Pay yourself first — you are the fuel of your business, without you this business cannot continue to function at the early stages. When starting your business, if you don’t pay yourself then you’re inviting external stresses that may affect your decision making and potentially your business in a negative way.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Garret Flower.
Garret is the CEO & Co-Founder of ParkOffice — the parking software for smart offices. Prior to the pandemic ParkOffice’s software helped company reduce the amount of employee parking needed at offices. Since the crisis hit, the company has pivoted and its software now helps commuters to get to work safely in a COVID world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in the countryside of Ireland, my parents owned a fruit juice business so I was always encouraged to try new things. My maternal grandfather worked with and was good friends with former president John F. Kennedy so I grew up listening to some truly amazing stories about the two which allowed me to believe I could achieve great things.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s a marathon and not a sprint” — people always think short term, what they are going to achieve this year and it can be extremely stressful especially as a young entrepreneur who thinks they should be working every second of the day, when in fact I have found it’s much healthier to think long term and create a limited number of 3 micro goals each day to focus your best work to complete. These micro wins build up to help you get to the end of the marathon and not burn out early.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The 5am Club by Robin Sharma, or Principles by Ray Dalio. Both of these books offer exceptional mindset tools and practical tips and frameworks on how to improve professionally and personally. Great value for money!
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial and had successfully built and exited a food business in my 20s. I was drawn to parking for a simple reason, for something so fundamental to daily lives the experience seemed so backwards. In the modern era with all the capabilities of technology, I just couldn’t understand how office car parks all over the world were chaos at 8:55am every morning.
ParkOffice was the result of this curiosity. We launched in 2018 and prior to the pandemic we were really on an upwards trajectory. We were landing large contracts on a weekly basis with some of the world’s biggest employers. Companies were waking up and realising that there was a better way to manage employee parking.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Then almost overnight offices around the world closed. All of a sudden companies weren’t worried about how to reduce their dependency on employee parking.
To be honest, we spent a couple of weeks trying to digest the impact for our business. There were some hard conversations, the future looked bleak. Then the penny dropped.
We realized that while reducing employee parking was no longer a priority for many companies that increasing commuter safety was of massive importance. We quickly adapted our product to give front-line employers a system to track and manage parking demand during the crisis. This was particularly useful for surge employers such as the Pharma industry who were rapidly trying to grow workforces to meet the demands of the pandemic.
Basically, we developed a hot-desking for parking spaces solution which allowed employers and employees to track who needed parking and when, allocating available space to those whose need was most pressing.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
When the pandemic hit, we had some massive deals which were just about to drop. We spent the first few weeks of the crisis hoping against hope that some of these deals might drop. That the pandemic was just a blip and that business would bounce back as quickly as it had crashed.
However, within a matter of weeks it became apparent that COVID was here for a long-haul. We simply started to talk to our clients and prospective clients to see how we could help them respond to their new needs. After a couple of conversations we realised that we had a massive role to play in helping key staff get to work safely, ensuring front-line services weren’t interrupted by the pandemic.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Most importantly for us, due to our pivot many front-line workers in both the public and private sector have been able to get to work safely. At the peak of the pandemic, with social distancing a large concern for people, public transport usage fell through the floor. Employers were faced with larger parking demand then ever as people looked to limit social contact.
Commercially speaking, thanks to pivoting our growth has remained strong over the last 12 months. We have started working with 4 new Fortune 500 companies during the COVID period, while in total we’ve supported new clients in 11 different countries.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
It’s amazing what happens when you hit a real sweet spot, the point where pressing needs meets technology. Last year in the space of 2 weeks, we were contacted by 7 of the world’s top 50 companies within the space of a week who were looking for a demo.
Word just seemed to spread like wildfire that we had a product that could help companies weather the COVID storm. Having spent 18 months knocking on doors of these types of companies looking for an audience we suddenly found them to be knocking down our door for a conversation.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Teaching ownership — as you scale your business it is crucial to teach your team to make their own decisions and not have to ask for permission on every decision. When the right structure and people are in place, your company will accelerate due to this. In the early days I tried to do everything myself to my detriment.
- Profits, not turnover — It’s easy to get excited looking at larger numbers, but the amount that counts is the number at the bottom line not the topline revenue. Getting this right will make life a lot easier.
- Invest in yourself — Pushing yourself to learn more and investing into your own future opens you up to opportunities that are aligned with growth and the result will most probably be growth.
- Don’t try and do everything quickly — Taking time to think and plan at the beginning can save you an unnecessary mountain climb later.
- Pay yourself first — you are the fuel of your business, without you this business cannot continue to function at the early stages. When starting your business, if you don’t pay yourself then you’re inviting external stresses that may affect your decision making and potentially your business in a negative way.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Take it day by day, focus on winning your day and eventually you will overcome the issue. I also make sure to focus on improving the biggest mood altering functions; sleep, exercise and diet. Once you do this daily, you are building a wall around your mental wellness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would focus on climate change, I believe it is the single biggest issue facing our world. We have proven that we can invent and advance technology and behaviour as required for the good of humanity during COVID, I hope we can see this translate towards climate protection when this is over.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Most of the people I would love to have lunch with have unfortunately passed, like Thomas Edison, Marcus Aurelius and my Grandad. If I could go for lunch/ virtual zoom with someone now I would pick Marcus Lemonis — I think he is an excellent entrepreneur and inspiration who has helped so many already.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!