but we have lost a lot of good police through retirement, and it will take years to rebuild the confidence we have in that ‘thin blue line.’ Policing is a huge process in a country of 320,000,000 people and mistakes will be made. We are human for goodness sake. And yes, we need to make changes so our police can do a better and more effective job.

But rather than use that serious crisis to its fullest extent, perhaps a tweak here and an adjustment there might do just as well. We are seeing the result of a major change in cities like Portland, Seattle, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Politicians want to do things on a grand scale. Its their nature. No one ever put up a statue for a tweak or an adjustment.


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Have you ever noticed how having a deadline focuses your thinking. We are an organization that lives and dies by deadlines, and I find that my best work is done right before the deadline.

There is a craftsman who will push a button on a certain day at a certain time in a printing plant in southern Wisconsin. The printing plant produces hundreds of magazines like PT each month, and we are scheduled weeks ahead of time to fit into the production calendar. We start with the moment that button is pushed, and the paper starts to roll through the press, and count backwards to know when we must have the PDFs of the magazine sent to the wizards who turn them into printing plates and allow the process to proceed.

Normally our copy deadline is about three weeks before the PDFs of the magazine must arrive in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. During that three weeks the copy is edited, proofed, placed in the magazine format, and then the magazine itself is proof read by three different people. I am the worst proof reader on the planet and am not one of those three.

Approximately eight days after the PDFs arrive at the printing plant, it is placed in the mail stream and delivered to our readers.

Deadlines are important. Without them nothing would be accomplished. There would be a never ending series of changes, corrections, arguments over the placement of this comma or that participle. Sometimes the effort isn’t the best you have, but it gets out there.

Deadlines focus your thinking. They remove the clutter from your life and create a canvas on which greatness can be obtained. The clear away arguments and allow the writer to do what he or she is paid to do. Communicate ideas by hook or by crook.

I am amazed that some organizations can ever produce even a single article. There are many levels of approval, some of them legal, that must be overcome. Often the final result bears no relation to the original.  Weeks and sometimes months go by before the article sees the light of day.

I often set deadlines for articles in the near term rather than the long term. This forces the writer to perform. And often that performance is better than if they had weeks or months to finalize their piece.

Whoops, gotta run. The deadline is looming.


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Back in the Day…

Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, to get something past an editor and into a newspaper or on a news program (remember Huntley and Brinkley) you had to have three sources and be able to confirm them to you editor. This prevented so called ‘fake news’ and ‘fake but accurate’ reporting getting out to the public.

In those days names like Walter Cronkite and Edward R Murrow brought a feeling of honor. To this day we don’t know whether Huntley or Brinkley were liberal or conservative. They would be horrified to have their politics bandied about on the nightly news.

Stories were checked and rechecked. Facts were verified. Reporters knew that if that didn’t back up their claims they would be on the unemployment line.

Today we live in the world of instant news. When the President stubs his toe it’s a race to who gets the story up first. Headlines like “President Stubs Toe, Stock Market Crashes” are flashed around the world before we are able to find out that he was kicking a branch out of the way so the Prime Minister of Israel, who was walking behind him, wouldn’t trip over it.

I lay most of this at the feet of social media. Everyone with a cell phone becomes a reporter. They shoot 60 seconds of video, put it on Facebook, youTube or twitter, and suddenly everyone knows the ‘facts’. Even if it’s completely and irrevocably wrong.

The mainstream media is put in a position that if they don’t rush to put the story up, they will be shown to be slow out of the gate and irrelevant. Facts and truth be damned.

One of the worst of the social media is a little gossip site called “Next Door.” Anyone can say anything and send shock waves through a community. “I heard a large ‘bang’ at 3AM last night. Was it a gun shot? Be careful out there.” Suddenly people are certain that roving bands of shooters are terrorizing a formerly quiet neighborhood. (Investigation showed that the large ‘bang’ was a pallet falling over, probably pushed by a cat jumping on it.)

Busybodies can cause more harm. “I saw a man walking down the sidewalk yesterday afternoon. He looked scuzzy, probably homeless. Be on the lookout for him. Next time I see him I’m calling the police.” There’s a very good chance that ‘homeless scuzzy man’ was me, walking to get my first haircut in months.

Sometimes too much information is worse than no information at all.


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Why Not Just Leave Well Enough Alone?

Governor Newsom of California has announced that he is ruling that by 2035 there will be no passenger cars sold in the state with an internal combustion engine. This is in a state that can’t even keep the lights on today without rolling blackouts and we are going to put huge pressure on the electric grid to charge all those millions of EVs.

I wonder…

A few years ago we had an environmentalist speak at PIE. He was from Washington state and told stories about politicians who would come up with ‘environmental’ programs like schools that were built to be 100% in line with environmental requirements. The problem was that when you went back and looked at the school when it was finished its carbon footprint was much greater than a traditionally built institution.

But there was another issue. That is the ‘staying power’ of the politicians. They would come up with a program (like the green schools) then in a few years get distracted and let that program go by the wayside in favor of some other flavor of the month that was coming down the pike. Or the idea would be proven untenable (like the high speed rail in California) and simply wither away.

Since California is committed to ‘renewable’ energy and can’t keep the lights on with wind and solar (seems that neither work so well at night) how can it supply its 15,000,000 vehicles with electricity? Well I guess these are details to be worked out later. Its sort of like the old joke of the fellow who was going to travel to the Sun and when he was told that he would burn up he mentioned his solution, he was going to go at night.

This plan is from the same leadership that prevented the proper management of forests and led to the wildfires that have plagued the west for the past few years.

If, as the governor predicted, the price of EVs will be falling and their popularity will be increasing over the next decade or so, why not just leave well enough along and let the marketplace handle the situation. If the change from fossil fuels to EVs happened naturally, there would be time for the power companies to adjust to the new electricity requirements without the intervention of the government.

But then, when did you ever meet a politician that didn’t want to force something down the throats of the populace? It’s in their nature.


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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.


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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.


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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…


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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.


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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.


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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.



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