GROWING BEYOND PARKING
If you ask Towne Park president and CEO Chuck Heskett what his company does well, his answer won’t be “parking cars.”
Towne Park may have started as a valet parking company, but today, it has grown to provide multiple, complex labor services to hotels and hospitals in 42 states. Towne Park employees are parking cars, but they are also carrying bags, providing concierge services, transferring patients or serving coffee. “I don’t see this as a parking company,” Heskett says. “What we are really good at is finding people, training people, deploying people. And we can do that in many, many more areas, so our growth has been just incredible.”
When Heskett took the helm in 2015, he set about taking a successful company to the next level by adding diverse perspectives to its leadership team. “It’s important for us to have leaders that are steeped in parking knowledge,” Heskett says. “But we have folks from hospitality, we have strategic thinkers, we have world-class attorneys. We’re bringing people in from other walks of life so their journeys can be applied within Towne Park.”
Misti Mukherjee was one of those additions. As EVP and general counsel, Mukherjee partners with the executive, sales and operations teams to ensure Towne Park is strategically positioned. “Misti is a crucial component for us to think differently about enterprise-wide risk,” Heskett says. “She’s been a terrific partner for me over the past year.”
Mukherjee says the updated leadership team holds one another accountable in a respectful way. “We have the same mission and ambition in mind,” she says. “Any competition is external, not internal.”
While there is always room for disagreement, Heskett says Towne Park’s leadership has never been better aligned. Executing on an accurate and achievable five-year growth plan that satisfies Towne Park’s private equity investors leaves little room for petty squabbles. “We can’t spend a lot of time bickering — we have financial obligations to ourselves and our investors,” Heskett says. “It takes alignment to achieve speed.”
Achieving that alignment meant making some tough choices. Heskett says one of the biggest challenges in growing the company from a founder-led firm to a world-class organization was having to leave good people behind. “Changing out people that have been long-term Towne Park loyalists — that’s tough,” he says. “Every one of them, to a man and woman, is a great person, but they just weren’t great for Towne Park and its future.”
Transparent communication from leadership has played an important role in ensuring the thousands of Towne Park employees nationwide are working toward the same mission. Heskett conducts a monthly president’s call that is open to all associates, in which he shares sophisticated financial plans, challenges and opportunities, Mukherjee says. “It’s staying on message about our ambition and our expectations of ourselves,” she says. “That communication is so clear, so consistent and so repeated that everyone hears the message.”
Mukherjee says it takes courage and integrity to execute on a vision, especially when it involves change. “The way we all try to approach change is to be truthful and direct about it,” Mukherjee says. “When you’re truthful, even bad news becomes tolerable.” Like its hotel clients, Towne Park appreciates the importance of “service recovery” — it’s not the mistake, but how you react to it that determines whether your customers or employees will continue to trust you. “We’re very committed to open, transparent, integrity-based communication,” Mukherjee says.
Towne Park is as deliberate about its employees’ growth as it is about growing the bottom line. From guest service associates parking cars to salaried employees leading hospital or hotel sites, each level has its own training designed to advance employee careers. Leaders are expected and incentivized to grow future leaders from their own divisions and departments. “Growth, to me, isn’t just financial growth. It’s the growth of the individuals throughout our company,” Heskett says.
Towne Park is committed to its mission to “delight” its customers, Mukherjee says. Towne Park employees are the first to greet the visitor who comes to a hospital with a heavy heart or the family who arrives at a hotel for the vacation they’ve saved up for all year. “That first point of contact we take very seriously,” Mukherjee says. “We’re consistent about our quality and about our mission, which includes growing the lives of our associates and growing our clients’ revenue.”
Photo (L to R): Matthew Cahill, EVP, Client Experience; Chuck Heskett, President and CEO; Misti Mukherjee, EVP and General Counsel; Bev Valltos, EVP of Human Resources; Mark Norwicz, CFO; Frank Pikus, EVP of Sales, Marketing and Acquisitions; Blair Johnson, Chief Strategist