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It's All About Clarity

March 8, 2019

John Van Horn

I have been musing about name changes and when I did my daily review of Parknews.biz I noted that a large number of the stories focus on “Mobility” in their headlines and leading paragraphs. In some cases, parking isn’t mentioned until halfway through the story. Every one of the companies mentioned is in the parking business. What? Are they ashamed of it?


When asked what he did for a living, Lee Iacocca, the famed automobile guru, said “I’m in the car business.” He didn’t mince words. He wasn’t in transportation, or manufacturing, or mobility. He was in the CAR business. And very successful he was, too.


Iacocca was clear about what he did. He built and sold cars. He understood his market, listened to his customers, and gave them what they wanted. He didn’t have a lot of time for fancy names. He talked straight. 


I have noted that maybe the reason our industry’s name is seemingly being changed by our betters is that our industry is too busy doing what the name says, parking cars, to worry about semantics. Parking millions and millions of cars each day. Providing a place for people to safely leave their cars while they work or play. 


I understand that the term “Parking” isn’t sexy. 


When you tell someone at a party you are in parking they wonder when you are going to get a real job. But if you want to clearly, succinctly, describe what we do, “Mobility” doesn’t hack it. We park cars. 


Remember, 85 percent of all commuters drive their own cars to work each day. Someone has to put them somewhere. That’s what we do. We Park Cars.


By the way – if you ever want to find out if someone is full of baloney, ask them to tell you what they do in one sentence, two at the most. Can you describe your organization, job, or product in one sentence? Give it a try.


My comments above on renaming the parking industry earned the following response. I thought it important enough to bring it out into the sunlight, so we all could benefit from its wisdom:


No offense John, but Lee Iacocca hasn’t been relevant in 30 years. Many professionals in our industry weren’t even born when he retired in 1992. While I agree that changing names on whims and trends isn’t always the smartest course of action, living in the past isn’t either. 


Iacocca also knew when trends were changing and adapted Chrysler to meet consumer demands. His introduction of the minivan saved Chrysler – he was an innovator. That same minivan concept was rejected by Henry Ford II because it wasn’t what was traditional – a move he regretted. 


So maybe instead of fighting to maintain the old… embrace the new and be an industry leader.


First, I take no offense, but I’m not so sure about Lee Iacocca. Or for that matter any person not born after 1992 (meaning anyone over, what 27?) Sorry, I don’t mean to be snarky, but please, surely you haven’t succumbed to the shibboleth that ideas of those alive in the past are by definition irrelevant. Do you include Aristotle, Freud, Descartes, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Einstein, Jobs, those scientists at Bell Labs who invented the transistor, Churchill, King, oh, pick one of 100 or 1,000 more? Are they irrelevant?


I guess my comments weren’t clear, although that was the point, clarity. “I’m in the CAR business.” Clear – “I’m in the PARKING business.” Clear. “I’m a leader in new technology that will transform the future and make the world a better place.” Not so much.


When Steve Jobs put a 20 page insert in the New York Times describing in detail his new computer, it was met with yawns. When Apple placed an ad with two words “Think Different,” the firm’s new machine flew off the shelves. Clarity. 


I visited a start up a few years ago. They were attempting to tell me what they did. I was 30 minutes into their presentation before I realized they were a Pay by Cell company. I asked them to rethink their presentation and put their company’s description into one sentence. They did and now are one of the most successful Pay by Cell companies in the country. Clarity.


Maybe it’s maintaining the old or cloaked in irrelevance, but being able to clearly describe what you mean, in precise language, is an admirable skill. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”


If we can describe the technology we are using today so that people will understand it is helping them to find, access, and pay for parking more easily, thus making the industry more responsive to them, perhaps we can change the perception of “Parking” and let it become a profession that brings pride and honor to itself. 


We don’t levitate a car into a garage, we don’t transport a car into a garage, we still don’t mentally cause a car to enter a garage and stay, we PARK it. Clarity.



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