NPA’s Key Findings: Success in the Parking Marketplace
Financial Trends & Technology Innovation Affect Growth
The 2012 National Parking Association (NPA) Winter Leadership Forum assembled business and parking leaders Feb. 4-8 on Maui, HI, for a discussion of the trends, financial markets and leadership practices driving success in the parking industry.
The NPA secured Ben Hakim, Senior Managing Director of Blackstone Advisory Partners, to discuss the financial markets and mid-market mergers and acquisitions. (Interestingly, Hakim spoke before the Standard Parking-Central Parking announcement, a large-market merger.)
Well, most parking M&A is likely to be mid-market as players increase regional footprints, acquire other companies and expand in market niches. Hakim brought the parking industry a perspective on those growth opportunities.
The NPA did it again with market insights, not available elsewhere, and graciously shared these findings. Of course, some of the insights were shared only with member-attendees. So if you wanted the full picture, you just had to be there in person.
About Investor Interest In Parking for M&A
Hakim said the stability of cash flow and stable management teams make parking attractive to investors. He said it is a relatively mature industry, with strong market footprints and supply for consumers. “Parking is less cyclical than most industries,” Hakim said, “and its stability is attractive to investors.”
Investors In Parking Acquisitions Value:
1. Long-term contracts and relationships with customers.
2. Highly capable and well-trained management teams.
3. A strong core business with some niches to diversify revenue.
4. A core business focus with some niche service diversification.
5. A defensible business for stable performance with some growth.
Kurt Buecheler of Streetline Inc. said the “livable cities movement,” “cloud-based” applications, and a move to more high-tech parking operations were big parts of his presentation at the forum. He added that the NPA recognizes a changing industry, and its members want to be close to technology change to be near the edge of change without going over it.
This means that the NPA is focusing on best practices, disruptive technology trends and the trusted technologies that can advance the successful operation, revenue control and data management of parking professionals both public and private. Buecheler said that the “NPA’s President, Christine Banning, is an innovator who focuses on bottom-line success strategies for the industry. Her focus on bringing together parking pros, suppliers, industry experts and alliance partners demonstrates a focus on building bridges to help the entire industry grow and succeed.”
As part of The Harwood CEO Leadership Forum, Brett Harwood of Park Equity interviewed Andrew Blair, President and CEO of Colonial Parking LLC. A past Chairman of the NPA Board, Blair leads the metro DC-area, privately held, family-owned parking company.
According to Blair, parking is a business of nickels and dimes, and fives and tens, and the job of a parking company is not done until the cars are parked. This fundamental focus on the business itself, Blair believes, is the cornerstone of a commercial parking firm that values its people and customers, and maintains close ties to landlords. He views all three as core customers: employees, parkers and landlords.
Private and Public Sector Converge
Blair also sees more cooperation and convergence between public and private sectors, with all parking professionals valuing the bottom line and customer experience. He said that as parking leaders, it’s vital to be transparent, to share the good and bad, and to get out in front of problems to meet customer expectations.
“As our industry seeks to meet the challenges of regulators, expectations of property owners and increasing insurance costs,” Blair said, “we can work together to raise the tide of the industry so that all players have a chance to grow and succeed by creating a high level of effectiveness.
“And the NPA is a resource for our employees to build knowledge and skills. … For a company,” Blair said, “[it] provides research, advocacy support and access to peers for partnering. … This is what the NPA does — share best practices as a resource for both public and private parking to build a foundation that prepares parking professionals to grow as effective leaders.”
Bottom-line Success in Public and Private Parking
1. A commitment to people through training and best practices.
2. Building a professional network of parking peers both public and private.
3. Applying research and information on market and technology trends.
4. Adopting technology to gain operating efficiencies.
5. A strong focus on cash flow and performance results.
The NPA Winter Leadership Forum made clear that operational excellence, public-private partnerships and a growing focus on certification in parking all bring industry professionals together, addressing common challenges and opportunities.
This forum wrap-up brings an NPA focus on “thought leaders” and market knowledge to aid the industry. Next year’s NPA Winter Leadership Forum will be Feb. 2-6, 2013, in Palm Beach, FL. To learn more about the NPA, visit www.NPApark.org.