Future Proofing Your Firm
April 18, 2019
Following the Temecula Parking Group last fall, I was offered the opportunity to share my thoughts on the following question: Do we need to worry about the future or even discuss it?
Here is my short answer: No, we don’t need to worry about the future. But yes, we do need to discuss it. We need to think about it, talk about it, plan for it and collaborate together toward it. It would be foolish of us not to.
Let’s look to history for a few lessons on what has happened when companies and industries failed to recognize and plan for the future:
• Rail was the most popular way to travel for years, but railroad companies experienced a major decline in the 1950s due to the growth of automobiles and air travel. Because they were singularly focused on rail, those companies neglected to see the bigger picture - that they were not just in the railroad business, they were actually in the transportation business. They didn’t innovate. They lost relevance and lost customers. When was the last time you opted to ride a train across the country instead of flying on an airplane?
• Similarly, National Cash Register (NCR) was a top 4 powerhouse of a company in the early 1900’s and prevailed in the transactional calculations machine business. In the 1950’s however, despite huge market dominance and what should have been a massive head start on the world, they almost went out of business due to a refusal to acknowledge and embrace the, then-emerging computer industry that is now ubiquitous. NCR barely recovered, but countless firms from the last century no longer exist today due to a failure to adopt technological change. From the list of Fortune 500 companies that existed in the 1950s, only 12 percent even exist today!
We don’t need to worry about the future. But yes, we do need
to discuss it.
What is the point here? Railroads and NCR both failed to adapt. Of all the rules of business, one seems most relevant here - innovate or die.
Over the last year, we’ve seen the start of what will be a tremendous shift in our industry. Arrive is just one of the companies that recently received venture capital funding from a major consumer brand - funding that will allow us all (not just Arrive) to innovate faster to keep pace and ensure parking’s role in the future of transportation. These major brands recognize, as we do, that mobility is evolving and will directly affect its core products that help people connect and navigate their lives throughout the day - from home to work and everywhere in between.
Will our industry change because of their involvement? Yes. Are people going to change the way they make decisions on how and where they park? Yes. Is this cause for worry? No, not if you are prepared to adapt, understand where demand is coming from and connect your inventory to a larger ecosystem. If you have a reasonable innovation strategy, you don’t need to worry. However, if you are clinging to old business models, digging your heels in to your same business plan from 2002, refusing to partner with innovative/disruptive firms, and not allocating time and resource to mapping your firm’s short/medium/long term futures; then ironically you shouldn’t worry about the future either - you won’t be around for it.
In January, several of us gathered in Las Vegas at the outset of CES to meet with other executives including automakers, big consumer brands, fleet owners, smart city proponents, public and private landowners, and others, to discuss how we can all work together and adapt for a connected - and eventually autonomous mobility. While you can read a full recap on Arrive.com, a few of the takeaways are critical for our industry and relevant to the question I was asked to answer in this article:
• We must work together. We need to collaborate and agree on open standards to digitally connect the parking supply with the open market - allowing automakers, navigation partners, and others, a more seamless way to access our inventory.
• We must accept that the way people pay for parking will quickly change. Gone are the days of fumbling for your card while driving. The connected car will become the center of commerce on the go. Moving from your kitchen to the car and on to work or play, the services you use every day will be embedded in your vehicle and you will have instant access to them.
• It’s not just about the experience - relationships are the most important. Just like real-life relationships, context is critical. We need to shift our mindset from the “parking experience” and focus on our customers’ relationships with parking. Data from a variety of sources will allow us to create more customized and simpler experiences for drivers - leading to lasting relationships. For example, if we know that a driver parks at the same garage each and every week, we can better anticipate their arrival and offer them added value services like fueling or charging.
We are living through an exciting time in parking’s history and have an opportunity to shape our piece of the mobility pie for generations to come. Let’s not worry or be afraid - let’s embrace the opportunity we have together and strive for something great.
Todd Tucker is senior vice president at Arrive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.