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The Consequences of the Status Quo

I think the consequences of the status quo come in two flavors. First, maintaining the status quo in business can be anathema. It means no change, everything remains the same. This can be horrific when applied to how businesses grow and prosper. We need fresh ideas, we need new thoughts, we need pivoting when necessary.

Second is the status quo as it relates to the individual. If someone is comfortable in their life, who am I to change it. As long as it doesn’t affect others, let them alone.

Today we hear that the folks in Florida “got what they deserved” because they built their cities where hurricanes happen. I guess my answer to this is, “Why do you care?” What business is it of yours where I live, what I do, as long as it doesn’t involve others. If I elect to live on the San Andreas Fault and expect “the big one”, why should you care. If you elect to live in cities that are fraught with crime and homelessness, that’s your business.

Some people live in climes that have storms every year. Flooding takes out homes and businesses every year, yet they rebuild in the same place. Is it possible they like it there. It is their home. They thrive on it.

In Martin Cruz Smith’s great detective story Gorky Park, Moscow police detective, Arkady Renko, ends up in the US to solve the crime. Other American detectives offer to help him get citizenship here. After all, when he returns to Russia he will face censure by his superiors, plus live in a totalitarian country not to mention the horrendous weather in Moscow. He responds that he will go home. Russia is his home, his Rodina, his homeland. It is where he lives, and where he will die. I may not understand his choices, but I do understand his desires. His status quo.

If our country, our economy, our businesses continue to grow, we need change. We need to look ‘status quo’ straight in the eye and say, ‘aside villain, you won’t stop us.’

However, as individuals, we need to look, I think, at our lives and decide what’s important. Status Quo can give us a center, a way to understand ourselves, and if we like it, why change it? Folks live in the path of a hurricane and weigh the chances of destruction with fantastic weather, the nearness of friends, the ability to live uncomplicated lives. Their Status Quo was to them, worth the risk.

Seniors fight like hell to keep out of “old folks homes.” Their lives would be better if they moved, however from their point of view, staying put and living their lives in memories, is worth it.

I’m always a bit suspicious of those who tell me that they know what’s better for me than I do. Do they have an agenda unknown to me? Just because they don’t like it when I decide to live in a certain way in a certain place, why should I change for them.

In Gorky Park, the American detective couldn’t imagine not living in the US, and certainly couldn’t imagine preferring Russia. Arkady Renko couldn’t imagine the opposite.

We sometimes criticize the ‘crazy old guy’ who lives alone and prefers to be left alone. Kids make fun of him, adults talk about him at parties and across the back fence. But he’s doing no harm. A colleague tells me that we cannot know what weight others carry. Maybe their status quo helps them to bear that weight.

JVH

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Ian

No thinking person jokes about disasters, particularly those over which we have no control. One can only imagine the horror that the residents of Ft Myers and Cape Coral  and the environs are feeling right now. They rightly deserve our prayers and support. Homes and businesses destroyed, friends lost, it is a nightmare.

I am always stunned by immature clods that use these disasters to make fun and press their own agendas. Now is the time to go all in, show your support, and do what you can to help. Its not the time to tweet ‘funny’ things about death and destruction.

I’m ashamed to say that someone from our industry posted the following:

Terrifying photo, but take solace from the fact that somewhere right out there is surly a place to park your car.

There was a picture of floodwaters about to destroy a house. This was written by the head of Parking Reform Network Tony Jordan and ‘liked’ by Reinventing Parking founder Paul Barter.

I’m saddened because I know personally both Tony and Paul and felt they had more feeling, empathy, and understand than this quote shows. I can only hope that this was a knee jerk reaction and they will come to their senses. But, there you go. Sometimes disasters bring out a person’s true feelings. Its sad that we can’t put aside our political issues for at least a few weeks and help our parents, friends, and families dig out from disaster. But the world is filled with sadness.

Yes, the brave people of Florida will rebuild and repair their lives. However it won’t be the ‘same.’ Personal treasures have been lost, human beings injured or killed, lives upended. Right now, they are in a recovery mode. One can only imagine how they felt, watching their homes and futures being destroyed. They deserve our prayers, support, empathy, and friendship.

JVH

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Leadership

Over the past month, and next month, you will be reading in PT nearly 40 leaders in the parking industry and their take on leadership. Without exception, they all felt that a true leader respects their staff and is self-deprecating.

They used examples like Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. Each in his own way showed great respect for the people around them and in the end, had a goal they reached.

Often, great leaders aren’t particularly great managers. They surround themselves with great managers. They let their managers do their jobs, following non conflicting directions. A great leader tries to see the so called ‘big picture.’

Great leaders are communicators. They can let those around them know an organization’s direction, without confusing the issue. They can communicate clearly, but often with a certain feeling that leaves the ‘staff’ with a thrill. There is never any confusion.

True leaders know that sometimes there will be failure and accept that. They learn from their mistakes and move an organization forward through those failures. As Churchill put it, “when you are walking through hell, keep walking.” Leaders never loose sight of the goal, and press through adversity, because there will be adversity.

Leaders aren’t afraid to be in the arena. As Teddy Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Leaders understand that to know victory, you must also know defeat.

Those who pressed on through the horrors of the pandemic came out stronger. They knew that this was not the end times, but simply another adversity that needed to be overcome. And they did.

Our challenge is not to look back and the problems of the past but to look forward to our goals. Leaders learn from adversity but never stop seeking their goal. They are not afraid to adjust as necessary, but always adjust in a direction that leads to their goal.

TR knew what he was talking about. A leader ‘ best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.’

You need not be on the global stage, but can succeed as a leader in your home office, your garage, or a small factory. Leaders have a goal and reach out for it.

JVH

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Every Other Booth

Well, at least it seemed like it. We attended the NPA annual convention and as usual, they did a great job and had well over 125 exhibitors. As I walked around the floor, I noticed that practically every other booth had some type of License Plate Recognition (LPR) system on display.

All the PARCS Systems had integrated LPR. This allowed you to use the license number as a credential for monthly parkers, plus use them for parking reservations, and capture the plate and connect it to the ticket issued on entrance. That way, when the person paid at a central location, the system would recognize the plate on exit and allow the exit without stopping. Neat huh.

Then there were the parking guidance systems that used cameras to locate empty spaces and change lights above them from red to green. The cameras also captured the license plates and on some systems would report those plates and if you forgot where you parked your car, you could key in your license plate and the system would tell you the floor and space number where you left it. Now that’s a feature I could use daily.

LPR is used in enforcement both on and off street. A camera equipped vehicle is driven down the street and each license number is checked for payment. If none is found, some systems let the officer know and a ticket can be issued. In other cases, the citation can be mailed to the offending driver.

Data, and using it to understand your parking operation is important, and LPR and video is a key to capturing that data. Cameras can survey large portions of a surface lot or a street and tell the parking operator just how many spaces are available at any point in time. This can be key to dynamic rate setting and communicating to drivers just where parking is available.

The curb has become an important aspect of parking control in most cities. Video and LPR can give PEOs a grasp of just what is going on at the curb and enable them to enforce curb regulations.

Always a skeptic I asked many of the folks in the LPR booths just what their valid read rate was. The answers were substantially different from those received even five years ago. Virtually all claimed valid read rates in the very high 90s. AI, extremely fast processing, high end cameras, and excellent programming have made a considerable difference. Some systems not only read the license plate, but also captured the vehicle make and model. Pretty fancy.

Most systems had a back up in case of a misread. But they were seldom used.

Considering all the options, it seems to me that this is a most reasonable approach to parking control. Technology has moved in. Trailer hitches, bicycle racks, mud, snow, ice, and missing plates make 100 percent reads impossible. However there are work arounds for those issues.

The LPR portion of our industry has made great strides. The marketplace is reflecting those advances.

JVH

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Ageism – It Works Both Ways

When we visit the UK, are we not impressed with the sense of history. This is a place where kings and philosophers walked, thought, and partied for millennia. A place where empires were built and destroyed. A place where we could actually learn a bit about how to prevent disasters as well as create them.

I was in a pub in the UK a few years ago and a woman of a certain age accosted me. “Young man, American right? What do you like most about England.”  I responded “I think it’s the sense of history. Why, in the US, there are few buildings more than 150 years old.” “Young man,” she said, “Clive and I (Clive was sitting next to her, sipping his G and T), Clive and I worship in a church that has had services every Sunday for 1000 years.”

I get chills every time I tell that story. Think about it. A thousand years. Think of all the successes that were wrought, the failures that were suffered. Think of all we can learn from them and avoid disasters lurking around every corner.

As one ages, certain changes become apparent. There are physical ones, of course, but also that brain often slows down. Things that happened quickly now seem a labor. One of the big frustrations is when the youngsters around you begin to finish your sentences or your thoughts.

When you are young, everything seems so obvious. These issues and problems can be     solved quickly if only…Your ideas can be made to work if only… Someone points out a fatal flaw, but hell, they are over 70, so what can they know…Surely there is a workaround. Look at all the successes I’ve had. What can this old codger know that I don’t?

Similarly, how often does a senior discount the thoughts of the young, simply because they are young. “I tried that 50 years ago and it didn’t work.” Of course, the world does move on, times change. Maybe something that wouldn’t be possible half a century ago, would work today. After all, at one time folks thought the world was flat.

A friend once told me that something was impossible because it went against the laws of physics. I asked him if we knew all the physical laws. His life was built around assuming he knew ‘everything’ that was important.

I shudder to think how horrible the world would be if the young didn’t try to do things I knew were impossible. Would we be living the lives we live? But at the same time, consider what age and experience brings to the party. Does it really slow things down, or does it oil the machinery to make it go smoother and faster.

JVH

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Back to Work, or Else

I am honored that the venerable Wall Street Journal reads this blog. Coming off my piece about working from home, they had nearly a full section this last Saturday titled “Back to work, or Else”. They didn’t give me credit, but that’s OK. We all know who had the idea.

Employers including Apple Inc., Prudential Financial Inc, and BMO Financial Group plan broader September returns at their US offices. Some companies, such as Ally Financial Inc., have sent notes in recent weeks reminding workers to come into the office consistently. Goldman Sachs Group inc. said it was lifting all vaccination and other requirements to enter most of its officer after Labor day.

Others, including Marriott International are opening gleaming new office spaces with the hope and expectation, that workers will use them.

There’s an entire article in the WSJ about UMW Holdings in Pontiac, Michigan. They have 7,000 employees and have mandated that they will work in the office. They lost 500 employees over the policy, but say that it has been worth it. One supervisor noted that she can see her 60 staff members and can quickly see if one is struggling, and can walk over to help. “Overall it strengthens us at a team.”

Some employees complained that they couldn’t do their laundry during the day when they had to come into the office. Well Duh.

When executives at competitors call Mat Ishbia, UMW CEO, and say they are hesitant to push their own workers back to the office, he said he jokes in response: “I tell them, ‘Let them stay home,’”, He said. I’m kicking their ass and having fun with it.”

The Journal interviewed folks at of all places Zoom. The company had great successes at the beginning of the pandemic, its market cap was 159 billion. That has now dropped to 24 billion. The WSJ reporter noted that, like most tech companies, the concept of hybrid work is mostly to the remote side, however he found that the most provocative theory, “floated by the company’s Chief People Officer, was that remote work could prove harmful in the long term. Will those who work from home be lonelier and unhealthier? What if research shows that men and women coming to the office get promoted faster and make more money than those working from home? How can companies mentor employees and keep their company culture without sharing a physical space?”

The conclusion from WSJ is that when it comes to hybrid work, no one has the answers.

Well, I do. It’s obvious. UMW has the answers. Get your people back in the office, and you will too.

JVH

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Free Parking Isn’t Green – Yeah, Right

An article published over at The Good Men Project by Joe Cortright and my buddy Tony Jordan lambasts the (get this) The National Renewable Energy Lab for building a LEED Certified “green” garage because it is too big. It has all the ‘green’ credentials including solar panels and the rest, but it isn’t green because of its very existence. You can check it out on Parknews.biz.

Seems Joe and Tony feel that having a garage encourages people to drive and therefore pollute the planet with their gas guzzling vehicles. This garage has 1500 spaces to support a building housing 1200 people. It doesn’t say whether the NREL is expanding and perhaps could house more than 1500 but who cares, it’s a garage. And, its located in a suburban location where people, darn it, will be forced to drive to get to work.

Damn those planners at NREL. They could have built in downtown Denver where there are plenty of apartments for their 1200 employees and their families. Just where everyone wants to be, in the central city. My guess is NREL built where it did because that’s where their employees live.

Joe and Tony, however feel that people should be forced to live in dense cities. To wit:

That’s the problem, really.  We have an abundance of proven technologies that are “high-performance, low-emission, energy-saving strategies”–they include dense cities, cycling, transit, walking and car pooling.  But technologies don’t work, or don’t work well if we subsidize people to use energy-wasting alternatives and locate large concentrations of workers in places where they have few alternatives but to drive single-occupancy vehicles.

First of all, dense cities are required if you want walking, cycling and transit. I guess that’s where we are going. I assume Joe and Tony never heard of incentivizing car pooling if the company is so ‘green’ and the employees want it. They could still park for free but if they car pooled they could park close in, maybe get a few bucks bonus, who knows.

The first mistake NREL made was locating where it did (over 370 acres) I’m sure there’s plenty of open space in dense central cities. Then it built a garage. Who do they think they are?

Come on, Tony, aren’t there enough places to attack without attacking the very company that is attempting to promote green energy?  The irony of it all.

JVH

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Parable of the Two Shoppers

I was at the supermarket the other day and noted that the number of baggers was below normal. In most of the lanes, the cashiers were on their own. There were two men in front of me. One was a yuppie right out of central casting. Well dressed, coiffed, shoes shined, the whole package. Age about 30. The other was what some would call central casting also. He was mid 40s, dressed in construction gear, had a scruffy beard, dirty boots, and no doubt a gun rack in his pickup truck. I could probably predict the bumper stickers on each of their vehicles. Both had a basket full of groceries to be processed.

The first man in line stood there with his arms crossed, glaring at the cashier, as she processed his groceries and then bagged the entire batch. He didn’t even have his credit card out when she finished and we had to wait until he searched his clothing, found his wallet, pulled out his card, and processed it after the entire basket full of groceries was bagged and in his basket.

The second man in line sized up the problem immediately. He grabbed a bag and started filling it with his groceries. He had a couple of large heads of lettuce and some of the leaves fell on the floor. He picked them up, placed them in the trash and continued bagging. When the cashier was finished he already had his card out, processed it quickly, and finished bagging. He got his groceries in half the time as did the first man., and the rest of us in line greatly appreciated his alacrity.

I’m sure that by now you have seen through my little ploy. Yes, it was the scruffy guy who bagged his own groceries.

It has been my experience that those who work with their hands, who fix your plumbing, drive trucks, park your cars, build cities, pour concrete, plow the fields, can always find time to jump in and help when its needed.

These are the people, often denigrated, who work and honest day and get paid an honest wage. They have learned from their toil that lending a helping hand isn’t expected but is always appreciated.

These are lessons that can only be taught with experience, not in school. The next time you come upon an accident, or an emergency scene, take a look at who jumps in to help and who grabs their phone to take pictures. You shouldn’t be surprised, but many will.

JVH

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Another Reason to Oppose “Work from Home”

Not everyone knows everything about their job. They need support from their peers when they have problems. Let’s face it. It’s impossible to know everything.

When we hit the wall, what do we normally do. We wander down the hall and stick our head in Charlie’s office and say “Hey Charlie, got a minute. I need some help with the Jones account.” Happens every day. No wait. Charlie is no longer there. He is working from home.

So, do we set up a zoom call (a pain), pick up the phone and call him, send an email and ruin his day, or punt.

I say most of the time we punt. It wasn’t that important anyway. Charlie is an expert on the problem I have. But he’s also a very busy guy. For whatever reason, busy people always have time for you if you are standing in front of them, however few like to be interrupted by zoom, phone, or email.

If you take the zoom et al approach what could have been a two minute quick discussion becomes an ongoing project. It takes on an air of unnecessary formality. A quick word from Charlie and you are off to the races. If you go to all the trouble to zoom, or email, how long will that on line conversation last. I think we all know the answer.

I can see the in person conversation with Charlie now. “Did you consider……”

You: “Oh yeah, got it.” And you are off to the races.

There is a reason offices exist. Humans feed off each other. We ask questions, get answers, and do a better job because of it. It may be more ‘fun’ and convenient to work from home. But does it give you all the tools you need to do the best job you can.

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A Great Leader

I’m pulling together the October issue of PT and am humbled by the articles we have on hand. We reached out to organizations industry wide and received nearly 30 responses. The goal was to have a description of ‘leadership.’ In other words, “what makes a leader.” We gave them a choice of writing an article, or answering a series of questions. You will see the result in October.

I thought I might give it a go and see if I could describe ‘leadership’. Writing in the Harvard Business review…

W.C.H. Prentice rejects the notion of leadership as the exercise of power and force or the possession of extraordinary analytical skill. Prentice defined leadership as “the accomplishment of a goal through the direction of human assistants” and a successful leader as one who can understand people’s motivations and enlist employee participation in a way that marries individual needs and interests to the group’s purpose. Attempts to analyze leadership tend to fail because the would-be analyst misconceives his task. He usually does not study leadership at all. Instead he studies popularity, power, showmanship, or wisdom in long-range planning. Some leaders have these things, but they are not of the essence of leadership.

If you think about it, the qualities we think of when discussing a ‘great leader,’ actually are of little interest if they didn’t have a goal to reach and then didn’t reach that goal. Being able to ‘rally the troops’ is of no value if you lose the war.

If you read a list of leadership qualities, one that is most always listed is perseverance. A former boss told me that perseverance was the only important quality a person can have. Without it, you don’t see yourself through the rough times. You run when things push back, you find excuses for failure, rather than not accepting it.

We asked those who responded what historical figure they felt were examples of great leaders. The two names that came up most were Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. They both led their countries during times of great crisis. And they exemplified the definition I listed above. They accomplished a goal through the direction of human assistants. Lincoln held the North together until the South could be defeated, and Churchill was able to hold England together until the US entered the war. Each knew from early in their careers that evil was lurking nearby, and never shirked from naming it.

I wonder if the ability to select those “human assistants” isn’t a quality that might find its way into a leader. I know in my case, I have been through dozens of employees in our tiny company. Why couldn’t I understand that they wouldn’t work out. Often, I let them stay long past the time when I saw that they weren’t going to cut it. What could we have accomplished had I acted sooner? We will never know.

I’m not sure we can name great leaders until history has a chance at them. Churchill was in and out of power in England almost as many times as he changed his socks. Even when he was appointed Prime Minister at the beginning of WWII, there were many in the government who were unsure. It took a view through a long lens that would show he was the right person for the moment.

One of Lincoln’s greatest traits was the ability to work with his opponents. His ability to see value where other could not. This was seen by many at the time as a great fault. But we honor him through history.

I see a great leader as one who persevered through adversity, who left an legacy, and who succeeded in his or her goals. I have great respect for those who, as Teddy Roosevelt said:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

A great leader has been in the arena, and has known both victory and defeat.

JVH

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