Changing how drivers and travelers find and reserve parking nationwide
Nick Miller is the co-founder and CEO of Parking Panda, a parking directory and reservation service. Parking Panda allows users to find, reserve, and pay for parking in over 40 cities and airports across the U.S. The app has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Mashable, and more.
Q. As Parking Panda transitions from a startup into a full-blown business, what do you do to keep the company’s culture alive?
As the company continues to grow and scale in terms of headcount, revenue, capital—all of these things—it becomes important to maintain kind of a set of core values for the business. We look at this in a very specific way at Parking Panda. I think too often the idea of a culture at a startup gets conflated with perks, which means having cool things like a ping-pong table in the basement. You can wear shorts to work. We have company happy hours and, you know, the baseball season opener every year. Those are all perks for working for us—people enjoy them and I enjoy them. As you scale, those are what continue to make the company a fantastic place to work. The culture, the real culture of the company—which is something you have to work at —is what continues to make it a great place to work.
What we’ve done is come up with five core values for our company that everyone who works for us and everyone we hire has to buy into and believe in. These are things we would sacrifice some of that revenue or some of that money in order to continue to uphold. Our early employees and founders kind of knew what those were intrinsically, but as you get bigger, it’s really important that we continue to work and continue to make sure that we’re refining our goals, we’re all working together, and that everyone is living by and embodying those core values that we’ve established as a company. It keeps everyone on the same page as we build toward a unified vision. It keeps everyone excited about what we do and keeps that mentality of ownership over the company, even as it gets bigger, for every individual person there.
Q. Tell us about the set of core values.
One is we believe, despite the kind of cliché terminology, that we’re disrupting an industry and our goal is to disrupt an industry. Now, there are lots of companies out there that can be sold for $20 million to a sales force, and that’s not a bad thing—that’s a good thing to do. You make a lot of money, it’s a good business. But we’re at a unique point in parking for both consumer and for the industry itself where we can actually impact over the next five years what human interaction with parking looks like. And that’s a very unique opportunity that keeps us very excited. So, we’re constantly focused on this idea of disrupting an industry.
We have another one that’s just the way we go about doing our business. We call it honesty and integrity. We’re open with our employees. We’re open with another. We’re open and honest with our partners, our parking operators, our consumers. It could be about price disparities, it could be about mistakes we made, anything.
Another one we say is “challenge each other to grow together.” We don’t believe that anyone is limited by their position or their specific role. Everyone has ownership over growing the company and needs to be challenging everyone else in the business to continue to do that. That doesn’t mean shooting people’s ideas down and saying they’re wrong. It’s this mentality of “yes and.” “Yes, but how could we do this better?” “Yes, but if we did this, would we go further?” That’s really important to us as well.
The other one is the idea that, to sum it up, I’ll use a clichéd Steve Jobs quote, which is “the customer’s problem is our problem.” Everything we build is built for our customers. Our customers are drivers, our customers are parking operators, but we believe passionately in building solutions and building things that those people really want and really need. We believe in that so much that every new employee spends their first two days working with our customer service team. It doesn’t matter what you do—you could be an engineer, you could be in marketing. You spend your first days working with our customer service team, so that you really understand the problems that our consumers face.
Q. How does the customer-first value play out for people in these other roles?
We ask, “what is the customer concerned with on a day-to-day basis?” If you’re an engineer, how do you build a product to fix that? If you’re in marketing, how do you better communicate what we do so they understand and are aware of that? It’s very important to us.
The last major value is something that Adam started saying very early on when it was just two of us. It’s what we call “always be moving the needle,” which is the work ethic. We believe, especially as a small company, but even as we grow, anything you do should be geared towards realizing the vision of the business. What you’re working on has to grow the business. It could be everything from building a new app, to answering a customer phone call to make sure they have a good experience, to signing up a new parking garage. That runs from end-to-end within our business. Everyone in the company lives by those ideals and values to keep that same mentality and that same attitude as we go from three to 10 to 30—hopefully to 300.
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