Parking Review: — 11/05/2009
Business Trends: Staying on Target
There’s another way to look at ‘doom and gloom’
Emma Sinclair, CEO of Target Parking
On every news medium we are reminded of the carnage in global markets. In recent months headlines have been terrifying: Banks are collapsing, governments are making epic financial contributions to the private and public sector and job cuts are increasing. Commercial and personal financing is harder to source and the amount and terms sharp compared to the last few years. Confidence is low and inflationary pressures have been driving up energy and food prices. People are naturally concerned about surviving and the next few years are clearly not going to be an easy ride.
Like every sector, the parking sector is suffering. Whether you are an equipment supplier receiving less orders or a council with fewer cars parking in your sites, we are all having to work hard to secure our businesses. The world of real estate, closely affiliated to the parking business, is suffering too. Bankers are calling in loans and new build flats are being offered at heavy discounts with house builders desperate to unload stock. Empty rates are also causing property owners enormous distress. What can landlords do in this climate if there are no tenants, if a sale is unlikely or if a development is currently not going ahead?
Target Parking is over one year old and was founded in the midst of a challenging economy. Many people have questioned the rationale of launching a new business now. They ask how can we compete, why not wait until not wait until there are signs of definitive economic recovery?
The economic reality is inescapable. However, whilst doom and gloom may be the flavour of the month every month, I can see some reasons to be positive. Arguably, a recessionary environment can provide a platform for innovation and economic growth through entrepreneurialism and creative thinking. My belief is that Target Parking embraces and will continue to embrace the opportunity this climate presents.
Clients deserve excellent service. They want and deserve motivated and ambitious suppliers of services who bring to the table a ‘little something extra’. In an economic slowdown people want to know they are getting value for their money and are inclined to shop around and see what’s out there. A thriving economy also often breeds complacency: “The business is rolling in so why worry?” A trickier climate means those who are complacent can lose business to motivated and ambitious competitors. New companies often get a look in on that business as decision makers are interested to explore alternatives to the ‘usual suspects.’
Additionally, the world of real estate is turning its attentions to alternative asset classes and sweating sites to extract every penny of value in a climate where equity values have collapsed. Here again, parking has been enjoying additional attention which breeds additional opportunity. People want to talk about parking. With so many prime development sites lying empty we are finding parking is no longer the afterthought it once was but instead an active item on any real estate agenda.
Target offers full car park management services as well as facilities management for clients of all sizes and shapes. Each new client brings new sets of challenges and demands, meaning we need to evolve our thinking to provide value add services or useful business introductions.
For example, at Fantasy Island on the coast of Skegness we run several very busy car parks servicing a large theme park, market and seaside resort and we automated the site. Simultaneously, we assisted the owners in looking at advertising revenue opportunities.
At The Centre in Feltham, we run both a multi-storey car park and an open space car park servicing the shopping centre whilst also using our parking permit site, www.ineedtopark.co.uk, to create additional revenue from excess spaces near the busy commuter train station.
For ROM Capital, we spent the first month of the contract upgrading the landscaping and aesthetics of the site and now look after the upkeep with services ranging from canopy cleaning to filling the salt bins to litter collection on their Walsall retail park through our facilities management arm.
Obviously we are focused on our financial position – doing business that provides an excellent service to our clients and is equally justified in the revenue it creates. Through talking to our clients and indeed friends and peers in the industry, we strive to think laterally about how to evolve our business and that approach should be mirrored no matter what sector or sub-sector you operate in. We also ensure that all the services we offer are matched by excellent service. It is clear that clients are happy to pay service providers who demonstrate value creation and that is at the heart of our ethic.
I am not suggesting that there are no hard challenges ahead: We are all suffering. Companies will continue to suffer and the insolvency practitioners are clearly going to be kept busy in 2000 and for much of 2010. A difficult economic climate requires considerable ingenuity and the ability to look at things differently. And in looking at things differently, the reality is that there are many opportunities out there – opportunities not just for new business but also to improve existing businesses.
My message is: Be cautious but don’t be inward and conservative. Look outward and look differently at your assets, at your job remit and/or your skills and work hard to seek out where the prospect lies. Arguably, this trickier climate is the beginning of the reinvention of business practices by innovative entrepreneurs.