The Problems Operators Face


The Problems Operators Face

I have been thinking a lot about parking operators, their ethics, their problems and other issues dealing with our industry.  My conclusions are still fuzzy, but I thought I would toss some out and see if anyone reacts.

First of all, operators have an almost impossible task. They are asked to be stewards of in some cases literally millions of dollars and are paid a penance for it.

Second, they are constantly asked by their customers to lower their prices, and thus have difficulty hiring high level people at the garage level.

Third, they deal in cash, and for reason two, have a problem in taking care of it.

Fourth, they are, as most businesses, beset with more and more taxes and regulation at every level.

Fifth, ours is a relatively new industry, only about 50 years or so old. All industries have growing pains, and we are in the middle of ours. How to solve the problems…and still stay in business?

Sixth – we are told this is a relationship business. I agree. But maybe that’s the problem. We develop relationships so we can, at the highest levels, verbally compensate for our failings.  We can blunt problems with a walk on the beach or over at the second tee.  The problems don’t go away, only the result.

I think on the whole operators do the best the can with the resources they are given. That’s not to say that the end product is necessarily great but I do think they try to make their product the best possible.

Someone once told me that there are only so many really good people in our industry and they are the ones that make a difference.  I tend to agree.  So it follows that wherever those people are, operations will be good or even great.  Most all operators have some or even many locations that are good or even great. However, there are still those that are marginal. And that’s the problem.

How can an operator with only so many good people fix the marginal locations. If they pull a good person from garage A and put them in garage B, A will suffer. Its a dilemma.

The only solution — attract more good people. This is a chicken or the egg issue.  If the industry has operational problems, good people don’t want to come into the profession. And how can we solve the problems without more good people.

(Oh, I make a couple of assumptions — First that there are problems and second that the industry acknowledges them.  I am right in the first one, and probably wrong in the second.  Many senior staff tell themselves that they do a wonderful job. When they are presented with evidence to the contrary, they have excuses for everything. The companies that are good companies or will become good companies are those that when faced with evidence, take it in stride and fix the problems. The rest are in denial. I don’t know how many times I have heard an operator, when confronted with a problem or issue, say "that’s just the nature of parking. You can’t do anything about it."}

The solution, I think, is two fold. First, we need to go on a huge PR campaign to "sell" our industry to the public.  We need to let people know that this is a place where you can grow, thrive, and make a difference.  We need to let the good ones know that they can be successful and the "parking" isn’t a business of folks sitting in booths sullenly collecting money.

Second: Operators need to raise their fees to cover what it costs to do a good job.  Competition just to "get" locations is what got us in this mess in the first place.  Owners understand that it costs $200 an hour to fix an elevator, $300 an hour to obtain legal advice, and also know, that they aren’t going to get a good manager for their $1 million parking business in the basement for $35K a year.

This is where good selling and marketing comes in.  We need not only to sell the fact that we know what we are doing and can do a good job, but also the fact that the good job costs more. You get what you pay for. We also need to walk away from bad deals and spend our time make our existing customers love us.

Lets get out of the "relationship" business and into the business of providing great, trouble free support to our clients.  I now its a paradigm shift in thinking, but trust me, we need to go there.

Whatcha think?


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John Van Horn

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