A concise, three-part series exploring the imperatives to success in a crisis, the future of mobility and the smart city with parking at the epicenter, and the practical steps we can take now to make that future possible.
Part I: The Framework | Part II: The Vision | Part III: The Playbook
PART I: The Framework
In crisis, pandemic-induced or otherwise, business leaders must react to survive. Some lean on experience or instinct, others on training, analysis, or expert counsel. You would imagine that very few, if any, turn to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to find strategies for growth, customer engagement, or operational efficiency. And rightly so. What you will find in Darwin’s seminal work, however, is the root concept that grew into the theory of natural selection. A concept that can inform, in or out of a crisis, not just how a business survives, but how it thrives.
Being the Most Adaptable
To paraphrase evolutionary biology’s foundational text, it’s not the strongest, nor most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. And while crises may accelerate change and usher in “new normals” or paradigm shifts, change itself is pervasive. As such, a focus on adaptability must be a core tenant of any business philosophy and emphasized in crisis.
It would be hard to argue that the parking industry at large has adapted well to change. Drivers still greeted with sandwich board signs and exact change demanded at exits as the means and modes of getting people and goods from point A to point B have transformed rapidly. With change accelerating and adaptation slow, parking garages and surface lots have felt the reverberations of shifting consumer practices. Occupancy drops, revenue stagnation, and momentum in growth rolling to a stop. Now this…a crisis with impact that needs no further dissection. And yet, the parking industry as we know it sits poised to transform modern mobility forever, yielding increased profitability and improved urban function. But how do you get business resistant or slow to change, like parking, to build for tomorrow, today.
Playing to Win During a Recession
For those who would argue that adaptation takes time we don’t have, or that a good defense is a good offense, the last three recessions serve as a powerful guide for focused and decisive action in crisis. A 2010 Harvard Business School analysis, looking at companies before, during, and after a recession, identified four classifications of companies and their management approaches during a recession: prevention-focused companies, promotion-focused companies, pragmatic companies, and progressive companies. The big winners? Progressive companies, described as such for an ideal combination of selective defensive moves, focused on operational efficiency, and comprehensive offensive moves, focused on market development and asset investment.
The results? These businesses “flourished after a slowdown, doing better on key financial parameters than they had before it and outperforming rivals in their industry by at least 10% in terms of sales and profits growth.”
The winning playbook, it seems, is clear. But the devil is in the details. How do we drive operational efficiency? What markets do we develop, and what assets do we invest in?
The answers lie in a critical look to the past and a bold vision of the future. For the former, falling victim to a cycle of hardware obsolescence or software discontinuation is a lesson we need not learn again. For the latter, we must imagine a future that we control.
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