American Executive – Park it Here

This article originally appeared in American Executive Magazine, August 2008

It isn’t often that a company can guarantee its clients an average 20% increase in revenue, but San Diego-based Ace Parking does that and more. The company focuses on providing the best service in the industry and goes to great lengths to do so.

An impressive guarantee and devotion to personal service is helping this privately owned parking management company compete with the big guys.

Park It Here

It isn’t often that a company can guarantee its clients an average 20% increase in revenue, but San Diego-based Ace Parking does that and more. The company focuses on providing the best service in the industry and goes to great lengths to do so.

“This has been a family company for three generations now,” said Keith Jones, principal and grandson of founder Evan Jones. “We care about our reputation in the industry, so we put in extra effort.”

Every client of Ace Parking has cell phone numbers for Jones, CEO John Baumgardner, and other company executives. Jones said the executive team is available whenever clients need them, and the same goes for Ace employees. This is something my grandfather taught us; when a client calls, you respond immediately. Not tomonow, but now,” said Jones.

“Our challenge is to explain how we can provide a level of service the big companies, whose executives are often completely absent, can’t,” said Baumgardner. “We have the resources, knowledge, and ability of any large public parking companies, but the nimbleness and speed of a standalone shop.”

That’s a wonderful value-added service for landlords with parking to manage, but what really gets their attention is the Ace guarantee to increase revenue, usually by as much as 20%. Jones said clients are shocked co hear that — the typical accepted average shrinkage in the industry can be upward of 25% — but he stands by it completely.

There are several reasons Ace is able to make that promise, he explained, not the least of which is the rigorous training company employees take part in. Within the company’s HR department is a subsidiary training and development department dedicated to instilling a general Ace company culture, on top of learning and relaying the specific culture of each client.

That is especially important as Ace continues to increase the number of hotels it serves. Jones said his father, Scott Jones, after taking over for his father, led the company out of the San Diego area and beyond hometown clients, rapidly diversifying the company’s client base and bringing in a new era of growth.

Today, Ace knows the training and service expected of hotel employees for most of the major chains in the region and expects the company’s managers to uphold them. “They are the ones working alongside the attendants every day,” said Jones. “It’s important that we communicate clear expectations of them if we want the cashiers and attendants under them to provide the kind of service we’re looking for.”

Driving Test

On top of rigorous training programs, Ace is able to monitor and measure its employee’s performance through an internal auditing department, which started 23 years ago with the hiring of Baumgardner.

“As with anything, if you feel like you’re not being watched, you’re going to find a way to cheat the system,” said Baumgardner. “The average shrinkage most of the industry copes with is unacceptable to us, which is why we have dedicated auditing staff and their own department to focust on keeping everyone up to par.”

He explained that Ace managers are required to conduct cash audits at random intervals and that the department has a tracking system to Measure which managers are conducting these audits and how often. The department also tracks average ticket values, and when those start to decline, the team sends in secret shoppers.

Ace works with a national firm that manages secret shoppers, who Baumgardner said are indispensable in measuring how well company employees are learning and applying the culture that a client wants. The shoppers use the parking facility and test the honesty of an attendant by pretending to lose his or her ticket, for example.

“It’s very important that our cashiers and attendants know that we do this, though; we make sure they understand they will he tested on our expectations,” explained Baumgardner, who added that the results (dramatically higher revenue collection than any other parking management company) are worth the time and effort of internal auditing.

Grease the wheels

The tracking system that makes Ace’s internal auditing so unique has been the biggest project for Jon Gjerset, CIO. He said about 95% of the company’s revenue statistics are entered manually, and a huge goal for the company’s IT department is to develop ways to get that number down. The challenge lies in the vast diversity of Ace’s clients.

“We provide services for 400 clients. Those client’s buildings have changed hands multiple times and can have systems that are 50 years old or one year old. We have to make all those systems work together and turn out coherent data,” said Gjerset.

He explained that Ace has succeed in developing an application to do just that, and that the second challenge is coordinating that data with the unique validation rates set by different clients.

“That was probably more of a challenge because we wound up with about 150 types of reports we can run based on variables, and all of those are customizable to fit the requirements of each client’s system,” he said.

Jones emphasized that customizable financial reporting is yet another value-add service that distinguishes Ace from its competition, and that is how the company will continue to attract clients. Baumgardner added that the greatest challenge for the company strategically is to successfully refine and resell its services in a dynamic industry.

“We understand that we can’t take anything for granted,” said Jones. “It is our devotion to personalized service that has brought us this far, so we’re not going to abandon that and rest on our laurels.”

–Meghan Flynn

Posted in: Historical

Leave a Comment (0) ↓