The Importance of the On-Site Manager


The Importance of the On-Site Manager

John Oglesby


Three of the last five RFPs we conducted came down to the current or proposed on-site manager. If that percentage holds up, that would be 50 percent of the time it determines the winner. That is a bit high, but I can assure you, dear reader, that it is a significant factor in any RFP. 


We managed an RFP for a mid-sized city that had yet to go out to RFP for a decade. The on-site manager retired, and the owner didn’t care for the replacement. It was for two very different garages, only two blocks apart. There was a ready pool of four local operators with a reasonable market presence, two “big” operators at the airport and one at the large hospital. 


As is also often the case, the client had favorable impressions of one or two of the options and a very negative image of one (from an experience that occurred maybe 5-7 years ago) and had opinions as to who should be invited to bid, and who should not be. 


After a handful of conversations and discussions about the current market, operations, and recent personnel changes, it was agreed we would accept proposals from the “big guys” and the locals, including the “bad ones” from years ago. We drew up the RFP in our consistent format with a few tweaks from the owner, which are always welcome as it is their location. (Guess who ultimately won?)


This experience was in a mid-sized market, however, given two large operators were in town (city contract, airport) and local operators had solid locations, there is value for each of us reading this. 


The strength of the current or proposed on-site manager matters as much as your fee, how attractive your presentation is, your budget, your cost of insurance, and even your technology. How can that be, you ask? Don’t we have more data than ever? Don’t we have a predictive algorithm, dashboards, integrated solutions, and parking aggregators to fill our garages if we cannot? 


These tools are unique and vital, especially as we ask the managers to take on just one more location, one more daily report, one more extra project, etc. But let me ask you a couple of simple questions. 


In the real world, who will be reading these mounds of data, viewing and interpreting the beautiful dashboard, and integrating or separating information that will drive the success of the location and the relationship? And in these times of WFH (work from home), FLEX pricing, DYNAMIC pricing, and all of these beautiful things we can do when we KNOW our parkers, isn’t it the manager? 


From the relationship standpoint, who is the person who will make sure the client is happy based on what they care about? Is the garage clean (today)? Did they take care of that new employee of the largest tenant, that smell in the stairwell, or the dozen other things the manager addresses daily? 


In many locations, the manager isn’t on-site today. Likely, they manage 2-8 sites, but the great ones get it done. The best ones find a way to make every client happy. Clients can be super demanding, laid-back, or somewhere in between. They are always the decision makers on your future there. 


If you want them to be YOUR clients, you need that excellent manager; and if you don’t think they matter to clients, you need to spend more time in the field. One of my mentors always said that perception is reality.


An additional perspective is the value that an excellent manager has to YOUR organization, independent of a specific client. I do not know of a single operator or vendor with too many high-quality managers. Those quality managers typically become city and regional managers and are critical to your company’s success. 


I am neither anti-technology nor anti-dashboard, nor have I been around too long to understand business today. People have told me technology or sharing so much data would replace operators. Technology continues to improve. As long as clients are human, there is value in having a person on staff who will look the client in the eye and build  that relationship. As long as an operator reflects value to a client, there will be a need. 


I have been honored to conduct over a dozen RFPs in the past four months. The on-site manager was retained or hired away 11 of 12 times. Statistically, it is a small sample, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Article contributed by:
John Oglesby, The Parking Whisperer
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