3M (What Else?), All Change Is Good, and ParkNews.biz


3M (What Else?), All Change Is Good, and ParkNews.biz

As I look back on the past couple of months and the goings-on in our industry, I shake my head. 3M is closing its parking division (we address that elsewhere in this issue); people are changing jobs so quickly it’s difficult to track. Companies are buying other companies; venture capital is pouring in. Sheesh, what’s happening here?
It seems that the only constant is change. New technology, new companies, new jobs, new CEOs – what are we to make of all this change?
I have a philosophy that I have followed since I was a young man editing a country newspaper more years ago that I would like to think.
One of my best friends at the time was the local superintendent of schools. At lunch one day, he told me to keep my ear to the local gossip mill. Something big was going to happen in the local schools.
It was a small town. We had two elementary schools, one junior high and one high school. Things seemed to be going swimmingly. Students, teachers and administrators were doing their jobs and were happy. Even the high school basketball team was on a winning streak. All was right with the world.
Then I heard rumblings. Something was amiss at the elementary schools. My friend, the superintendent, walked in on a Monday morning and switched the elementary school principals. No warning, no discussions, even no instructions. Just report tomorrow to the other school, and carry on.
Naturally, there was a tremendous upheaval. Teachers were uncomfortable. Students were suspect. Parents were having meetings. Why would my friend do such a thing? Everything had been going so well. My superintendent friend said nothing.
Within six months, a funny thing happened. The test scores at both schools began to climb. Absenteeism, not ever much of a problem, began to fall. New programs, never considered before at either school, were being put in place. By simply switching the two principals, both schools got better.
When I spoke to my friend, this time on Friday evening over an adult beverage, he said that by switching the two principals, he shook up the status quo. They were both good at their jobs, but they weren’t challenged. They had built good machines and were simply oiling the parts. His philosophy: All change is good.
I can hear the screams from the cheap seats – What about war, what about sickness, what about losing one’s job? What about contentious divorce or being forced to move? Balderdash.
Of course, my friend’s philosophy has it limits. But like death and taxes, change is a part of life, and we can’t do anything about it. It isn’t about whether or not, in the micro sense, change itself immediately causes something good to happen, but it’s how we view the change, both in the long- and short-term.
I spoke with two former 3M dealers days after the late-November announcement.
One was so excited, I could hardly jot down what he said. He saw 3M’s parking demise as an opportunity. A way to embrace new technology. A way to introduce his customers to a different approach. He was excited.
The other ex-dealer was more subdued. “Of course, it’s been a shock, but we will make the best of a bad situation. After all, our customers buy from us, not from 3M, and we can work with them. We will see our way through this.”
The first one obviously jumped on the change. The second tolerated it. My guess is that both companies, a year down the road, will be better off. Change is good.
As for the two elementary schools, after the initial shock and the paint had dried on the new names on the doors, they got better. As for me, after the initial shock of being fired (one of a number of times), I went out and got a better job. Each time it was better. I was happier.
My sister-in-law has a tremendous ability to accept change. She has had two husbands die suddenly. Many would go into a cocoon and give up. She was saddened. She remembers, but she doesn’t let the change get to her. She knows she was meant to move on, and she does.
After all, what’s the alternative?
The changes coming to our industry will make us stronger. Of course, there will be winners and losers. That’s how life works. The winners will press on, and the losers can do one of two things: They can sit at home and mope, or they can find something they are good at and become winners, too.
No, not all change is good. However, I do believe that almost all change is good.
Reference 3M – As an aside, in June 2012, I wrote the following in the Parking Today Blog under the heading: “3M Buys Federal APD”
It’s not quite that simple.  3M has purchased the Federal Signal Technologies Group (FSTech) from Federal Signal Corp. Federal APD is the parking arm of FSTech. … I hope the fact that 3M’s John Houle (Vice President and General Manager of 3M Traffic Safety Systems Division) neglected to single out Federal APD in his quote announcing the purchase isn’t a harbinger of things to come for the parking division.
We all have 20/20 hindsight, but the signs were there.
Astrid Ambroziak, who edits our web news aggregator, ParkNews.biz, has taken to parking news like a religious zealot. We were days ahead of anyone else with the news about 3M, and she is reaching out to news makers to send her the info first.
When Astrid is scooped, which isn’t often, phones and keyboards fly across the room. We are up to 2,000 visits a week now, and climbing. If you want to find out what’s going on in the parking world, ParkNews.biz is the place to go.
 John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today.
He can be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com.
Article contributed by the Parking PT team.
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