“Suppliers” is the term many of us use to refer to the people who make the products and services we use in our parking facilities. I prefer to use the word “partners,” as in partners in finding the best solutions to address the issues at hand.

Let’s face it–parking has advanced light years within the past few years. The cash-in-the-cigar-box days have been replaced by very technologically advanced equipment and software. It’s important stuff and it’s key to our effort to deliver excellent customer service, protect our revenue streams, and operate efficiently and effectively. Hats off to the research and development, innovation, and entrepreneurship that is taking place in our industry, fueled by a relatively small number of companies that are listening to the challenges faced by their customers and delivering some very exciting solutions.

At this very moment–Tuesday, April 24–IPI’s leadership is meeting with the CEOs of many of our industry’s leading suppliers to discuss how we can better meet the needs of our membership, our profession and our shared downstream customers: the parking public. We recognize that the supplier segment is critical to our industry’s success and the more we understand supplier needs, connect buyers and sellers in healthy dialogue, and create opportunities to influence the development of products and supplies, the better equipped we’ll be to succeed. In simple terms, this dialogue with suppliers is an important milestone in working side-by-side to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

The next time a supplier calls to tell you about a new product or asks for a few minutes of your time to discuss your needs, I suggest you make time and listen. Better yet, spend some extra face-to-face time connecting with our industry suppliers at the upcoming 2012 IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, June 10-13. Some of the best education I’ve gotten about parking has been from suppliers who are eager to share what they know.