So You Want to Grow Your Business


So You Want to Grow Your Business

 With more than 22 million small businesses in the U.S. today, 58% have growth expectations this year and have listed improving the customer experience, hiring new staff and upgrading IT infrastructure as the top levers to pull in order to reach their respective targets.
Is this conversation resonating in the halls of your corporate office? 
In our industry, the parking owner/operator segment continues to thrive, commonly taking a single location to 12, then 25 and so on in a few short years. Through this double-digit growth at such a clip, CEOs and their management teams are continually asking the “big” questions in terms balancing material expansion with maintaining the quality that affords these opportunities in the first place so they can sustain, compete and continue to advance. 
In today’s industry of small-business leadership, many operators are centering their long-term growth plans on the very same themes as noted above. 
Where to Start?
When we work with clients on their strategy mapping, the first push/pull conversation typically starts around deploying capital internally vs externally; i.e., should we spend money on improving internal systems and talent or better exploit revenue opportunities on the lot? 
Our bottom line two cents? Follow the money to prioritize each area of focus. With revenue comes profitability; with internal efficiencies comes short-term savings – while both are important, revenue guarantees sustainability. 
Seems simple enough, but in the same breath, it’s also quite amazing how revenue opportunities can get sidelined when translated into the current context of any given organization. 
I facilitated a strategic planning session in the fourth quarter of 2014 for a regional operator, and while listing key stakeholders to the company’s success, the executive leadership team decided the parking customer should be removed from the list as they wanted to center their efforts on a new client relations management (CRM) system. 
Given that mobile consumerism year-over-year increases anywhere between 50% and 75% and that the online advertising industry predicts that by 2019 online spending will increase by more than $30 billion, it didn’t take much convincing for the team to recognize that the mobile parking customer revenue line is an undeniable growth strategy, and very quickly followed the realization that the CRM they were looking at didn’t functionally support the transient parker sales cycle.
All this is to say that when examining lines of top line growth, organizations now have to consider the current and future needs of both the client and customer from all angles of expectations and needs when crafting their revenue strategies. 
Whom Are
We Hiring?
As I’ve written a few times in the past in Parking Today and elsewhere, with the changes of client and customer demands, so too comes the shifting of the ideal location manager profile. 
If an organization is still posting ads on Craigslist, interviewing candidates based on questions asked five years ago, and providing new hiring training that equals throwing the keys to the new hire and keeping fingers crossed, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see turnover higher than expected, mediocre service on the lot, and results almost, but not quite, meeting expectations. 
If your company has recognized that it’s time to hire a different profile, start by articulating and aligning around whom you want in terms of meeting company standards and client/customer expectations. 
Get specific with the background, expertise, experience, etc., and then put those conclusions to work throughout the hiring process, with updated job descriptions, engaging job ads placed where your seekers are looking, and a robust interview process that balances technical and behavioral questions.
Continue with this investment well into new hire training that includes a systematic approach toward educating your location managers’ operational standards, client portfolios, and the interdependency between lot activity and corporate support. 
Identify what a new hire needs to know within his or her first 90 days and provide the related training and knowledge exercises to ensure that he or she learns the job through proactive measures, as opposed to after-the-fact consequences.
Is There an App For That?
With the customer/client growth strategy set and the right talent identified, companies often look to the technology to support all of the above with a focus toward efficiency and cost savings. 
Before jumping into the vast pool of software solutions, we encourage organizations to first map out their key business workflow with supporting standard operating procedures for the simple reason that if a company doesn’t know its business-operating plan to this degree, articulating what any software app should do can prove difficult. 
It isn’t unusual in this process for the growing company to recognize that the “way things were always done” either has been retired or simply isn’t relevant to their current mode of operation, while gaining a crystal-clear vision of the present and future IT needs from a “holistic,” as opposed to the-flavor-of-the-day, perspective.
With this clarity, stakeholders can then gain agreement on what is absolutely required from the software solution and, as well, what would be nice to have and ensure all decision-makers have this clarity before scheduling the tech demos. 
In today’s world of vendor choices, each bringing to the table a host of options, the core requirements of the actual software can easily be pushed to the side and organizations can be put at risk in being led down a path and struggle to maintain control of their own purchasing process.
The small to mid-sized parking players play a vital role in our industry by keeping competition for new business truly competitive, catering to niche markets whether they be geographic or vertical, while creating new employment opportunities for the labor pool. 
These entrepreneurial organizations tend to be much more agile and innovative than their national brand counterparts when it comes to expanding options for the parker and responding to the client’s ever-changing needs with speed. 
And for those companies that figure out how to continually balance growth with quality through customer/client, talent, and technology strategies, they will continue to thrive and contribute to the overall sustainability and reputation of the parking industry.
Contact Colleen Niese, a Principal of The Marlyn Group, at
Article contributed by:
Colleen Niese
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