Parking Wars: A Lesson on Field Service Parking
As a small field service business, it might not dawn on you right away that fleet parking can become an issue. You aren’t a retail location — It’s not like you are trying to drive hundreds of people to your location — each in separate vehicles.
Take my word for it thought, it’ll never be enough, and it’s a headache!
You gotta think BIG! Growth of your business, fuels growth of your fleet vehicles, fuels employee growth…leads to the need for more day-time parking. If your people are paired in teams then you have the likelihood that for every fleet vehicle you send out, you will have 2 or more employee vehicles that need to be parked during the day.
So here’s the story….
The Boardwalk Cleaning Co. started out of a garage in Cedar Park, Texas.
Our garage was outfitted with 1 small shelving unit full of cleansers (bought retail, gasp!), 2 mops, 2 brooms & 2 vacuums for the 2 employees. In the beginning, they used their personal car for cleaning jobs; They loaded up in the morning, and they quietly unloaded in the afternoons – no one in the neighborhood was the wiser! This was all we could afford really, and minimizing initial costs was key.
Fast forward a few months, and we decided to purchase our first company vehicle, with a cute partial 3M vinyl wrap (we couldn’t afford the whole car wrap). As the owner, I could use it as my own personal vehicle, while getting our brand out there amongst all the good people of Cedar Park. Everything was happy and right in the world.
We kept growing and in order to look the part, we decided that we’d add a second team, and a second, partially wrapped car. Well, it didn’t take long before we got our first piece of mail from our friendly home owners association, stating in no uncertain terms that we COULD NOT run a business from our house.
Our only options at this point were to sell the house and move somewhere without an HOA or rent a space. Since we were growing too big for the garage anyway, it was time to move into a commercial space.
Location number two was a small warehouse/office space. At the time that we moved in, we had ONE, yes O-N-E dedicated parking space, and the rest of the ample lot was a a hot mess, wild west, first-come-first-serve, free-for-all. Since the vacancy rate ran fairly high at this particular location, we were fairly certain that it would meet our needs for years to come.
So we signed a 2-year lease and we moved into our first location with our two fleet vehicles. It didn’t take long for us to grow and we added another 4 cars to our fleet. We still had options for parking, but they were often on the far end of the parking lot; not only was it an inconvenience, it posed a security problem; but we stayed until our landlord finally said…it is time to go! We were just taking up way too many parking spaces Truth be told, we were busting at the seams. We were climbing all over each other inside the office as well.
Location number three, and our current spot. We moved in here 2 years ago. At that time, we had 7 fleet vehicles, 12 team members, and 2 office staff. Our office itself came with 4 assigned parking spaces, as well as a large gravel parking area for our use. In the lease, we made sure to address our parking needs. It was one of the primary reasons that we were moving locations. So we made sure to have in the lease that we can park 15 vehicles overnight and have exclusive use of the gravel lot. So here we sit just two years later, and we have all but run out of space again!
We just purchased our 19th fleet vehicle, and we don’t see any signs of stopping there. So once again we are at the precipice of what could be a parking war. Luckily, we have a super awesome landlord and think that we can certainly manage to park at least another dozen cars on the gravel lot without raising an eyebrow. However, if we were not so fortunate to have a great relationship with our landlord, this could be a huge problem once again.
So let’s take a look at the key considerations that I highly recommend you look at when moving into a commercial space, signing a lease, and or upgrading your space.
How many do you currently have? Are you going to be adding more teams in the near future? How many more cars? Do you have a supervisor or field manager that also needs a vehicle. How much growth do you expect and how fast do you expect it to come? Of course the longer length lease that you sign, the better concessions that you will get, and who likes moving anyway? So be sure to plan not just for next year, but for 5 years from now. If your business is in a growth phase like ours has been, you really need to think this through.
Do your employees drive to work? If so, you need to accommodate their vehicles during the day, no brainer right? Well here’s the real concept that you need to think of: how many employee vehicles do you need to have parking space for during the day? What other businesses might be in competition for parking? What about additional office staff as you grow?
24 Hour Parking
We can also call this overnight parking. You want to be sure that your lease allows for 24-hour parking and that the area is secure. I don’t mean that it has to be on lockdown, but you want it to be safe enough and well lit. Is the parking area adequately lit? Are there security cameras? If there are not security cameras present, can they be installed?
Plan for growth that is above and beyond your wildest dreams. While additional office space will be needed for supplies and so on when you grow, the biggest space you will need is your parking space.
On another note what is your policy on parking when you are at a clients’ house?