The wonderful thing about this country is that there are opportunities everywhere. If you have a son or daughter who’s working as a valet during their school break, for example, don’t think of it as a dead-end job. It could lead to much greater things.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Women in Parking conference, in front of a group of professionals who work in the parking industry around the country. In preparation for my talk, I interviewed numerous people from different companies. But one in particular struck me, and that was my interview with the maintenance man who manages parking at the CNN Decks, and works for the company LAZ Parking. I asked him to tell me about the company, and he said it was wonderful. I thought, if a company can get its maintenance man to praise what it does, it’s worth finding out what they’re doing right.
So I later interviewed Georgi Taja, LAZ’s Senior Vice President, and Robert DeBurro, LAZ’s Principal and Managing Partner, about how they’ve grown their business, and how they get everyone at their company to feel loyal, and like they belong. It’s easy to get the folks at top to have that sense of loyalty, but it’s another challenge to get the staff at all levels to feel that way. Here are a few of the points they made that stuck with me the most:
-Promote servant leadership – the philosophy that you’re here to serve the people who rely on you. Georgi emphasized his belief that good leaders are good listeners. And Robert said for him, it’s all about leaving the ego at the door, and living and working together.
-They explained that their goal isn’t to have the biggest company, but to create opportunities. Valet parkers with LAZ can rise through the ranks and support their families. Georgi and Robert wanted to create an environment where that could be possible.
-For them, money is a result, it’s not the focus. The real goal is to make a difference in people’s lives. And they strive to continue growing the business in order to do just that.
-They also believe strongly in developing leaders. They do this through mentoring and promoting the philosophy that success comes through experience and learning from your failures.
This is a company that lives by its core values of honesty, integrity, and respect. They reinforce these principles through LAZ University, a management school where managers have the chance to share, live, and learn to thoroughly understand the values of the company. While this doesn’t generate revenue, it does create goodwill, loyalty, involvement, and “buy-in” among the employees. Georgi and Robert told me an extraordinary story of a young man who had started with the company as a part-time security officer and valet, and is now a director of operations.
What struck me most about both Georgi and Robert is that they are committed to improving the lives of their employees and providing employment opportunities. Every person in the office voluntarily told me how much they enjoyed working for this company. They believe in the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats. And they believe in making a difference.
I recently attended a Laz clients appreciation luncheon, where I met Larry Bowman, Vice President of Stadium Operations & Security at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, where the Atlanta Braves play. Larry says that what he finds so exceptional about Laz is their, “innovation and forward thinking.” Larry went on to comment that, while any company can park cars, few companies would be as dedicated to creating a positive parking experience for Braves fans as Laz. And this, of course, will be an important part of the visitor experience when the 2017 baseball season starts on April 14.