Ask anyone to comment on parking enforcement and the most likely response would probably be something resembling a grimace, possibly a few expletives but almost certainly not a positive rave. It is this very reaction that I’m determined to change.
To encourage a fresh perception, I want to help others become involved in and commit to my mission. As the founder and CEO of Gemini Parking Solutions, the UK’s only “values-based” Car Park Management Company, I’m determined to shake up the industry. I believe in leading by example and hope to create waves that will ultimately mean that others will want to follow.
Industry wide there must be a sharper focus on customer service and accountability. Right now, the annual audits carried out by the regulators are geared towards compliance of processes and procedures. This approach removes any transparency to all but industry insiders. I believe that by leading with customer service and being focused on delivering the very best experience then the processes will naturally follow. The public would naturally benefit from knowing who is being the fairest and most responsive.
If you want to better understand the values and culture of a company you also must judge the person leading that organisation, this too is true of industry heads. How an industry is governed and managed cascades down to all who operate within it.
As Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. To bring about positive changes, we have to begin to think differently, adopt a new approach that incorporates new ideas that challenge the status quo. This is what it means to be a disruptive entrepreneur.
I am not suggesting that the parking industry’s two regulating bodies aren’t fulfilling their requirements, but if we continue as we are, will merely bring about the same results. There must be a change in industry culture, we have to look towards the future, rather than being mired in the past. Innovation should be encouraged and not necessarily just from a technological perspective. We need to attract visionaries to the industry, company leaders that see beyond the norm and can inspire their workforce to be the best they can be.
Encourage personal development
If you want to grow a dedicated team, self-development for employees is vital. In my sector – as with all businesses – personal development for individuals should be encouraged. Not just industry qualifications that, in truth offer no real value outside of the parking business, but self-education, that when embraced, will naturally promote excellence and higher standards across the industry. This is vital and is something that is systematically lacking within British business as a whole.
Encouraging operators to develop and engage with their teams at a more intense level will increase loyalty and empower colleagues. The parking industry suffers from some of the highest employee turnover rates in business. Developing your team whilst embracing new and creative learning architecture will go a long way to keeping them engaged and I believe, will prove transformative.
Encouraging diversity is just as important. Parking industry events could sometimes be mistaken for a conservative party conference – the majority of attendees being straight faced, suited, white middle-aged men, with little humour and a vacuum of creativity and passion! Upping diversity across the industry could also increase attendance at these events. Opening the industry to representatives of the many more groups of people that make up our society will enable greater creativity and ignite forward thinking.
Championing diversity and inclusivity will not only generate increasingly varied and creative thinking at an operational level but at events, too. Offering value to car park operators, with inspiring content, engaging speakers and a genuine democratic voice that dispenses with the out-dated rule by committee and instead, encourages passionate debate, should be the essence of future parking industry events.
Historically the business, like many where change is feared rather than embraced, has always followed what has always been done. Now is the time to break that cycle. I like to see myself as being instrumental in bringing about part of that change and the work I’m doing in my company reflects that.
Part of being a disruptive entrepreneur is to welcome rivalry. Competition in any industry is essential as it removes complacency. Now’s time to actively publicise and promote the statistics that showcase company performance in the form of league tables, rather than just make them available to interested parties, as is the case in my industry now. As inconvenient as these may be to many industry heavyweights and influencers, it would seriously ensure that poor performers up their game and make serious efforts to climb the table. An added benefit would be that companies gain another reference point to benchmark themselves against.
Equally, good performances must be recognised, with companies receiving appropriate recognition for performance and standards. This must be judged by a thorough assessment and not just by the quality of an award submission pack. Those tasked with maintaining industry standards should understand that this approach and the framing of performance and standards, as sensitive and as seismic as this change may be, will in fact inform the public and those seeking parking management from private operators.
Rather than fear a shrinking of the parking industry, I embrace the improvement in quality and standards that this approach would bring about and the increased opportunities that would undoubtedly come the way of those that commit to a higher standard of practice.
There is no doubt that the parking industry needs to play catch up to other similar industries in terms of working smarter, embracing personnel and attitude changes that will be felt across the board. British Parking Association research, for instance, acknowledges that bureaucracy and a challenging parking industry image are holding back progress. I believe that if you want to make change that works you have to become that change and embrace it.
Ryan Jackson is the founder and CEO of Gemini Parking Solutions, the UK’s only “values-based” Car Park Management Company. A serial entrepreneur, Ryan’s passion is to build disruptive companies that shake up the status quo and pave the way for a new age of thinking in various industry sectors.
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