An Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Passion

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An Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Passion

Michael Back

Why Parking Fuels Me:

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut. Or a fireman. Or better yet, a superhero! In my dreams of blazing a path to changing the world, I certainly didn’t plan on landing in the specialized arena of parking payments. 

 

In fact, it never would have occurred to me (or anyone else, it seems) that something so seemingly mundane as parking would pave the way to a fulfilling career. 

 

I’m not the only one who’s surprised. When people ask what I do, my response—I’m in the parking business!—is frequently met with a blank stare, followed by the inevitable: Hmmm… Parking? Really? 

 

Yep, really. My name is Michael Back and I am the Founder and CEO of HONK, a leading North American provider of unattended payment solutions for parking and mobility—and I can honestly say that I love what I do. Every day, I work right at the intersection of payments and parking, in the sweet spot where tech meets tarmac. Here’s a little history about what drove me here and why I’m staying.

 

Before parking was on my horizon, I did my share of hustling. I delivered papers, I shoveled driveways, I cut lawns, I sold t-shirts outside of Toronto Maple Leaf games. By the time I founded, scaled, and sold a successful credit card processing company, I had been selling products and services and dealing with people for a very long time. 

 

In the credit card business, I discovered that this process of buying and selling was more complex than I thought. I learned that there are various ways to process payments and that the choice impacts the consumer experience, for better or worse. 

 

I learned that the right technology can remove friction and inefficiencies from payments, and that convenience is always king for both the buyer and seller. 

 

Let’s face it, the easier it is to pay for what you want, the less time you have to rethink the purchase, and the more you’re willing to spend. What you’re buying is actually only part of the picture. The magic is in making the transaction effortless. 

 

Even with all of this valuable knowledge, though, I would trudge across the parking lot every day at work to pay at one of those antiquated terminals before trudging back to my car to display my ticket. 

 

And all the while, I would say to myself: Why can’t this be easier? It couldn’t be, because back then, the parking sector was rife with outdated processes underserved by technology. 

 

Everyone still relied on hardware, with all of its costs and limitations, instead of software, which could streamline the entire payment process. 

 

Parking—something we all do all the time—was the ideal space to bring this transformative potential to life.

 

My brain was buzzing with possibilities. We could drag parking payments into this century…We could use technology to take the frustration out of the equation…We could make payment smoother and less painful for drivers and parking operators…I could hardly wait to round up a team and get to work. 

 

I know, I know. Parking is about as far from sexy as you can get. I know I’m no superhero. Heck, I don’t even drive a sports car. 

 

And yet, I’m proud of what I do. As a parking insider, I’m making my mark in a dynamic industry tethered to so many sectors that affect how we live: technology, mobility, urban planning, and consumer behavior. 

 

For me, parking is where the rubber meets the road—quite literally—in the payments world. There is something thrilling about taking an everyday task and upgrading the process for everyone involved. 

 

Perhaps most exciting, though, is the realization that we’re not just dealing with a simple commodity here. We’re helping to manage people’s time, money, and peace of mind. 

 

When we simplify parking payments, we’re offering someone an extra few minutes to sip their morning coffee, an easier start to their day, more time to get where they need to go. 

 

It is this power to enhance lives that makes me enjoy what I do most of all. 

 

To keep me fueled on the daily, I do have lots of support. I have the privilege of working alongside an incredible team at HONK that is as obsessed with reimagining parking as I am. 

 

We’re all weirdly passionate about the ins and outs and angles of parking as we work to create solutions that are reshaping the mobility landscape. 

 

In fact, dreaming up more and more ways to improve parking payments regularly keeps me up at night (in the best possible way). Each product we develop does its part to make parking simpler, smarter, and faster, and there is no end in sight. 

 

The personal and professional connections I forge in my work also motivate me. As we build our business, I am building meaningful relationships in this brave new parking world. 

 

The parking community is a fascinating mix of public and private organizations, tech innovators, city planners, and a dedicated workforce keeping it all humming. The acts of camaraderie, resilience, and creativity I witness are a constant source of inspiration. 

 

I have come to appreciate that in a world that’s moving faster and becoming more connected every day, my work is ultimately driven by relationships. 

 

I believe it is essential that as a society, we keep challenging the status quo in all sectors, the shiny ones as well as those that appear dull at first. 

 

Because only then can we revolutionize industries and improve people’s lives, making everyone’s day just a little bit better—even if it’s through something that seems fairly innocuous. 

 

You know, like parking a car.

 

Michael Back, the founder and CEO of HONK, can be reached at michael@honkmobile.com

October 2023

Article contributed by:
Michael Back, HONK
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