This aricle originally appeared in the San Diego Daily Transcript
June 20th, 2010
By JILL ESTERBROOKS
Special to the Daily Transcript
Ace Parking Keith Jones was only 8 when he landed his first job at Ace Parking collecting tickets and riding around the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot in a golf cart with his relatives.
Now, the 29-year-old is readying to take the driver’s seat of Ace Parking Management Inc., the 60-year-old company founded by his grandfather, Evan Jones, and currently owned and operated by his
father, Scott Jones.
“I grew up in the business and it really revs me up,” says the youngest Jones, managing principal and
chief operating officer of the privately held company that services nearly 350,000 customers daily and
generates annual revenues exceeding $335 million.
Being the heir apparent to the expanding family parking empire is both a boon and a bane for the
third-generation Jones, who studied business and philosophy at New York University during the Sept.
11 era and calls the last five years working up the ranks at Ace Parking “a hands-on, real-world master’s program.”
“I’m grateful to be on a bigger stage and operating at a higher platform so early in my career,” said
Jones, whose sheer will and determination helped him overcome severe childhood dyslexia to earn a
“I became more observant and found other ways to get tasks done,” said Jones, a strong supporter
and advocate for others with learning disabilities.
The biggest challenge he’s found working in the family business is that “everything is personal.”
“I leave work at night and then go to a family dinner where we talk about business,” he said.
At the same time, he feels extremely lucky to work for his father, who Jones describes as “not only my
boss but also my best friend.”
“We work well as a team,” he said. “My dad has a wealth of institutional knowledge, while I’m working on the ground level, observing things in realtime and hearing from the front line.”
The prospect of some day taking the helm of a company with approximately 5,000 employees throughout the Western United States is both “exhilarating and terrifying.”
“I’m honored with the prospect of refining the long-held family traditions and philosophies, and also excited about leaving my own stamp on the business,” said Jones, who travels extensively to client sites in six states and hopes in coming years to ramp up operations in new markets, including Hawaii.
“The company grows organically,” he explained. “Expansion usually comes from existing clients relocating or opening projects in other markets.”
He also believes that a world with just cars isn’t necessarily a good thing. “More and more we’re partnering with cities and communities and corporations to better manage transportation and parking needs,” he said.
In both business and civic duties, he’s following in the “giant footsteps” of his forefathers on the Jones
side, as well as those of his maternal grandfather, Malin Burnham. Both prominent San Diego families are notable for their philanthropic contributions and community leadership.
Jones is proving to be a quick understudy, having recently been named one of the youngest members of the Young President’s Organization, as well as serving on the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee, Downtown San Diego Partnership Executive Committee, Father Joe’s Toussaint Academy Board of
Directors and San Diego Rotary 33.
“It’s my turn to step up and take on the necessary duties and responsibilities of my predecessors,” said
the wise-beyond-years Jones. “But I’m sure glad my dad and granddad are still around to serve as sounding boards.”
Jones and his wife, Megan, have plans to start a family soon. Though he hopes his children ultimately will be interested in taking over the family parking management business, they’ll first be riding in
the back as Jones takes his turn in the corporate driver’s seat.
Esterbrooks is a San Diego-based freelance writer.