Ask a Millennial!
I hit yet another big milestone last week in birthdays. It’s no big deal to me, personally, but sometimes I wonder when my age will limit my acceptance in business. I don’t mean from physical limitations, I simply mean that when people get older, they are sometimes overlooked or pre-judged to just not be as technically savvy or up to date. I laugh when I think of the grandma texting her grandkids about how her cruise was WTF (Way Too Fun). She gets an E for Effort!
I remember when “Cloud Storage” was a pending rain and the leaves on the silver maple tree turned upside down as an alert to us and in preparation for an oncoming storm. “When leaves show their undersides, be very sure that rain betides.” Only people over a certain age know about this phenomenon.
The holes in the knees of my jeans were not purchased, they were earned through yard work, repair work, painting, whatever. Holes in the knees used to be the barometer for when to replace your jeans with new non-holey ones. In case you were wondering, there is an age limit for when a woman or man should stop wearing jeans with holes in them. For one thing, it’s simply an idiotic fashion statement and an adult wearing holes in their jeans doesn’t look like, well, an adult.
I thought that since I’ve hit this new age milestone, that I’ve earned the opportunity to put on my old man black socks and sandals and share some observations I have made attending so many industry tradeshows. I’m currently flying home from one.
First, I am reminded of a young man who had traveled with his seasoned, proven and well-loved business associate from Lexington to Indy to meet with me. During lunch, when the proven friend hit the restroom, the young guy, now alone, tried to continue the conversation and began cursing like a sailor (like his counterpart always did, I mean ALWAYS did). I quickly said to the young guy, “Stop it! You are copying the wrong thing. Repeat what he does right, not what he does wrong.” I’d like to candidly share some observations. Just a few bullet points that I’ve learned over the years that might make you think.
• Don’t go to a trade show and drink like a fool. Standing in the bar at the NPA one evening, I watched a young man who was completely wasted continuously spill his drink all over the floor as he walked around looking for a conversation to butt into. It’s awful for business, says that you are incapable of good choices and makes me wonder would I trust any fool with any part of my hard-earned business that I’ve risked everything on? Such poor judgment. This is not judgment on drinking, it’s judgment on not knowing when enough is enough. If you don’t think people are watching, you are even more foolish than this man. You are being watched.
• Ask a Millennial, that’s my mantra. So, Harlan Karp busted me the other day. Yes, he was right, I once wrote in a Marketing Minute that it can look foolish or unprofessional for people manning their tradeshow booths to wear their logo ware. I said that they should dress like the person that they want to have purchase their products. If you want Ty, or Mark, or Allan, or all those guys that don’t need a last name to purchase your stuff, dress in a suit like they do. Harlan caught me wearing my ECO Parking Technologies T-shirt under my sport coat the other day with a pair of jeans (no holes), clearly a Millennial thing. I think it looked cool, took some of the years off me. But I did need help. Should I wear the T-shirt tucked in or left untucked? My neighboring SpotHero Millennials unanimously said, UNTUCKED! Harlan, untuck your t-shirt!
• Go to the Trade Show area when you attend any of the shows. The PIE, the NPA, and the IPMI. The Vendors, who should really be called Partners, have spent an unbelievable amount of money on supporting the show through their booth fees, travel fees, shipments, etc. When the show floor is empty, it’s not a feel good. Everybody is a vendor to somebody. It’s time we all understand it and get together on the same page. Parking organizations are vendors to all of us. Operators vend parking spaces from their concrete vending machines. Universities and cities vend their parking to students and visitors. Consultants vend their professional services to owners and contractors. I think you get it. Which organization will do away with the term Vendor first, and replace the word with Partner or Strategic Partner? Once and for all, creating an organization where all men and women are created equal.
• Mentor Freely! Every seasoned person attending one of our Parking Trade Shows should never allow a “Newbie” to stand alone in anxiety, fear, or uncertainty. I always see new people at opening nights, standing alone watching the rest of us who know dozens of people, interact with each other. Do you remember your first show? Get involved. Standing alone, even for a Type A like me can be painful. I remember my first IPMI when I knew NOBODY. Standing alone, I saw this well put together guy named Peter from Texas that everyone seemed to know. I stood there longing to be in a discussion with anyone, let alone someone as well connected as Peter. Fast forward years later and a half dozen relighted garages together at Texas A&M, and Peter and I are on a first name basis. Peter Lang is just one of 100 examples of how quickly a relationship can bloom given effort. If each of us would reach out to one person that we see who is new, that person could be acknowledged a half dozen times in an evening and really feel welcome. I suggest that seasoned veterans be assigned a first timer to shadow at the conventions. Last night on my flight home, the Millennial on the aisle said to me, “My favorite place to fly to in the country is Indianapolis.” I was shocked, as this guy flies coast to coast. He continued, “People from Indiana are the kindest people on the planet. They make you feel important, appreciated, and wanted.” I think our industry is well on its way to accomplishing what Indiana has done. Let’s all add the “Hoosier” touch to the next convention we attend.
• Can’t do this. This is already too long, but here is one more item that can’t be missed. No grown man should ever enter an airplane wearing a “Wife Beater” (a sleeveless t-shirt). Get real! Is there anything grosser than sitting beside a guy who’s wearing one of those? Oh, yes there is, a Fishnet Wife-Beater.
Just some random thoughts during a late-night flight after standing for three days on a hard-concrete floor with Planters Fasciitis because I’m too cheap to rent the pads and carpet like the Millennials do.
Happy Birthday to me.