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About Frank L. Giles

Frank L. Giles is senior project manager at Lanier Parking Solutions and serves on the IPI Advisory Council, Conference Program Committee, and Safety/Security Committee.

Control Alt Delete: Rebooting Management

Frank L. Giles

Back in 2013, I wrote an article for The Parking Professional entitled, “Whistles and Pom-Poms.” The article focused on the dual nature of a good manager (cheerleader and coach) and how to balance those characteristics to better support and grow staff. Since the article ran, I’ve not only had a chance to strengthen my own managerial techniques but have been able to observe managers up close and witness the ebb and flow of day-to-day employee challenges and solutions.iStock_000016124931_Large

There is one hangup I’ve noticed many managers still struggle with when trying to take a team from mediocre to great. It can often be difficult to introduce a higher standard or new way of thinking when your team is used to a more relaxed environment. It’s kind of like announcing that there is a new sheriff in town, but your staff sees you as the same old sheriff.

This can be addressed the same way we address a computer when it freezes up or stops taking commands. No, I don’t mean take it out back and shoot it. I’m talking about a reboot. When we reboot a computer we are told to press those three magical buttons: Control – Alt – Delete. We don’t know how they work and we don’t care. We just know everything starts fresh once we see the Windows logo and hear that harmonic note.

It may be a mystery with computers, but here is how it works in management; to reboot your management style you must first establish or re-establish control. This may call for pulling rank, but in a nice way. Deliberately communicate to your staff the nature and boundaries of the manager-employee relationship.

Present the alternative to the old way of doing things. This is where you introduce new procedure or reintroduce those things that have gone neglected. Finally, delete useless or counterproductive elements from your operation. This can include distractions, redundancies, wasted time, and even staff members who will not grow with the operation. Just like your computer, these three buttons should be pressed at the same time Once you hear that harmonic note your team is on its way to greatness.

Valet: Just Do It!

Frank L. Giles

I recently had a chance to work a full shift as a valet. I don’t mean manage the operation or supervise a valet team—I mean park and pull cars for customers Sport shoes isolated on whitebefore making that mad dash back to the station. Gettin’ back to maroots! Needless to say, the experience was both exhilarating and exhausting. I thought I was out of shape before, but now I know.

What I gained from the experience other than some sore muscles was a healthy respect for the athletic component of valet. I even think they should have their own shoe. Imagine for a second, an inconspicuous all-black running shoe complete with arch support and traction. It could simply be called “The Valet.” I would buy a pair. I fact, it might be a good way to insure complete uniformity of the operation.

So how about it Nike or Reebok, why not take advantage of this untapped market of parking athletes? Just be sure to send me my cut.

Automated Customer Service

Frank L. Giles

The parking industry seems to be moving at the speed of light. That means fast everything, mobile everything, and automated everything! So what about customer service? What about the gentle greeting of a human cashier? Is it possible to get a top-notch customer service experience at a fully automated parking facility, or is there a tradeoff we must expect when ushering in this new age of hi-tech parking? I believe the former. I believe that the smart parking professional will be able to meet the customer with warmth and gratitude via our new futuristic doodads, but we may have to meet them before they get to the facility.

First of all, there is the obvious stuff. Make sure your customers can reach you. If the customer is paying for parking through a third party on their cell phone or just using their monthly access card to swipe through, it should never be a chore to contact management or get assistance whenever needed (yes, this means day or night). Even if they don’t need to contact you at the moment, it’s comforting to know they can, so contact info should be obvious on any platform.

Secondly give perks. A rewards program, coupons for local retailers, or simply offering safety tips or nuggets of wisdom that change daily, monthly, or by the season will create a connection with the parker The better the connection, the better the customer service.

Finally, respond quickly. When a parker needs to contact management or press that little call button, they are already distressed and as we know, each minute translates to an hour for someone waiting for an answer from parking. These are just some small things we can do so that even when our facility is space-aged, our customer service is still down to earth.

How do you offer top-notch customer service? Comment and let us know.

Famous, Fast, and Furious

Frank L. Giles

Who has two thumbs and operates a parking deck featured in the new “The Fast and the Furious” movie? This guy, that’s who! That’s right, I’m famous. Well, I run a famous parking deck, anyway.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen it yet, the new “Furious 7” ends with the complete and utter destruction of a large urban parking deck. Not to worry—we have everything put back together now. Filming started before Paul Walker died and for a while there we didn’t know if the movie would make it to theaters at all, but it did. We were honored to be a part of it and a part of such a tribute to Mr. Walker.

The studio was able to do some amazing things with that parking deck, including put it in a totally different city and level it! Not that I’m biased, but I recommend this movie. Parking got one more day in Hollywood. Now, I’m not saying that I should receive an Oscar because one of my facilities was featured in one of the greatest action movie series of all time … it’s enough just to be nominated.

Parking Industry: A Well-Rounded Resume

Frank L. Giles

We’ve all been in the position of having to look for a new job or needing to take that next step in our career. So what do we do? Dust off the old resume. We want it to make us as attractive as possible

The best resumes are well-rounded, not one-dimensional. They relay a candidate’s versatile skills and varying experiences, and make him or her more attractive overall.

So what might the parking industry’s resume look like? It would probably read: on-street parking, airport parking, event parking and valet. It would also cover transportation and urban planning, but what might we be missing? I believe that the parking industry has positives that have not been accentuated enough. For instance, if you operate a parking deck, you probably have maintenance staff. I’ve seen maintenance personnel tackle everything from pressure washing to painting. I’ve even known maintenance staff who take care of landscaping, including cutting grass, hedges and setting plants, and I’m not just talking about around the parking deck, but along walkways and building fronts. These tasks are executed at a professional level on a daily basis by parking people.

We might also consider valet. Yes they park your car and they bring your car back, but is that it? I’ve known valets to carry luggage, give directions, and even recommend services and amenities. A good valet can easily replace a concierge.

These accomplishments are nothing to sneeze at and I’m sure there are a lot more I did not mention here. I think the parking industry would do well to add attributes like these on its proverbial resume. A well-rounded resume can make any candidate more attractive (not that we’re looking).

How Premium Can a Parking Space Get?

Frank L. Giles

In the parking industry, timing and location make the difference between a 9 x 15-foot slab of concrete and a revenue-generating asset. Depending on the location and time, that slab of concrete can be worth $5 or $25 per day. Premium parking can generate demand that will push the price though the stratosphere. So, how premium can a parking space get? How much will someone pay to park his car in that perfect spot?

I recently heard about a parking space for sale in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood; asking price: $250,000. Yep, that’s a quarter of a million dollars for access to one parking space. In a place like Manhattan, parking is almost always at a premium. It’s the same conundrum that befell the first citizen to purchase a brand-new Model-T Ford: “So where do I put this thing?” Today, with triple the number of cars on the road than 50 years ago, the parking industry is still finding new and better answers to that question.

Premium parking is one way to make sure that those perfect parking spots get some amount of turnover and that the available spaces in a place like Manhattan are shared. Although $250,000 may be a bit on the high side, premium parking is dictated by time and location, and everyone has a shot at the perfect spot–if you can afford it.

Could I Live in a Parking Space?

Frank L. Giles

Today’s big cities are more congested than ever, and it’s not just the traffic and parking that are in high demand: living space is at a premium as well. For every car on the road, there has to be a place to park. The same is true for people.

What if we could live in the same-size space our cars do? Could you live in a parking space? The students at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) asked that question and through a massive amount of collaborative ingenuity and creativity, the answer seems to be yes.

The average parking space is about 9 by 15 feet, give or take. The students at SCAD have undertaken the task of transforming spaces at their Atlanta campus parking deck into livable micro housing units, each complete with a kitchen, sleeping area, bathroom, and shower. These micro units, called “SCAD Pads,” are due to be occupied by selected SCAD students this April. The students will log their daily living experience using social media.

If this concept takes hold, you may one day ponder living in one of the spaces you manage. So what do you think: could you live in a parking space? Let us know in the comments.



Elevator Pitch

Frank L. Giles

You get onto an elevator with a total stranger, you both say good morning to each other, and then he looks at you and asks, “So what do you do?” You now have 30 seconds to explain your job–Go!

Most of us know what an elevator pitch is: the 30-second speech we give when encountering someone who wants to know who we are and what we and our companies do. That’s usually easy enough, except this is the parking industry and explaining that bit alone is enough to eat up 30 seconds and then some. As parking professionals, I don’t think we can afford to wing it when it comes to our elevator pitches. In an industry as under-appreciated as parking, we have to have that speech locked and loaded.

One trick I use is to forgo my name and title until the very end. I start right off explaining my operation, and then go into how what I do might affect my new acquaintance or how the parking industry affects things like traffic, property value, and quality of life. If there is time, I’ll give my name and title (if they were really interested, they’ll ask anyway).

Of course, you have to tailor your own elevator pitch to suit you, but it’s something that requires proactive thought. Don’t be caught off-guard. The parking deck may be our office, but the elevator is our media room.


Have a great elevator speech? Send it to Kim Fernandez for a future feature article.

Parking the PGA

Frank L. Giles

As a parking professional, I consider the noble golf cart to be my industry’s vehicle of choice. My perspective was slightly changed shutterstock_101925589however, when I had the opportunity to park cars for the 95th PGA Golf Championship in August. We spent more than 10 days in Rochester, N.Y., facilitating parking for the players, media, volunteers, and spectators. I soon came to the realization that golf carts are not just for zipping around parking lots–players also use them for golf!

To say the least, the experience was exhilarating. We parked thousands of cars; got a chance to see some of the Oak Hill course and got to work with some really great Rochesterians. Coming from the south I can say that the hospitality we were shown was second to none. At the end of the day, Jason Dufner won, my wife got a PGA sports bottle, and I learned that the parking industry isn’t the only industry to lay claim to the golf cart. Who knew?

How Goes the War? Reservations about Reserved Parking

Frank L. Giles

I think every parking professional at some point has been part of or witness to the reserved parking wars. This is the silent war that Reserved parking shutterstock_615503takes place at parking facilities that offer reserved parking to a select few. Maybe parking has been reserved for some out of the need to make sure tenants have access to parking, or maybe it’s just an amenity for certain VIPs. Whatever the reason, it’s never long before someone bucks the system. One of the have-nots will throw that metaphorical rock through the window of the privileged by parking in that reserved space, and, as Bugs Bunny would say, “Of course you know, this means war!”

The disenfranchised reserved parker demands action from the parking office while the elusive violator uses guerilla tactics to continue the onslaught against the bourgeoisie. After a blitz of parking signage, orange cones, and violation tickets, a shell-shocked parking manager might ask him/herself, “What is it all for?”

Ordeals such as this can make a manager question the reserved parking concept altogether. Can we be sure it’s worth the headache? Each facility has its own unique clientele, and it’s up to the parking manager to determine whether or not a reserved parking program is even-handed or even needed at each facility. If it is, then order and peace are worth fighting for. Hunker down and hang in there, and if you can relate to this post, leave a comment and let us know: How goes the war?


Parking Career Day

Frank L. Giles

Do you sometimes find it difficult to explain to people what you do as a parking professional or even what the parking industry is? Try explaining it to a bunch of middle school students. Better yet, try explaining it to them after they’ve had a chance to sit in of a firetruck and talk about what firefighters do all day.

That’s exactly what I had to do a few weeks ago and let me tell you something: if you can sell the parking industry to a room full of 12-year-olds, you can sell it to anybody. Don’t get me wrong–it was a great honor to speak at the McNair Middle School career day. The kids were great and had lots of questions. I think we have to admit, however, that if we’re going to talk to students about parking for 45 minutes, we have to find ways to spice it up a bit.

I was able to get their attention by talking about all the cool cars I get to see and some of the famous people I’ve seen and met while working in parking. That held their attention long enough to get to some of the so-called “boring stuff,” such as leading a team and managing revenue (it helps to make constant references to sports and video games).

All in all, it was a successful career day. Not only did I feel like the kids learned something but I also learned: Even 12-year-old kids are willing to listen to us talk about parking as long as we relate it to something they are already interested in or concerned about. I’m pretty sure this would work with adults as well. First McNair Middle School, next the world!

Parking Barking

Frank L. Giles

Recently my entire parking facility was abuzz with activity from a very large consumer event at the convention center. I was puttering along in my trusty golf kart (the Batmobile), surveying one of the parking lots. Suddenly, I heard a faint yelp coming from a blue SUV. I kicked the Batmobile into reverse and headed back to investigate. As I approached the parked vehicle I found that the yelping sound was actually the bark of a small white poodle mix dog locked in a pet carrier in the back seat. The windows of the vehicle were cracked about two inches and the owner was nowhere to be found.

The good news is that the authorities were called and the pooch was rescued and given water and a much-needed potty break. So here is the bad news… there are still pet owners among us who care enough for their pets to buy them designer collars, fancy pet carriers, and ride them around everywhere they go, but are still willing to leave their pets in lock vehicles on a sunny afternoon for hours. I confess that I was naïve enough to think that no one did this anymore, but I was wrong. This is a public service announcement; the next time you’re perusing your parking facility make sure that your parking is not barking.

Whistles and Pom-Poms

Frank L. Giles

What is a parking manager’s greatest resource? You guessed it: the workers. The trick for managers is molding frontline workers and office staff into a productive, well oiled, customer service machine. So how exactly is that done? Retaining good employees and weeding out bad seeds can be a never-ending task, but beyond that, how do you turn a staff into a team? I believe it takes a two pronged approach that I call “Whistles and Pom-poms.”

Now, don’t worry. I’m not suggesting that you turn your next staff meeting into some sort of pep rally. But I do believe managers should be able to assume the roles of both coach and cheerleader. The sports world recognizes that both roles are needed to build a good team and it’s time that we in management realize the same thing.

The role of a coach (the whistle) comes into play when we lay out the game plan. A good manager should make sure that team members are clear about what their responsibilities are and that they are trained and equipped to handle them. The coach also promotes accountability, getting team members back on track when they do not carry out their responsibilities.

The role of cheerleader (the pom-poms) has more to do with the morale and focus of the team, but is just as important as the role of coach. A cheerleader praises success and even anticipates it. A good cheerleader does not wait until the first touchdown is made to break out the pom-poms. A good cheerleader supports the team, the team’s goal and, most importantly, consistently verbalizes support.

Where do you stand as a manager? Are you more coach than cheerleader? Or have you mastered both roles equally? Let us know in the comments below. And when you grab your keys and coffee tomorrow morning and head off to work, don’t forget your whistle and pom-poms!

Parking Hits Close to Home

Frank L. Giles

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on Parking Panda Corp., a small parking company operating in Baltimore, Md., and Washington D.C.

Parking Panda helps parking facilities rent spaces to people looking for parking.  Here’s the cool part; the parking facilities that Parking Panda serves are not 800-space parking decks or sprawling surface lots. Instead, they are at city residences.  This small web-based company helps residents become parking facility managers by renting their driveways, garages, and carports to parkers.  This allows residents and homeowners to make money from unused driveway space on their properties.

Of course Parking Panda isn’t the only driveway sharing company on the scene.  Others such as Parkcirca of San Francisco and SpotHero of Chicago offer the same service, carving out yet another niche in the parking industry.

This type of driveway sharing is becoming more and more popular in big cities where parking can be costly and scarce during big events.  It also gives the everyday homeowner a window into to parking industry.

Can this new parking niche give the lay person a new perspective and even a new appreciation for the parking industry?  I hope so, but in any case, for many city dwellers parking is starting to hit closer to home.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Autobots!

Frank L. Giles

In the movie “Transformers,” the self-driving cars that transform into giant robots are called Autonomous Robotic Organisms, or “Autobots” for short. It seems that our friends at Google have given us an autonomous vehicle that drives itself just like in the movie. Ok, it doesn’t transform but I’m sure they’re working on that.

Google says that the car has been driven for 200,000 miles without an accident. It’s outfitted with video cameras, radio sensors, and lasers to help it navigate city streets and will allow a driver-side passenger to take control if he/she so desires.

What does this mean? Will the roads truly be safer with robot cars driving instead of people? Will speeding ticket become a thing of the past? Or valet parking for that matter? Will our personal Autobots be able to pay for our parking wirelessly, drop us off in front of the building or venue, and then proceed to the parking deck on their own?

Let’s face it: we’ve had cars that park themselves for a few years now and they haven’t exactly changed the world, so only time will tell if these vehicles will be practical enough to catch on. If they do, they could affect everything from parking to auto insurance to taxi cabs…and they may be able to take out a few Decepticons as well.

Backing into Green

Frank L. Giles

I still remember my dad’s 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Whenever he and I stopped along the way on our adventures, he would always back into the parking space. It was almost ceremonial; he would swing wide to line the car up just right, place the ball of his left hand on the wheel, and pass his right arm just over my head so his hand was on the passenger headrest. With a slow smooth turn of the steering wheel, the car would glide into the space just right.

Believe it or not, he was doing something sustainable. I know—you’re thinking, “The only way to get a ’78 Caddi green is paint it.” As it turns out, backing into a parking space can be good for the environment. Now that I’m an adult I find myself backing into parking spaces just like dad did (minus some of the finesse), but I always justified it as being safer than pulling in forwards. There is less chance of hitting another car while backing into a space than there is while backing out into traffic. Also, it’s easier to leave a dangerous situation if you can pull straight out.

Now I have another reason to swing wide and glide into a space: turns out, it more fuel efficient. Studies show that it takes considerably more fuel to back up when the engine is cold than it does when it is warm. This means you help the environment and save a little money. So if you haven’t been able to start your personal green initiative head-on, take a cue from my dad and back into it.