Tag Archives: TPP-2014-05

Caffeine, Attitude, and Dressing for the Job You Want

Caffeine, Attitude, and Dressing for the Job You Want

By Cindy Campbell

I’M NOT MUCH OF A MORNING PERSON. If you know me, you can appreciate what an understatement this is. On a recent business trip, my schedule required me to rise and shine several hours earlier than normal. It was 5 a.m.when I stumbled into the hotel coffee shop for my requisite caffeine infusion.

“Well, good morning,” said the smiling young man who greeted me. “My name is James, and I have the honor of serving you this morning. So, what has you up and going so early?” Now, I promise, I really tried to put an intelligent reply together but to no avail. He assured me that most of his customers at that hour of the day were still groggy and in need of a coffee. This young man clearly had my number.

James made sure I had a comfortable seat right next to the coffee station. “You know, we have coffee available all day long for our guests. Come back as often as you’d like. May I show you around the buffet? I’d be happy to.” Realizing that I must be giving off a pathetic vibe, I smiled, declined his offer, and thanked him for his kindness.

With breakfast and a sufficient amount of caffeine fortification, it was time to figure out my transportation options for the day. Once again, I turned to James. He was happy to give me his insider tips on smart commuting around San Francisco. “Are you ready to head out now?” he asked. I told him I was, and with that, he helped me gather my belongings and walked me outside to introduce me to Michael the doorman. “Michael, Ms. Campbell needs our assistance in getting to a meeting this morning. Please take great care of her for me.” With that, James shook my hand and told me to come back to see him again soon.

It’s about Attitude
As I hopped into the Uber, I felt, well, special! James went out of his way to make me feel valued and important. Were all of his efforts just a part of his duties as a café waiter? Hardly. My guess is that like many of us, James has loftier career plans. He was likely living out the old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. The thing about that saying is that it’s not really about clothing; it’s about attitude. In our careers, we sometimes focus on what we don’t have, haven’t achieved, or what we think we rightfully should have attained “by now.” Rather than consistently concentrating on the path to getting there, we feel frustrated and lament our current circumstances. Resentment can creep in when we aren’t professionally progressing at the pace we might feel we deserve. When our thoughts and attitudes include a healthy dose of resentment or indignation, we can unintentionally inhibit our ability to progress.

Playing to Win
Attaining the position you ultimately want is a little like winning the lottery: You’ve actually got to play to win. It’s rare for a lottery winner to hit it big his first time playing. So, are you playing? Are you committed to consistently putting yourself in the best position to be noticed or promoted? Let’s face it, not every effort is going to be rewarded, but to be successful, we must consciously set aside our failed attempts and disappointments and not allow them to dissuade us from our goals. Ask yourself: What steps am I taking to improve my chances of achieving my professional goals? Am I willing to apply my knowledge and skill set to a position that may provide me with a better vantage point or afford me an opportunity to attain my ultimate goals?

Thinking about it now, I wish I had the forethought to ask James what his ultimate career goals were. With his attitude and people skills, he would make an awesome parking professional. Seems logical to me.

TPP-2018-05 Caffeine, Attitude, and Dressing for the Job You Want

CINDY CAMPBELL is IPI’s senior training and development specialist. She is available for onsite training and professional development and can be reached at campbell@parking.org


Managing Municipal Parking

By Daniel Fortinberry

Creating and maintaining an effective operation requires synergy in the system.  

Although municipal parking operations may vary slightly and be concentrated to one or Managing Municipal Parkingmore components that make up the system, the general design usually includes a mix of on- and off-street parking and in some cases, a violations-processing department with or without operation of a vehicle impound facility. In all cases, the primary goal of a municipal parking system remains the same: to ensure adequate and accessible parking for users. Equally important is the underlying and unofficial focus of providing a service to visitors, employees, customers, and business owners without directly competing with private operators.

This balancing act has created numerous challenges for municipal parking systems, whether they are operated by a city, a parking authority, or have been outsourced through a public-private partnership. The idea that municipal parking systems are designed to be revenue-expense-neutral is quickly becoming an antiquated notion, and managers are always searching for ways to realize increased financial benefits from their municipal parking operations. The upside to this new reality is that when they’re managed correctly, municipal parking systems are uniquely designed to meet these needs and eliminate traditional obstacles to growth and profitability, significantly contributing to economic development.

Thanks to the direct correlation of municipal parking operations and successful economic development, city managers and top officials are taking notice of municipal parking more than ever and demanding much more of the parking professionals responsible for managing municipal parking systems. This has created a need to find innovative and strategic approaches to operating municipal parking.

The Business Model
The key to operating a successful municipal parking operation is leveraging the system design and creating synergy within the structure. This can be accomplished by creating a business model that places the responsibility and decision-making authority within one department with a leader and management staff who are empowered to drive results by:

  • Maximizing revenue.
  • Eliminating, reducing, and controlling expenses.
  • Removing traditional causes of inefficiency and ­ineffectiveness.
  • Creating and implementing customer service programs that best serve the users of the parking system.

Creating synergy by leveraging the system design of a municipal parking operation has multiple benefits, and the system design creates an environment that allows for cost savings and maximized revenue. This same design and approach to managing municipal parking places the parking professional strategically in the middle of economic development activity, which is essential due to the direct effect of parking on successful positive growth within a developing market.

A centrally controlled decision-making model allows the parking professional to operate the system as a business instead of an amenity. Although labor and management agreements may create special circumstances that limit taking full advantage of the system design, some strategies can create synergy that will lead to long-term sustainable growth for the parking system and success for the municipality it serves.

Strategies that leverage the system design can be divided into areas that positively affect the operation based on financial results, increase the operational effectiveness and efficiency, reduce risk to the organization, and positively impact economic development.

Cross-trained Staff
Cross-training your parking staff to work at a high level in all the functional divisions of the parking system is critical to leveraging the system design of a municipal parking operation. A cross-trained parking staff reduces downtime in garages and on the street by ensuring fully trained backup employees are at the ready, thus maintaining and, in some instances, increasing the time during which revenue can be collected.

Operationally, a cross-trained staff benefits the organization by allowing for a more efficient staffing and scheduling process; cross-training employees also creates career paths for high-performing, motivated employees. This allows the management team to utilize employees where they are most suited and enjoy working while increasing employee satisfaction and retention by varying work assignments and reducing monotony.

Common Policies and Procedures
Developing policies and procedures is at best a difficult task that can be further complicated when each division of a parking operation is responsible for developing separate policies and procedures. With the exception of very specific details related to the different positions within separate functional departments of a municipal parking operation, policies and procedures are similar.

The obvious benefit to having shared policies and procedures is the elimination of redundancy. A shared set of policies and procedures creates consistency within the parking operation, streamlines processes and ­decision-making, and allows the parking operation to create, implement, and be accountable to a common set of goals and objectives. Common policies and procedures give management and staff a consistent environment to operate with fewer obstacles related to efficiency and effectiveness.

Shared Assets and Costs
Another opportunity to leverage the system design and create synergy with a parking operation is through the deliberate consolidation of assets and costs, specifically fixed expenses such as personnel, office space, utilities, taxes, and other related costs. High-dollar expenses such as IT service contracts, insurance, and debt service can also be reduced as a result of consolidation and eliminating redundancy with the operation. The ability to eliminate and consolidate support personnel for several different divisions within the parking system is the best opportunity for savings. The technology-driven business models of today offer a seemingly endless supply of applications for handling human resources, accounts payable and receivable, accounting, reporting, etc. that allow for greater efficiency and effectiveness with a smaller workforce.

In addition to personnel-cost consolidation savings, the system design of a well-managed municipal parking operation allows for other cost reductions and benefits with regard to vehicle fleets, maintenance shops, equipment repair turnaround times, customer service response time, and monthly reporting. Sharing costs and assets within the parking system increases efficiency and effectiveness and can contribute to positive bottom-line growth.

Risk Reduction/Business Continuity
The cyclical nature of parking and the direct effect of economic factors on a municipal parking operation expose the system to considerable risk. New construction and traffic grid changes affect on-street operations, and a soft economy impacts businesses and employees in downtown areas. This directly affects the off- and on-street operations’ ability to deliver positive financial results. Companies moving from the downtown to other locations or simply going out of business can influence the parking demand for a municipality.

The likelihood of one or more of these situations occurring at any given time is probable, but the system design can mitigate this negative impact significantly: It allows for ebb-and-flow activity within a market by balancing high-performing divisions with the underperforming ones. This risk reduction and balancing act is not possible within a fragmented parking system.

Expert in the Market/Single Point of Contact
The realization that parking is integral for long-term, sustainable economic growth has been the impetus for parking professionals who can analyze markets, gather statistical data, interpret and report on this data, and create and implement parking management plans for municipal parking operations. Parking professionals are now part of the planning and development stages of development projects, fully involved with business planning and budgeting for cities and municipalities, and completely engaged with the community leaders and officials. They are experts in their markets.

A fragmented parking system that cannot leverage the system design can only offer a limited professional opinion in matters that require a comprehensive view. A parking system is thusly named in that it represents an organization that has parts that are affected by other parts. The on-street operation is integral for a successful off-street operation and vice versa. Properly managed parking systems can effectively manage parking supply and demand by adjusting rates, enforcement, and hours of operation.

Parking information needs to be complete and comprehensive in order to be a benefit to the economic development process. Having a single point of contact who is a professional in the industry is the best way to ensure that parking is an asset to a developing market.

Customer-focused Service Model
Parking is a service, and a successful parking operation holds to the same principles any customer-service-­oriented business does. And just as with any customer-service-oriented business, municipal parking operations are concerned with attracting, retaining, and creating faithful returning customers. Moreover, it can be argued that municipal parking operations are held to even higher standards of service due to the nature of business and the fact that they deal with the public domain. The same advantages outlined regarding the system design and synergy-related efficiency, effectiveness, and cost savings can be applied to providing outstanding customer service. A fragmented parking operation can offer only a portion of the customer service completion loop.

A customer’s experience with parking may include finding accessible parking, paying for parking, receiving a citation, appealing a citation, and paying for a citation. When the response to and management of these activities occur within a single department, the customer service completion loop can be closed with little to no unacceptable delay. When this chain of activity is broken into links that are handled by separate entities or departments, there is a greater risk of providing less than satisfactory customer service.

Knowing that customers’ perception of their parking experience can form their opinion of their total experience should create the desire for parking system managers to provide the best customer service possible.

Leveraging the system design and creating synergy within a municipal parking operation is possible and can be accomplished by making a plan that holds the goals and objectives of the parking operation at the forefront, collecting good information, educating those that will benefit from the results, and staying the course through potential resistance.


TPP-2017-11 Managing Municipal Parking

DANIEL FORTINBERRY, CAPP, is parking division manager with the City of Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at daniel.fortinberry@cincinnati-oh.gov.



Got Lot? 

By Kim Fernandez

Tap into this teen driving program and rev up community relations. 

In 2008, National Hot Rod Association drag racing star Doug Herbert experienced a family Got Lot Covertragety that put his career on a different course. Herbert’s sons, new driver Jon, 17, and James, 12, were driving to a fast-food restaurant when their car slammed into the back of a large SUV, destroying the vehicle and killing both boys.

Herbert’s life changed forever, and he soon took action so fewer families would face the same kind of tragedy. He learned that car accidents are the leading killer of teens ages 15 to 19—worse than the next four causes combined—and it was an easy decision to put his unique driving knowledge and skills to use to teach kids how to drive in ways they don’t learn through traditional driver’s education programs. It wasn’t long before Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe (B.R.A.K.E.S) was founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to teach teens and their parents how to drive proactively and safely, even in (especially in) crisis situations. Since then, more than 20,000 teens have been trained to drive safer, and more than 20,000 parents have been coached to monitor and help their kids develop excellent driving skills.

This year, 45 weekends of B.R.A.K.E.S training will be presented in 25 cities across the U.S. The nonprofit has plans to grow its successful program to more of the country but needs help—and that’s where the parking industry comes in.

The Program
The B.R.A.K.E.S program is presented to teen drivers and their parents at no charge, and there’s frequently a wait list. “This is not a learn-to-drive school,” says Scott McKee, strategic counsel to the organization. “People sometimes misconstrue what we do for driver’s ed. It’s definitely not that. It’s a AAA-certified advanced driver training. We put kids behind the wheel and teach them to get out of the situations that cause the greatest number of crashes and fatalities for new drivers: controlling a skid, dealing with a wheel dropping off the side of the pavement, using ABS braking in a panic situation, emergency lane changes and avoidance, distracted driving, and some ancillary lessons depending on location.”

The class starts with Doug Herbert’s personal experience. “He had the world by the tail,” says ­McKee. “Eight years ago, his two sons were killed in a car crash a mile and a half from his house while going to McDonald’s. The problem was inexperience—a new driver who didn’t have the skills to recognize the danger of what he was doing and get himself out of the situation.”

After an introductory talk, B.R.A.K.E.S. students get behind the wheel with trained and experienced instructors to face common situations that require more advanced driving skills. Twenty-one instructors are onsite each weekend of the program, offering a student-to-teacher ratio of three to one, so each student gets lots of time driving and practicing. Many are former professional race car drivers, some teach race car drivers, and some are driving instructors from the FBI, CIA, U.S. State Department, and armed services.

“Doug started by training James and Jon’s classmates,” says McKee. “He trained 50 kids the first year. He’s a racer, and he has contacts and friends who make a living being good drivers, and by the end of that year, he had another 300 parents lined up so he could train their kids.” All students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and many bring both. “At the end of this year,” says McKee, “including parents, we’ll be knocking on the door of 50,000 safer drivers on the road because of B.R.A.K.E.S.”

Teens in the program aren’t just starting out. They must have their learner’s permits and at least 30 hours behind the wheel themselves. Many students are older teens but because new drivers are trending older than they used to, haven’t been driving very long when they arrive at B.R.A.K.E.S.

The program has proven extraordinarily popular. “In Charlotte where we are based and where we do a school once a month, we have 500 to 1,000 people on the wait list at any time,” says McKee. “There’s a whole big country out there. We’ve gone to 18 different states and have had students from 40 states and three countries. People get on planes so their kids can do this.”

Once word gets out about the program in a city, he says, the wait list starts growing. “If we can go to a city three or four times a year, word of mouth takes over,” he says. “We then have a situation where we have a nonstop wait list.” And while that seems like a good thing to most businesses, for B.R.A.K.E.S., it means more kids need training in less time. “It’s a huge program,” says McKee. “Massive.”

What’s preventing the scheduling of more classes to meet demand? A shortage of parking facilities, for one thing. That’s why, B.R.A.K.E.S. and IPI are forming a collaborative effort to help spread the program and do good in individual communities, which is a win-win for everyone.

Parking and B.R.A.K.E.S.
The first thing that’s needed for a B.R.A.K.E.S. weekend is a large, empty parking lot. A lot of about 400,000 to 500,000 square feet of open space is ideal for advanced driving maneuvers. B.R.A.K.E.S. trucks in its own vehicles and provides instructors, but there are other things they need to make the program happen:

  • Tent or building for classroom instruction.
  • Restrooms or four port-a-potties.
  • Available hotel rooms for instructors close to the instruction site.
  • Snacks and drinks, which can be donated by restaurants or grocery stores, along with lunch for instructors and volunteers on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Volunteers: The program requires five to six for each weekend.
  • Close proximity to an airport.
  • Permits: Many sites require permits from local fire departments or municipalities.
  • Tables and chairs for classroom work.

B.R.A.K.E.S. provides insurance and registration for each program.

“The goal for 2017 is to have 50 weekends of programs in 38 cities that want us to come,” says Mimi Sabates, executive vice president. “We need financial and other support on the ground, which means donating money or a facility, and we need feet on the ground, meaning a team of people to get the word out locally.” She says it’s helpful to have a local sponsor who can help offset costs, including transporting vehicles and instructors to accommodate more teens in each class. Local media frequently cover the program, she says, which is nice publicity for parking facilities that are able to host it.

The Difference
McKee says B.R.A.K.E.S.’s program is proven and that parents and teens say it may be the best thing they ever did to help kids become better, safer drivers. “There’s this light-bulb moment and transformation when kids realize how little they know and how much more they can learn,” he says. “Some of the kids are really annoyed when they show up. You can tell who’s had a fight in the car on the way there. But by the end of the class, the parents and teens have had this bonding, common experience. they’re all smiles, and they realize how much they didn’t know before and that their parents brought them there out of genuine love and concern.”

B.R.A.K.E.S. is eager to talk with parking organizations that are interested in partnering to present teaching weekends in communities around the U.S. To learn more and get involved, visit PutOnTheBrakes.org.


TPP-2017-11 Got Lot

KIM FERNANDEZ is editor of The Parking Professional. She can be reached at fernandez@parking.org.


Getting Connected

Getting Connected

By Mark Braibanti

What changes in technology mean for parking and municipalities in the 21st century and beyond.

Did you know drivers waste more than 55 hours every year looking for parking? StudiesGetting Connected in PDF format also show that up to 30 percent of traffic in urban areas is a result of drivers circling the block in search of that elusive parking spot. This figure doesn’t even account for the number of times drivers have abandoned their search for a parking space entirely. The point is, finding parking can be painful and is one of the biggest issues facing drivers, automakers, parking operators, and municipalities.

What can ease this pain? Widespread access to dynamic real-time information is key. As the connected car continues to evolve, real-time parking information is becoming a staple of innovation and a necessary component of the overall driving experience. Cars are no longer just for getting from point A to point B—drivers want to know where, when, and how to park.

As emphasized by Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, “The auto industry is poised for more change in the next five to 10 years than it’s seen in the past 50.” The growing millennial population, in combination with rapidly improving technology, is the stimulus for this change. Vehicle miles traveled actually decreased between 2003 and 2014 in the United States, but as a former traffic commissioner of New York City noted, “It wasn’t caused by the recession. It was millennials. They were driving 20 to 25 percent fewer miles. That was extraordinary, and the trend was that driving and parking [for millennials] was a hassle.” As vehicle miles started to decrease, innovative technology, digitization, increased connectivity, and the millennial generation began fueling the demand for smarter, more integrated driving experiences.

Poised for Change
In 1908, Ford Motors’ Model T was released to the public and became the first mass-produced commercially available automobile. As explained by Mashable’s James O’Brien, this was the “technological starting point for the car as not only a thing people could go out and buy, but also as a medium for new ideas with which future developers could work.”4 From then on, the auto industry took off, from performance improvements such as electric ignitions, four-wheel brakes, and power steering, to the adoption of an entire driving experience with the advent of cigarette lighters, car radios, and CD players.
We are now in an era of data-centricity, with complex technology and algorithms improving diagnostics, navigation, and hybrid vehicles. Among the technological innovations surfacing in the auto industry right now are what we call the ACES: autonomous, connected, electric, and shared vehicles.

Autonomous cars are defined as vehicles capable of sensing their environments and navigating without human input, such as those being tested by Google, Tesla, and Uber. They rely on connected car technology to safely drive themselves. Relatedly, connected cars are, as the title infers, connected to the internet. Connected cars provide a wide array of services for safety, navigation, convenience, and entertainment. All of these services rely on analyzing large amounts of big data so these cars are constantly collecting and analyzing information for the greater good.

Electric cars are the oldest current trend, but ownership of these vehicles continues to increase. Lastly, shared vehicles have recently taken off and are causing a slight panic in the auto, taxi, and parking industries. The millennial generation is showing a preference for using services such as Uber and Lyft over car ownership. Ironically, this trend is actually pushing automakers toward creating better connected cars to compete.

Finding Its Own Parking
By 2020, BI Intelligence estimates that 75 percent of cars shipped globally will be equipped with internet connectivity.5 That equates to more than 250 million connected cars on the road in just four years. Compared with 25 million connected cars in 2015, this movement toward connected services represents a significant shift in technological needs for the auto industry. Manufacturers are increasing their production and working quickly to offer connected features to stay competitive and on pace with consumer demand.

In addition to improving our lives through more efficient mobility, improved safety, and less environmental damage, connected cars are dramatically affecting how people park. The current parking experience can be one of frustration, wasted time, and often, disappointment. It’s painful for drivers who are faced with a non-uniform experience across lots and cities—experiences that include complicated non-standardized rate structures, limited payment options, and the stress of spending more than 20 minutes on average trying to find a parking spot during peak hours.6 Cities suffer too as uninformed drivers cause traffic delays as they circle the block looking for spots.

As much as real-time traffic is now viewed as being a necessity, drivers in the near future will expect their cars to help them easily find the closest and cheapest available parking, compare parking prices, types, etc., and pay conveniently and seamlessly.

Data-Centric, Dynamic Occupancy Models
Many connected cars already offer parking information through their navigation systems, but dynamic parking information is currently one of the strongest developing trends in the connected auto industry. Drivers want to know more than where a parking lot is—they want to know if there are spots available in lots near their destinations, in real-time.
As you likely read in the news recently, during the past five years, companies that focus on technology are beginning to transform the way people park their cars. In 2013, INRIX Parking launched the industry’s first parking navigation service to provide real-time parking information in connected cars. Two years later, it launched the first integrated on-street parking solution in partnership with BMW. Since then, automakers, including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen, have implemented the technology to help drivers save time, fuel, and frustration. Developers have also begun to integrate dynamic parking information into their existing products through partnerships with existing platforms such as Google’s Waze.

The technology used to determine occupancy levels instantaneously requires complex aggregation of a variety of data sources—from integrating with existing infrastructure such as smart parking meters, to analyzing historical occupancy data, to collecting data directly from vehicles. For example, our company has a portfolio of data gathered from a network of 275 million vehicles and connected devices that incorporates anonymous real-time insights from partners in the auto industry. By collecting, refining, and analyzing all of this big data, we can accurately predict where parking is available and incorporate the information directly into a car’s navigation system.

Connected vehicles transmit a wide range of data that can be collected and used to predict current parking availability on city streets and at off-street parking facilities. Cars equipped with light detection and ranging sensors, usually used to let you know if you are getting too close to objects in the road, can be used to detect where open parking spaces are located as you drive.

For off-street parking, technology can tap directly into occupancy information from gates, loops, and pay stations. Partnerships with equipment makers help convert this massive amount of data into a format that can be used by automakers, cities, government agencies, and app developers.

For the development of on-street parking occupancy technology, driver-generated data such as vehicle location, speed, and direction help create a reliable, real-time availability model. A myriad of connected-car data points are processed into individual anonymized trips with distinct starting and ending points to understand vehicle location in relation to metered zones. Initial tests showed that this model achieved 80 percent accuracy when the zone size was optimized to capture as many arrivals and departures as possible, without capturing driving behavior unrelated to parking.

The addition of GPS navigation and city data further optimize both the on-street and off-street parking experience for drivers of connected vehicles as they are routed in real-time to the location of available parking spaces and forewarned of any parking restriction for a given spot, ensuring drivers are not led to an inaccessible or illegal parking space.

Digital Payments
As business and consumers alike increasingly transition to a variety of forms of digital payment, the auto industry is taking note and integrating the ability to pay for parking, both off- and on-street, via a vehicle’s navigation dashboard. With payments available via smartphone and car, drivers can easily handle parking transactions on the go.

The Future
According to analysts at Frost & Sullivan, searching for parking costs consumers and local economies nearly $600 million in wasted time and fuel every year.

The connected car will affect every facet of the transportation, parking, and city planning industries. This makes connecting every component of the parking eco-­system to cars an essential part of the path forward. If not, parking lots risk being invisible to drivers if they aren’t integrated into the next generation of connected cars.

Much as cities were unprepared for ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft, we cannot overlook the importance of connected cars. A new study conducted by the National League of Cities recently revealed that 94 percent of the world’s cities are not prepared to deal with autonomous cars.8 Cities and parking operators will soon begin to feel the effect of connected vehicles on their parking facilities. As an industry, we must embrace the connected car, or we will miss out on a whole host of benefits, from increased revenue to optimized parking management and reduced congestion. Collaboration is the key to innovation, so we must all work together to be at the forefront of the connected car revolution to drive parking into the 21st century.



TPP-2017-11 Getting Connected

MARK BRAIBANTI is director of marketing at INRIX. He can be reached at mark.braibanti@inrix.com.


A Beautiful Thing

A Beautiful Thing - How a municipal parking authority uses outdoor advertising to lend spark to its garages while boosting revenue.A Beautiful Thing
By Mitch Karon, CAPP

How a municipal parking authority uses outdoor advertising to lend spark to its garages while boosting revenue. 

During my 16 years as executive director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA), I have personally been involved with the development and construction of four parking garages. The comment we hear most often during the planning stage is, “Oh no, not another ugly parking garage!” While dressing up the façade of a garage would be welcome by all involved, financial constraints have prevented our authority from doing so. The greater construction costs would result in the need for higher parking fees. Higher parking fees tend to be bad for business, and we need to be conscious of the public’s needs and accessibility to affordable public parking. And so we started asking how we could afford to make our structures more aesthetically pleasing without raising rates. And we found the answer!

In 2013, the NBPA was involved in a public-private partnership development called the Gateway/Transit Village Project. When completed, this multi-use structure would consist of a 10-level garage that served as the foundation for retail space on the street level and a 24-story residential tower. It would also be home to six floors of office space; all told, it would be the tallest structure in the city.

The Challenge
We were challenged with making this icon attractive to passersby, residential and retail tenants, and all visitors. We were very limited in our solutions as keeping costs down was paramount to maintaining a similar rate structure to our other six garages. We wanted to avoid any costly additions that may require maintenance down the road or those that become outdated over time. Enclosing the decks requires mechanical ventilation and adds millions of dollars to a build-out, which was out of the question. The Northeastern climate also prevented us from relying on plantings and greenery that would only solve our problems for a small portion of the year. Our options were limited.

An unrelated trip into Manhattan led to a decision that we have not regretted for a moment. Walking around New York City and seeing advertising signs and messages on parking decks made me realize that revenue was being generated by using and monetizing blank parking garage walls and parking lots. The vibrant billboards and large-scale wallscapes that line buildings of all types, including parking structures, were impressive. Noticing them for the first time, I wondered if advertising would be a viable option for the Gateway project.

Not knowing much about outdoor advertising and how the programs work, I started doing some research to find out what the benefits would be for property and building owners. I reached out to billboard advertising companies. After speaking to them, I was sure that erecting outdoor advertising signs would not only help improve the drabness of the garage façade but also add to the authority’s revenue stream.

The signs’ size ensure they have no negative effect on the ventilation requirements within the garages. The wallscapes are illuminated and help add to security in and around the premises. With budgets tightening, these outdoor advertising signs help public and private parking garage owners, operators, and managers generate ancillary revenue and help boost their bottom lines.

Parking maintenance operations are regularly burdened with funding requests to help maintain and repair parking facilities; outdoor advertising generates funds to help cover those costs. Budget shortfalls and increased operational expenses do not have to be our customers or taxpayers’ responsibility. It seemed like the best of both world, truly a win-win.

Implementing a Program
Under my direction, the NBPA signed a 10-year lease agreement with an outdoor advertising company. The highly respected company we chose is privately owned and operated and very experienced in the billboard industry. Being new to this type of business arrangement, it was important that the company we chose excelled in explaining and communicating throughout the process. Happily, our partner proved very forthcoming with information and kept us constantly updated.

The company conducted a true market assessment and gave us the best opportunity to generate the most revenue from the space available for outdoor advertising signs. Our first lease allowed for the erection of four billboards on the Gateway Garage. After the lease agreement was signed, the outdoor advertising company practically took care of the entire project.

The sign-permit approval process was the most challenging part of the project. Regulations restricted the development of the signs on our parking deck, and I began preparing for a long and costly battle with the State of New Jersey. Under the guidance of our sign company, we worked along with the New Jersey Department of Transportation Outdoor Advertising Services Agency, and in a collaborative effort, we prepared for the special waiver request process.

The sign company had several meetings with leaders from the Department of Transportation and gained its support to request a special waiver from the New Jersey State House Commission. The issuance of outdoor advertising permits had to be unanimously approved by the select State House Commission Board.

Getting a Waiver
Staff members from the Department of Transportation first testified that they determined the signs to be in the best interest of the public and supported granting the appropriate waivers to promote the success of the Gateway/Transit Village Project. The waiver approval process also required my testimony before the State House Commission, where I explained that the aesthetic improvements would be beneficial, the signs would provide a creative and positive image, and that the revenue generated from the signs would provide revenue that will help improve our parking and customer service—all that makes up a visitor’s experience—without increasing expenses.

Of importance was support for the project from New Jersey State Sen. Robert Smith. He testified, “New Brunswick has been the phoenix rising out of the ashes. If you saw it 40 years ago, the city was in awful condition.” He pointed out that the city’s redevelopment plan has become the model for urban redevelopment in the state.

Smith testified that that the proposed signage would financially benefit the City of New Brunswick and that the signs would be an enhancement to the cityscape. He concluded by stating, “Quite frankly, that’s enough for me. They know what they’re doing in New Brunswick, and it sounds to me like they found a way to not only improve the aesthetics, which is part of their cityscape look, but also generate a little revenue. God bless America; capitalism works. I move the approval.”

Installation and Results
The sign waivers were granted with the unanimous approval of the commissioners, and we started developing the advertisements. The sign company secured the required state and local permits and with the approval of the structural engineer, arranged for the construction of the sign frames and electrical lighting.

After the signs were installed, illuminated, and operational, I was not surprised that they looked great, which was great validation that we’d made the right decision. The signs not only provided a vibrant enhancement, but their lighting provided additional illumination and security for everyone who visited the garage. Because the new lighting offered such a benefit, I asked the sign company if the lights could stay on from dusk to dawn. They understood the security aspect and agreed to extend the hours of illumination. Our outdoor advertising partner covers the cost of electricity to illuminate the signs along with all maintenance of hardware and sign materials. The company really took care of everything throughout the process and beyond.

We negotiated a lease that requires a percentage of billboard advertising sales to be shared with the parking authority, and a set minimum guarantees NBPA revenue from the billboards. Every advertising sales contract is completely transparent, and we are able to review the advertiser rates, sales commissions, and our portion of the revenue. We are also given final approval on the advertiser and content of the advertising. Being in a college town, I prefer not to advertise liquor (although I am sure liquor advertising is not needed in a college town).

The outdoor advertising signs were erected within six months from the time the lease was
executed. Since that time, we have enjoyed a constant revenue stream with no equipment malfunctions, no phone calls, and no customer complaints, and we are guaranteed to generate revenue. It all went so well that since that initial agreement we have added seven
additional billboards on the Gateway Garage and three other parking garages in New Brunswick.

The risk that we took installing outdoor advertising on our structures offered a solution to common issues both public and private owners/operators encounter, including how to manage existing services and improve and maintain these services without increasing fees. Since the signs have been constructed, there have not been any vacancies. The outdoor advertising signs promote travel, tourism, local businesses, national advertising
campaigns, and public service messages. I am proud of the risk that we took—the signs provide a stable source of revenue, increase the value of our parking asset, and look terrific. Indeed a win-win.

As of this writing, we are collecting approximately $200,000 annually in additional worry-free revenue. What were once blank walls are now revenue-generating resources, and we didn’t have to raise our rates. It is not often that a source of revenue is completely worry-free and provides substantial ancillary income by using blank walls. Creative and vibrant outdoor advertising supplements offer revenue-generating possibilities for parking operations without additional costs or services. Both on our garages and in our spreadsheets, it’s been a beautiful thing!

TPP-2017-07-A Beautiful Thing

MITCH KARON, CAPP, is executive director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority. He can be reached at mkaron@njnbpa.org.


Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

Simply put, life on Earth exists because of the presence of water. However, water is also a force of nature that can have incredible destructive capabilities. For that reason alone, it’s important for us as parking managers to understand how our operations affect our water resources, actively take steps to protect water quality and availability, and work to mitigate the damage water can inflict. That means paying attention to stormwater management.

Natural Ecosystems
In natural ecosystems, rain falls onto woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, or forests and percolates through soil and plant material to charge underwater aquifers or flow into streams and rivers. By percolating through the natural, organic materials, water is slowly absorbed and purified.

Through this process, the water’s speed and flow is tempered, and it is gradually reabsorbed into the earth. The soil itself holds the water, which reduces flooding and erosion. The amount of water that soaks into the soil is determined by the amount of organic material.

Urban Environments
In urban settings, the process that happens in natural ecosystems is interrupted. Permeable soil is covered by impermeable concrete and asphalt. Rain that falls on these hard surfaces quickly runs off the surface, carrying with it any oils or pollutants to streams and rivers. Depending on the chemical, pollutants can have deadly short- and long-term consequences for the natural environment and humans.

Because stormwater runoff moves quickly and with some force, it causes extensive erosion. Artificially channeling water increases erosion because it increases both the speed and volume of runoff. Erosion itself is a problem as it destroys natural habitats in streams and rivers.

There are other costs as well. Erosion can undermine the structural integrity of roads, parking lots, and buildings. For the parking industry, water can have large economic effects on an organization as the water can very quickly wash away the adhesive and waterproofing properties of asphalt and get into the pavement structure, allowing it to dry out, crack, and ravel. Erosion not only increases the amount of sediments carried by stormwater runoff, but sediment running off asphalt surfaces also has large amounts of petroleum products, corrosive chemicals, and fine metals. This affects plants and animals living in our streams and rivers.

Sediment also affects the surrounding water ecosystem in several ways by absorbing heat, blocking sunlight, and polluting the water. Sediments absorb heat, so a sediment-laden river will have a higher temperature than a clear river. Warmer waters hold less oxygen, which means fewer animals are able to survive.

Sediments in the water column block sunlight. Less light means less photosynthesis by algae and aquatic plants living on the streambed. This not only reduces the amount of oxygen in the water column, but also reduces the amount of food available to support the herbivores at the base of the food chain. This, in turn, means less food is available to their predators, such as fish, birds, and mammals.

Sediments sink to the floor of streams and rivers. This eliminates homes for aquatic invertebrates, an important food source for predatory fish. The sediments also smother algae and smaller aquatic plants.

Protecting the Water Supply
As discussed, impermeable concrete and asphalt alter the natural flow and quality of water in urban environments. Fortunately, there are steps that we in the parking industry can take to protect our water supply and our parking assets.

To begin with, we can address water quality issues by simply keeping our parking lots clean and asphalt assets well-maintained. Regularly sweeping our parking lots to remove trash and debris improves the quality of any stormwater running off the pavement. Promptly treating and cleaning fluids, such as oils and coolants, that leak from vehicles also reduces water pollution.

Parking lots and roads that are well-maintained at regular intervals can last for many years; maintenance offers significant cost savings as it is more cost efficient to maintain the asphalt than it is to build and rebuild. With a strong, durable surface, water will naturally flow off the surface as designed. However, damage to an asphalt surface will allow water to seep through, deteriorate the sub-structure, and compromise its ability to sustain the pressure of traffic loads. When the foundation beneath the asphalt is damaged, the surface is more susceptible to potholes, alligator cracking, and further water erosion.

In parking lot and roadway designs, we can funnel polluted stormwater into sewer systems so runoff is treated by the municipal water treatment plant. While this may be a convenient solution, it may not always be the most feasible one, especially if there is a large body of water such as a river or lake nearby. In several coastal states where sewers drain directly into the ocean, there are significant rules and regulations regarding stormwater management that mandate onsite mitigation and treatment of runoff.

Several landscaping and surface treatments can be used to reduce stormwater runoff, including incorporating the use of bioswales and permeable surfaces. Bioswales, such as rain gardens, are landscaping treatments used to slow, collect, infiltrate, filter, and store stormwater until it is reabsorbed into the ground. These drainage areas are often filled with native, water-loving plants that can tolerate being under water for short periods of time, but they can also simply be filled with rock.

In flatter areas, permeable surfaces, such as areas covered with pavers or permeable concrete, can be a good solution for stormwater. They allow water to penetrate below the surface and percolate through the soil below to recharge natural aquifers. However, permeable surfaces are susceptible to erosion as the speed of the water flow still plays a big role in runoff. Depending upon your water flow needs or landscaping plan design, you can slow down water and erosion damage by having it crash into larger rocks that are in the drainage channel where the water flows. The water expends some of its energy on the rocks instead of the surface treatment in the channel. If you slow down the water, it has less force, and with less force, there is less erosion and sediment.

While organizations can invest in alternative transportation programs and advances in technology that reduce parking demand, asphalt facilities to accommodate vehicle parking and travel will always exist. However, the need to address the political, environmental, and economic conditions created by stormwater will also continue to exist as the natural progression of the planet’s weather patterns continue. As parking operators, land developers, and planners, it is our obligation to ensure that we are aware of all of the options that exist to be able to understand what is at stake and appropriately allocate our limited resources and make the hard decisions for the future.

Irma Henderson, CAPP, is director of transportation services at the University of California Riverside. She can be reached at irma.henderson@ucr.edu.

Jennifer Tougas, CAPP, PhD, is director of parking and transportation services at Western Kentucky University. She can be reached at jennifer.tougas@wku.edu.


365 Days Big Green

365 Days Big Green

by Megan Leinart, LEED AP BD+C

Another year has come and gone, and what a year it was. In the parking industry, we have continued to see the public and private sectors embrace the latest and greatest sustainability initiatives and technologies. A new partnership between the IPI and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has brought these ideas even more to the mainstream, broadening the reach into an even greater audience. Further, a growing number of parking industry leaders continue to work to promote and advance the value of integrating sustainable parking planning, design, construction, management, and technology.

It’s been an exciting year on the parking front, and we continue to see groundbreaking success stories. Here, we present just a few of these stories and the effects they have had. They will also help to provide a blueprint for what continues to be possible in this constantly evolving part of our industry.

Stanford University Energy System Innovation
Stanford University continues to be a leader in innovation and progress, particularly through the implementation of cutting-edge sustainability initiatives. One such initiative is the Stanford Energy System Innovation (SESI), which has transformed how energy is delivered to the campus to heat and cool its buildings. By using electricity purchased from renewable sources, the university will reduce its carbon emissions by 68 percent.

Stanford’s Parking & Transportation Services, a division of Sustainability & Energy Management, is contributing to SESI with two cutting-edge projects: electrification of the Marguerite bus yard and fleet and solar panel installation on the Stock Farm Garage.

Stanford’s Marguerite shuttle program has been expanding its use of electric buses on campus since 2014. The successful performance of the program’s initial 13 buses has led the university to acquire an additional 10. The university converted a portion of its existing bus yard to serve as the charging and storage facility for all 23 electric buses. This project was the first of a phased approach to convert the entire bus yard and adjacent parking lot into an electric charging facility for an eventual all-electric Marguerite bus fleet. This project also facilitated the installation of electric vehicle chargers in the adjacent Stock Farm Garage, doubling the charging capacity of that facility.

In addition, the university has installed solar panels on large rooftops across Stanford’s campus, including the Stock Farm Garage. While challenging, the payoff for this project will help the university meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions, supporting the electric bus fleet, and shading vehicles parked on the roof.

It’s Always Sunny in Arizona!
Arizona State University (ASU) is taking solar to the next level. The university has integrated three major solar panel installations that help not only power the university but significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions as well.

The solar installation generates a total wattage of more than 24.1 megawatts (MWdc) at 89 locations across all four campuses and the ASU Research Park. These installations, located in parking lots and on garage rooftops, also provide valuable shade to more than 5,900 parking spaces and 828 stadium seats—that’s a benefit that is always appreciated in the overpowering heat of the Southwest.

During 2015 at the Carson Student Athletic Center, the solar power plants located on ASU’s Tempe Campus facilities generated approximately 26,568 megawatt hours (MWh)—equivalent to 14 percent of the electricity used at Tempe Campus facilities. Concurrently that year, on ASU’s West Campus, the Sparky 10 MW installation generated approximately 8,595 MWh in 2015; this amount of energy is equivalent to 71 percent of the total amount of electricity used at ASU’s West Campus facilities.

The integration of the solar panels at ASU’s campuses showcases the significant effect solar power can have on meeting the energy needs on a campus, reducing the associated costs, as well as fossil fuel consumption and emissions. However, this program is also a testament to the important role parking can play in complementing this valuable energy source, providing wide open spaces for large installations while helping provide shade for vehicles and people.

Cincinnati Zoo Becomes First Demonstrator Site
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has been named the first Green Parking Lot Demonstrator site under a new USGBC program aimed at recognizing surface lots that exhibit exceptional sustainable design. This is part of a nearly decade-long effort at the zoo to implement a number of progressive initiatives through sustainability.

Upon arrival at the zoo, guests are greeted with a sea of sleek solar panel canopy that keeps vehicles cool and reduces the heat-island effect. In addition, the solar panels generate 1,700 MWh of electricity, equivalent to 20 percent of their usage, and eliminate 1,775 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is equivalent to the reduction of approximately 3 million vehicle miles travelled annually.

Another groundbreaking feature of the Cincinnati Zoo parking lot is the significance of the landscaping features. Two large rain gardens, native plantings, and large shade trees provide natural beauty and alleviate stormwater issues. An underground cistern retains and slowly dissipates stormwater, relieving pressure on an aging wastewater infrastructure.

Patrons can use one of seven electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, including one DC fast charger, and bikers can dismount at the appropriately themed snake-shaped bicycle rack or take advantage of the Cincinnati Red bike sharing kiosk. For visitors looking to avoid traffic but who are not up for biking, the Cincinnati Metro Transit Agency drops off right inside the parking lot. Finally, the zoo’s vehicle fleet consists of emissions-free electric golf carts while trucks and the mini-rail are powered with recycled biodiesel.

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is at the cutting edge of a groundbreaking new program to recognize the many sustainable design opportunities available for parking lots and will serve as a model for similar projects in the future. Leading the way, Director of Facilities and Sustainability Mark Fisher engaged his staff, the city, public utilities, and property owners to find innovative solutions to their most pressing environmental problems and creatively implement them to meet their biggest needs, while educating the community.

Medical Group Embraces Lightwells
How do you create an inviting patient experience in a subterranean parking structure while reducing energy benefits? The Camino Medical Group faced this question when the parking structure for its Mountain View campus involved a subterranean level. The answer? Lightwells.

Lighting is not only an important consideration in the functional design of a parking garage but also a critical factor in the user experience. Dark, cramped structures feel unsafe and do not attract patrons; open, well-lit structures with good ventilation feel safe and secure and invite users.

Achieving natural light and air in structured parking often requires provisions such as lightwells. Lightwells or air shafts are unroofed external spaces provided within the volume of a large building to allow light and air to reach what would otherwise be a dark and less-ventilated area.

In a below-grade parking structure, lightwells can sometimes be achieved by surrounding the structure with permanent shoring walls or by sloping back the soil around the structure. In addition to providing user experience and functional benefits, lightwells have both economic and environmental benefits of reducing overall energy demands, as was the case for the Camino Medical Group Parking Structure, which utilized landscaped lightwells in addition to extra high ceilings and brighter-than-average lighting to make patients feel safe and secure.

Emory University Upgrades Its Lighting
Always one to make its mark as an innovator in the medical world, Emory University isn’t limiting innovation to medical procedures alone. The university recently mandated a cutting-edge lighting fixture to illuminate its underground garage, which services the new state-of-the-art campus hospital expansion project.

The university’s lighting consultant created the ECO Mantis™ lighting fixture, which features linear remote phosphor LEDs specifically designed to support the parking industry. The remote phosphor LED features near zero light output depreciation over time. By locating the heat sensitive phosphor away from the heat-generating LED chips, the phosphor maintains near 100 percent output over the life of the fixture.

The garage will provide much-needed parking in an active campus and is expected to be open to the public by year’s end.

San Francisco Building Upgrades Ventilation
Located in San Francisco’s financial district, 475 Sansome Street is a 21-story, Class A office building with an underground parking facility requiring mechanical ventilation 15 hours a day Monday through Friday. To reduce energy costs, the facility operator recently installed a “variable flow” demand-control ventilation system, which fluctuates garage exhaust and supply fan motor speeds based on carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations in the garage.
Prior to the control system installation, the garage’s ventilation motors consumed nearly 60,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) each year at a cost of more than $8,800. The installation of a variable flow demand-control ventilation system significantly reduced total energy consumption and costs.

Post-installation data showed that the new ventilation control system reduced the garage fan motors’ kWh consumption by more than 57,500 per year—a 96.5 percent savings. Peak kWh demand was reduced by 14.73 percent, also a 96.5 percent savings. The project’s net present value of $84,000 is nearly four times greater than the cost of the variable flow control system installation.

Megan Leinart, LEED AP BD+C, is national director of corporate development for Propark. She can be reached at megan.leinart@propark.com.

TPP 2016-12 365 Days Big Green

In Pursuit of APO


In Pursuit of APO

By Rachel Yoka, CAPP, LEED AP BD+C

Would you like to benchmark your organization? Streamline your operations? Evaluate In Pursuit of APOyour training program? Motivate your leadership? Pursue accreditation and you will be well on your way to achieving all of the above.

Accredited Parking Organization (APO) is a designation for parking organizations that have achieved a comprehensive standard of excellence. It recognizes best practices in responsible parking management and operations, customer service, professional development, safety, and security. The APO program is complex, addressing 14 major categories with well-defined and attainable measures in each.

The APO Manual: More than a Checklist
Whether you are on the path to accreditation or are interested in evaluating best practices for your organization, the APO Manual for Applicants is a significant industry milestone. It is the first and only industry accreditation available to the parking industry and specifically outlines best practices that advance the parking profession, one organization at a time. The manual addresses the fundamentals of the program, including a concise summary of eligible organizations, definitions, and summary of criteria that also addresses required items. The document details how an organization can prepare effectively and the appropriate role of the APO site reviewer. It pairs with the information contained in the APO Matrix, offering additional guidance and the intent of each category under Content Area I: Policy, Planning, Operations, and Administration; and Content Area II: Site-Visit Field Assessment.

Taking the Next Step
How do you know if you are ready to apply for the APO Program? When you submit your application, your organization will have one year to submit your comprehensive package of documentation. There is no precise formula for a program this thorough, but here are a few checklist items to get you started:

  • Make the APO Manual for Applicants required reading for your key staff, and complete an internal self-­assessment utilizing the APO Matrix.
  • Based on your self-assessment, outline how you can meet and document the 25 required measures, as well as 80 percent of the remaining criteria.
  • Assign champions from your key staff as accountable for individual sections of the matrix.
    Consider the additional criteria for Accreditation with Distinction.
  • Cultivate the support not only of your top leadership but also your key team members and meet regularly as a team.
  • Download and review the list of IPI-approved APO Site Reviewers and begin the selection process.
  • Target your Premier Site(s); include up to three with your complete submission package.
    Complete the online application, and contact me with any and all questions.

IPI recommends a three- to six-month timeline to start the process, collect documentation, and retain an IPI-approved Site Reviewer to perform a review and site assessment for selected Premier Site(s).

Recognition for the class of APOs will take place at the 2017 IPI Conference & Expo in New Orleans, La.; IPI will accept full documentation packages for recognition at the show through March 1, 2017.

Check out the APO Spotlights at parking.org/apo to learn how APOs applied the criteria and process within their organizations. Stay tuned to the Parking Matters® Blog (parking.org/blog), and watch for new posts from our APOs as they offer more insights into the program in this ongoing series.

If you plan to pursue APO in time for recognition at the 2017 IPI Conference & Expo in New Orleans, it’s time to start planning—reach out to me directly, and we will get started on the journey together!

TPP-2017-11 In Pursuit of APO

Rachel Yoka, CAPP, LEED AP BD+C, is IPI’s vice president of program development. She
can be reached at yoka@parking.org.

Strength and Harmony 

Strength and Harmony 

Understanding specific personal strengths and talents to successfully work with all kinds of people.

By Diane C. Confer, CAPP, CPA

How many different assessments have we all taken to find out who we are, how we lead, Strength and Harmony PDF Article  how we learn, and how we handle situations? I can think of several. Myers-Briggs tells me I am an extrovert who uses my senses to take in information, my feelings when making decisions, and likes a planned and organized approach to life called judging. The Management Team Role Indicator says I prefer to be a coach and a sculptor. The Leadership Effectiveness & Adaptability Description scores me as an S2, which says my leadership style is high on supportive behavior and high on task behavior. Last but not least, the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument ranks my conflict-handling mode as accommodating.

Needless to say, there are countless assessments that can be taken to tell us who we are. It seems the only thing missing is submitting a DNA swab to find out our ancestry! Personally, I’m just waiting on a Groupon for that one. With all these assessments it seems impossible to remember what you are! Are you an ISTJ, S2, or just R2D2? It all can be just too much.

There is one more to add to the mix that is different than the others you know—different because it’s easier to remember, easier to understand, and easier to apply. It’s the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, which identifies your natural talents that can grow into strengths. The assessment is powerful because it also gives you the tools to understand the talents and strengths of others, which allows us as leaders to better understand work situations and ensure the right people are in the room to solve the challenges we face every day. Some talents naturally collide—strategic and analytical, for example—but knowing that before the team is assembled makes it easier to anticipate issues.

StrengthsFinder was created by Gallup, Inc. based on the findings of the late Donald O. Clifton (known as the father of strengths psychology). The goal is to support people and groups in understanding and applying their individual and collective talents to improve their relationships and increase their creativity, productivity, and overall happiness.

There is a key clarification: talents and strengths are not interchangeable. A strength is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Talents, knowledge, and skills—along with the time spent (investment) practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base—combine to create your strengths.


Gallup identified 34 talent themes and placed them in four categories:

Team members who have a dominant strength in the executing domain are those to whom you turn time and again to implement solutions. These are the people who will work tirelessly to get something done. People who are strong in the executing domain have an ability to take an idea and transform it into reality within the organization they lead. Talent themes include achiever, arranger, belief, consistency, deliberative, discipline, focus, responsibility, and restorative.

People who are innately good at influencing are always selling the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization. When you need someone to take charge, speak up, and make sure your group is heard, look to someone with the strength to influence. Talent themes include activator, command, communication, competition, maximizer, self-assurance, significance, and woo (winning others over).

Relationship Building
Relationship builders are the glue that holds a team together. Strengths associated with bringing people together—whether by keeping distractions at bay or keeping the collective energy high—transform a group of individuals into a team capable of carrying out complex projects and goals. Talent themes include adaptability, connectedness, developer, empathy, harmony, include, individualization, positivity, and relator.

Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinkers are able to keep people focused on what they could be and are constantly pulling a team and its members into the future. They continually absorb and analyze information and help the team make better decisions. Talent themes include analytical, context, futuristic, ideation, input, intellection, learner, and strategic.
The easiest way to understand talent application is with an example. And since we all have personal relationships, let’s see if we can relate this this one.

The Exercise Bike
A husband and wife purchase an exercise bike that comes in a box and must be assembled. The husband has activator as one of his top five talents. The activator talent is best described as “impatient for action; they are willing to start without knowing all the information or details—they just know they must get started to make things happen.” Activator is not as high on the wife’s talent profile, but her top talents of discipline (highly organized) and strategic (understand the big picture) in conjunction with his activator talent often make mini-projects a lot fun for them.

When the box arrives the husband rips the box open (not opening it by the seams, mind you—he just rips the top and down the edges in any random way so right off the bat, the wife who loves order starts hyperventilating) and lays all the parts out on the floor. Because the bike is for the wife, she has the task of putting it together. Meanwhile the husband sits in the chair and provides commentary.

Because she is organized (that’s the talent of discipline, which is in her top 10) she first gets out the instruction manual and begins to follow the instructions as they are presented. Mr. Backseat Driver over on the couch says things like, “I’d put the seat on first.” But you see, that’s not what the instructions said to do first. Then the husband says, “See that piece fits into that piece over there and slides into the slot.” Meanwhile the wife is trying to keep her focus (and sanity) and follow the instructions!

The husband is a mechanic who spent years assembling and tearing down equipment and was paid by how fast he could do it. So he is hard wired (i.e. it’s his strength) to just jump in and start assembling—he doesn’t even know if there were instructions in the box. But the wife is most comfortable laying out a plan and following it.

Now, you may relate to either the wife or the husband but understand, both approaches are correct. That is what is key about talents. Talents allow us to work in the way that makes us most comfortable—not the other person working on the project. The husband is comfortable just winging it so he can get started; the wife is more comfortable laying out a plan first. The goal is to find a comfortable place where these two talents can coexist.

At Work
The same type of situations can occur at work. What happens when you work with someone who has a natural talent that collides with yours? What if your project has someone who’s a planner and you’re an activator? How do you keep your sanity?
Even if you don’t know your talents, you know who you like working with and who you don’t, right? The key is understanding that it’s not about you—I know, shocker! The other person is not trying to make your life miserable. He or she is working the way that comes naturally. Keeping that in mind, it becomes easier to shift focus on the end goal and have each person contribute in the way that works best for him or her. This is not easy and not for the impatient but developing this skill is what will take you from a contributor or manager to a leader. So next time someone approaches something differently than the way you would, tell yourself that this is your leadership moment. Focus on the end goal and provide the space where each can contribute in the way that comes naturally to them.

My Case Study
My top five talents are harmony, relator, achiever, includer, and positivity. My boss has arranger as one of her top talents. When I create a PowerPoint presentation, I often pass it through her to make sure she agrees with the order of the presentation. It comes naturally to her and, because it’s included in one of her top talents, gives her adrenaline. I, on the other hand, am a people person. Four of my top five talents fall under the category of relationship building. If you want to talk to a group and get everyone on board, I’m your person.

That’s how it works. There are no right or wrong talents. Just because a talent is not in your top five doesn’t mean you don’t have it. It just means it doesn’t come naturally for you. It will be harder, take more time, and zap your energy for you to complete the task. It doesn’t mean you can’t balance the checkbook; it just means some people love to do it and some procrastinate until the bank calls. You know who you are.

Do you want to find out your top talents? Visit gallupstrengthscenter.com for more information or to take the assessment and start matching the talents of your team.
StrengthsFinder is a great tool to leadership. The key is not trying to change people—for example putting the people person in a room by themselves doing data entry. But rather our task as leaders is to fit the right talent fit for the task needed. Don Clifton’s results from his life-long study was that successful companies don’t just tolerate differences in people; they capitalize on them. How you are capitalizing on the talents of your team will be fundamental to the outcome.

TPP-2017-11 Strength and Harmony

DIANE C. CONFER, CAPP, CPA is director of campus services and parking and transportation at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She can be reached at dconfer@mdanderson.org.