Nate Phillips is the West Coast General Manager at SpotHero. He has spent 16 years in the parking industry, most recently as Senior Vice President at Propark America. Today, he shares how he has seen the parking world change with tech and what’s next.
ParkingExec (PE): You bring a unique combination of tech and operations to the parking world. Tell us more about your background.
Nate Phillips (NP): I went to school for computer programming and was working as a valet. After getting my degree, I kept working in parking while writing some websites for small businesses. My parking career moved very fast, and within a few years, I was managing all locations in Northern California for a small family-owned parking company.
It was interesting timing as the parking industry was just introducing new technologies, including automated garages, parking reservation websites, and smartphone marketing apps. With my tech background, I led the company’s technology implementations and programs, including chairing the company’s Parking Aggregator Committee.
Most recently, I was the Senior Vice President for Propark America, managing operations and sales in the Western United States. I covered all verticals of parking and transportation and supported over 1,100 team members. Propark had a unique approach at each location, implementing the latest technologies, amenities, and marketing programs. We had a great track record of not only increasing our clients bottom line, but driving service as well.
PE: You’ve worked in parking for 16 years. What has been the biggest industry change since you started?
NP: When I started in parking, it felt like the industry was trapped in the Stone Age. Other industries were taking part in a huge tech boom that had yet to make it to to the parking world. Within a few years, revenue control equipment companies were designing gated garages that could be operated manually by the garage manager from anywhere in the city.
Today, those same garages can be operated from anywhere in the United States. They have two-way cameras for communicating with customers, and payment can be made from your smartphone!
PE: The transportation industry is at the forefront of tech like never before. With everyone talking about connected cars and ridesharing, how does the parking industry play into the conversation?
NP: With the exponential growth of cities across the world, there is no question that the urban transportation market is going through a huge change. Consumers are looking for easier ways to navigate the urban landscape, whether it’s with parking, ridesharing or even maps and navigation.
But the reality is that many consumers who have cars will not give them up, at least not anytime soon. There will continue to be a need for parking. Tech solutions, like SpotHero, will give drivers that ‘aha!’ moment–when they realize that finding parking doesn’t have to be a headache.
PE: You recently joined SpotHero, after 16 years on the operator side. Why did you make the switch now?
NP: I started my career in tech and have always been passionate about technology applications in many different industries. After a clear leader emerged at the intersection of tech and parking, it was a natural move to go back to doing something I love and merge it with the passion I have for parking cars!
PE: Mobile technology is playing an increasingly important role in the parking industry. Coming from the operator side, what would you say is the biggest benefit of using an online reservation partner?
NP: There are two very powerful resources for operators using an online reservation partner: being able to drive revenue at properties and having a large amount of data available on your business trends.
At SpotHero, driving revenue is really our largest role. First and foremost, we serve as a marketing tool to fill parking garages and lots that are not at capacity. And believe it or not, with parking facilities that are already full, we can help drive in more demand and revenue to allow operators to create a more favorable yield.
PE: Do you feel like there are still those who are resistant to the shift towards technology in the parking industry? How would you respond to them?
NP: There are still those who are resistant towards the change, however, the growth has been exponential as many people see the value in tech solutions, like online reservations. As their peers are using technology to drive revenue and service at their properties, they are seeing the results for themselves and finding ways to leverage the technology to better their business.
PE: What’s next for parking? What changes will we see in the next year? Three years?
NP: We are going to continue to see consumers move towards wanting an easier way to park and pay. In the coming years, we will see both garage technology and vehicle technology catch up to the demand.
With online reservations becoming more popular, parking operators now have a huge amount of data at their fingertips they never had before: data on the right rates, what drivers are searching for, and even what features they prefer in a parking facility. You can then use this data to bring in even more revenue.
PE: What piece of advice would you give someone just starting their career in the parking industry?
NP: The parking industry is an amazing place. I’ve not seen many industries where entry level positions have so much potential for growth. I actually started my career as a valet! It is an industry where applying yourself has almost guaranteed results. As you continue to grow, always keep positive and enjoy the ride!