8 Observations Iíve Made This Year
It’s been more than a year since JVH asked me to contribute to this Authentic Concern column, and as I look back on 2020 and look forward to 2021, I began to reflect on what an absolutely insane year it has been, and some of the subsequent lessons I’ve learned. Not all of these learnings are parking-related, but many are. Because, after all, I’m not always helping people park cars, but I am always a husband, father, son and colleague.
1: How amazing our immune system really must be. After watching several programs about how COVID is spread and seeing the modeling of our breath as it leaves our bodies under different conditions such as at rest, regular speaking, singing and shouting at a sporting event, I realize we all truly do swap spit with each other a lot. Sorry to be gross, but it’s staggering how freely we “exchange” air when enclosed in a room for extended periods of time or in a stadium cheering for the home team. And yet, many times, indeed most times, we do not get sick. Or how about those studies that show our cell phones are dirtier than our toilets…ewww. And yet, again, we don’t get sick. We’ve certainly seen how special our health is, and we have our amazing immune systems to thank for that.
2: Trust is the ultimate frictionless app. I’ve written and spoken a lot about trust this year. I think we take trust for granted. What I mean is, we conduct business and commerce in the U.S. by a set of written and unwritten rules, and we take people at their word because “trust” is the norm that underpins our knowledge that what we discussed will happen. Of course, the individual could be a schmuck, but “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” The whole premise of that phrase is that I can trust you until you prove untrustworthy. I’ve learned this year and asserted on these pages how our industry has a unique and special level of trust. We should cherish it and lean on it to solve the problems of today by leveraging the trust we share across companies to deliver what our customers truly want – a great parking experience every time.
3: Core values really can run a company. I was skeptical when we set out to define our core values four years ago, but then when “it” hit the fan this year, I quickly saw tangible evidence our business was being sustained by people with common core values. It was second nature to “go above and beyond” to make sure the office was sanitized twice daily or assume “noble intent” when emotions ran hot because of the pressure and uncertainty brought on by a silent enemy, sickening humans at an alarming rate. Our core values stood up to these challenges and have carried us through one of the most difficult years I’ve ever experienced.
4: Empty nesting is the best and the worst. Jill and I became empty nesters this year and it’s been great. The house is quiet, but I can say with guilty pleasure that our schedules are free, which means evenings with nothing to do are treasures. Or, a detour after work to the golf course is nothing more complicated than “ok then, I’ll see you later.” It also means we’re getting old. I really don’t like that, but the best thing to do is enjoy the journey.
5: One person makes all the difference. It’s been my experience that in nearly every case, I knew if I made the right hiring decision on the very first day. Why? Because the right person gets to work and immediately contributes to the cause as if they’d been there for years. Lynda Black joined Parker this year and her impact on our call center and on Tammy Baker’s (her boss) life were immediate. She picked up the load, and didn’t just do an excellent job, but freed up Tammy to do other more important work that our company needed. Hiring Lynda was a force multiplier. The exact same thing happened when we hired Taylor Shook in June – her positive contributions were immediate. So much so, it freed her manager, Heidi Barker to unleash her own tsunami of impressive and critical work on our sales, marketing and sales ops systems. 1 + 1 = 11! There were, of course, a few misses that had the exact opposite effect. Excellent people disappear, in a good way, into your organization because they simply get to work, and the impact is immediate and transformative.
6: It takes a lot to shake a parking person. COVID has been devastating to the parking industry. Yet, every single parking professional I encountered this year was positively unflappable in the face of crippling losses. I have been so impressed with the persistence and perseverance demonstrated by these professionals. I’ve come to appreciate the “true grit” it takes to run a parking operation and tip my hat to all of my parking colleagues who are enduring and looking forward to brighter days. I am too!
7: The fragility of life and the anti-fragility of people. It’s heartbreaking how many people have succumbed during this global pandemic, and unfortunately there are more to come, yet all around us we see evidence of people who refuse to quit, refuse to give up and rise to the occasion every day to care for the sick. I think about all of the healthcare workers on the front lines everyday battling this disease and witnessing death on a mind-numbing scale. They know if they don’t do it, it won’t get done, and for that I am eternally grateful!
8: Authentic Concern isn’t just a cute phrase. You see it now popping up all over the place. My experience throughout this year has been that people are more resilient than we give them credit for, even in the face of bad news. They simply want to know that you are leveling with them. Early in the year, as we attempted to forecast the true impact of COVID on our customers and our business, it was important that I shared the truth with our employees. We honestly didn’t know if we were going to need to make staffing changes, so I told them that I would communicate it as soon as I did. Fortunately, our leaders found ways to nip and tuck to avoid layoffs or furloughs, and while we all sacrificed a little, the team has weathered the storm better as a whole.
With each obstacle, we chose to meet it head-on with the grit and determination worthy of a parking professional. December is a time to take stock of where we’ve been, what we have and look forward to better days ahead. I’m grateful to lead a resilient and thriving company, whose people are healthy, in an industry that is better than most at rolling with the punches and getting up off the mat every time. Ding, ding, it’s time for round two! Happy Holidays to you and yours.