The Family Reunion


The Family Reunion

It was June 1, 1979. The Pittsburgh Pirates were climbing out of fourth place in the National League East. Having won the last five games to get over 500, they faced the San Diego Padres. Falling behind 8-5 going into the bottom of the 9th, the Pirates found a way to win the game on a bases loaded walk after Rollie Fingers blew an 0-2 count and threw four straight balls to walk in Willie Stargell and the winning run for the Pirates. After the game, Stargell started singing the Sister Sledge song, “We are Family”. It stuck!

The Pirates went on to win the World Series and forever, the 1979 season will be remembered as the “We are Family” season. 

“Pops” Stargell made it clear when he said that the Pirates were just like a family. They fought in the clubhouse, but found a way to unite on the field where it counted. 

Brian Wolff of Parker, while accepting an award at the PIE show in Dallas, mentioned how the Parker Team was like an extended family. In Parker’s Vision Statement, it ends with this series of words…. “creating a human connection when it’s needed the most. We’re just people helping people.”

One evening of the PIE show, we joined Parking Concepts, Inc. of Irvine, California for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. Gil Barnett and his team were gracious and generous hosts. Starting with a word of prayer, followed by wine, appetizers, a delicious meal, decadent deserts, laughter, and conversation galore, it felt like Thanksgiving dinner with family. 

We tried to win a big job with PCI just before Covid, but it didn’t go either of our ways. But we still celebrate today what could have been. We celebrate our friendship and brotherhood every time we see them.

It’s hard to describe the feelings you have for a family member. Being a father of four, I have modeled for my children that an act of love is through acts of service. There isn’t a thing that I wouldn’t do for my children. I’d happily wake up at 5 AM to make breakfast for my son going off for drill weekend. I’d give up my Saturday to help my sons with their lawn business. I’d surprise my daughter and fill up her Honda with gas, get a car wash, and a vacuum. 

Family is all about forgiveness and forgetting. I believe that one of the strongest acts of customer service is to treat your client like family, doing heroic and selfless acts for them as you would your own flesh and blood. I make it a point to know as much as I can about my clients, and I want them to know that I truly do care. When winning bids and making money overshadow relationships, the purpose and the fulfillment go away. 

Recently, I was visiting the city of West Palm Beach Florida to review some projects we were completing for the city. My “business brother” Mark Pratt lives in West Palm Beach. I wouldn’t think of not reaching out to Mark when in town. Like a family member, he invited me to his home to share a “Mike Simmons Margarita”. Family puts itself out for family.

Years ago, at an NPA event in Washington DC, we met our family from Traffic and Safety on the upper level of the Hampton Inn (we were all too cheap to stay at the Gaylord). We had never met Keith Hay, Rob Puhr, and the rest of the gang before. My actual brother Dave was with ECO at the time. During the course of an hour, we began and cemented a relationship that has tested time well. 

Fernando Barcelona, President of Barcelona and Friends has a great definition for family. He says, “I feel family goes beyond bloodlines, last names or obligations. To me, the word ‘family’ includes all the people in our lives who commit to love and support us unconditionally. It is not a passive birthright, but a choice, a discipline of kindness that helps us thrive both as individuals and as a society.”

If the PIE show doesn’t feel like a Family Reunion, rethink your approach to business relationships. 

If there is a single person in the parking industry that has mastered the art of seeing people and business as family, it’s Alan Lazowski, CEO and Founder of LAZ Parking. From the incredible mentoring to the “Standing Os”, it’s no surprise that they call their annual meeting, the “LAZ Family Reunion.” Does LAZ, ECO Parking Tech or any other company mentioned in this article do everything right? Of course not, we are all family. 

Here’s to living our business lives as a family. Next time I see my brothers at PCI, I think I’ll do as Uncle Al does, I’ll give them a big hug, and more than likely, it’s bound to include a meal.

This month’s article is dedicated to my business brother, Paul Gnasso. Here’s to you brother!

Article contributed by:
Jeff Pinyot
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