Consultants Offer Expertise, Ideas, Support
The industry expertise offered by a consultant can support agencies in numerous ways, and last year, hiring a parking consultant was an easy answer. Maximize performance, optimize operations, engage stakeholders, assess occupancy/utilization – this list goes on.
The battle for funds is going to continue for years to come due to the ongoing pandemic impacts.
However, the associated impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic mean that agencies are now focused on survival rather than optimization and program growth. Not only has there been significant parking revenue loss directly caused by shelter-in-place orders, but parking budgets have been slashed and special parking projects have been frozen or simply cancelled.
I have watched budgets that were previously authorized and allocated for required parking technology get eliminated. This has been problematic because major municipal parking operations were dependent upon these upgrades to ensure compliance and update obsolete equipment. And now, with the importance of contactless transactions, these updates seem more important than ever. However, the battle for funds is going to continue for years to come due to the ongoing pandemic impacts.
So, why hire a consultant? In most cases, we fill a gap and can provide a multitude of support options that may not be immediately available within your existing resources. Many agencies have experienced layoffs, and resource shortages are impacting the ability to cover the basics.
The unfortunate reality is that parking is not always a high priority, but effective parking management is key for economic vitality since it supports access to goods and services. Consultants remain current with the parking impacts and adaptations that are being deployed throughout the country. As trends evolve rapidly, this is one of the most relevant times to have a consulting resource accessible to your parking programs.
Curb space continues to be affected by the expansion of short-term parking spaces and the use of in-street dining. What most don’t realize is that consultants have helped to support and expedite this transition. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and consultants should be adaptive to your needs, just like you are having to pivot on a daily basis.
If you are lucky, you have a consultant in an on-call role with your agency that allows you to request support on an as-needed basis. Deliverables and support can be defined based upon the parameters of the on-call agreement and projects are typically based upon time and materials. This can be a tremendous resource and reference that your agency can rely upon to help you get through a very tough time. You may need to justify the expense, but in my experience, consultants pay for themselves by introducing cost effective solutions and identifying optimization strategies that can pay for themselves.
Also, don’t be shy. If you have a question, call a consultant. You might be pleasantly surprised at the amount of information and support that you can receive from a simple phone call. We are all trying to survive, and in this unique time of need I think that we have all seen our industry step up to support each other. Also, don’t forget about your local resources. Most times, your local parking operators and vendors have outstanding expertise and familiarity with your region to provide guidance and coaching based upon their own operations and local experience.
It’s not always easy to ask for help, but this is a time in our industry that we need to work together. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are all in business and we need to survive. There is a need, and our parking programs will recover, but it’s going to take a lot of work and collective support. We need to rely upon each other’s shared experiences, and this is why is it so important that you stay in touch with your industry colleagues throughout this very unique time.
It takes effort to stay in contact with each other without parking conferences and trade shows. I think we all took for granted the opportunity afforded to us when we could see each other in person. We have been lucky to experience conferences and trade shows to network and learn from each other. Now it’s up to all of us to make the extra effort to stay engaged.
If you haven’t already, I recommend reaching out to a peer agency today to talk about your programs. Learn from each other, but also, importantly support each other. I think we have all learned the impact of isolation throughout these last months. In order to be successful and to survive this, we need each other, and that includes consultants. We all have a place in this industry and the best lessons learned are those that we share with each other.
Until we meet again, in person and hopefully soon!
Julie Dixon is CEO of Dixon Resources Unlimited. She can be reached at Julie@dixonresourcesunlimited.com