It's Just Parking, or Is It?
November, 2003As a newcomer to the consultant world of parking, I was misled by the opinions of my peers. Those who had parking experience way beyond my 13 years warned me against joining forces with these folks who dare to venture out on their own to give opinions and even dare to pretend that they are the elite of the parking industry. The knowledge gained just one year later has far exceeded the knowledge I would have gained if I had not joined these folks who are passionate about this business and, I believe, want to bring credibility to the industry.
The original focus as Senior Auditor of The Parking Network Inc. was simply to conduct financial audits for our clients and to offer recommendations on streamlining and efficiencies, or so I thought. However, not too long into the process, a new focus emerged. And that was to educate the client that it is not "just parking."
The misconception, I believe, is that anyone can do it. Anyone can park a car and collect a fee, but not just anyone can do it right. Parking is more comprehensive in nature. There are those who say success is in the operations, such as the equipment, the staff or the operator. Others say it is in the accounting, such as cash controls and budgeting. Even though all those factors are true, the reality is that it takes a healthy combination of both, and in addition -- and most important -- education and training, where resources are weak and often sacrificed, especially in this current environment where automation, such as facility management systems, rules the day. While a facility management system is a beneficial tool in parking operations today, it will not serve its purpose if no one is using the data it produces to control and monitor the operations. It takes a consolidated effort from various sources of qualified personnel to achieve the desired results.
Over the last year in developing the staff of an audit division, it has become evident that it takes a working knowledge of the whole process of parking operations. Our focus has evolved into specialty training. Each person of audit staff has been specifically trained to review and examine a specific area of parking and each source of income or expense involved in the process. This allows us the ability to dissect each item connected to the process to offer recommendations. Obviously, to achieve the ultimate goal for our clients is to increase their bottom line, and to be able to do that, a concentrated effort must be dedicated to the prevention of revenue loss. An audit of past records must be performed with an eye on the future to ensure that the processes and procedures are in place that provide strong cash controls to protect the client's investment.
In conclusion, the management of parking involves more than just a parking space that generates a fee. The parking space must be striped; it must be cleaned, priced, insured, marketed, sold and finally accounted for. In addition, an owner expects to know the future value of that space and the demand for utilization of that space. Success comes from the complete knowledge of the operation, along with vigorous accounting practices, and it is all supported by sound training tactics.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I may be wrong. What do I know? After all, I am just a consultant and it is "just parking," or is it?
Bea Vela is head of the auditing department of The Parking Network. She can be reached at