Material things have no value until they do. People spend too much time wasting money on material things, the next phone, watch, shoes and I have always found this need to buy things only leads to the same unfulfilling feeling, which can only be replaced by the urge to get the next thing, These purchases normally don’t have any alignment with your personal goals. I have found it’s better motivation instead to reward yourself with items after symbolic achievements.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Garret Flower.
ParkOffice CEO and Founder Garret Flower is an experienced entrepreneur specialising in prop-tech. An established innovator, he has founded several successful businesses, including Krust Bakery, and was featured among Ireland’s “30 under 30 business leaders” in 2017 and 2018. An advocate for technology, traffic management solutions and sustainability, Garret currently leads ParkOffice where he and his team are on a mission to revolutionise parking for workers and employers worldwide.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a teenager, I was fascinated by two things: entrepreneurship and the environment. Throughout my formative years, I was setting up different businesses and ideas. In my early twenties, I set up my first environmentally focused business — an LED lighting company. The company itself didn’t work out, but it whetted my appetite for the power of business to build a more sustainable world.
From then on, I knew that I wanted to build businesses that made a profit but more importantly benefitted the planet.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
For me, the most impactful things are always the small personal stories. Just last week I was talking to a user of ParkOffice.io. She had previously been dropping her two children to a childminder at 6am so she could make it to the office for 6.30am, just to make sure she had parking at the office. She had no other options as if she didn’t get parking, she would have been faced with a 5-hour round trip commute on public transport.
Hearing her tell me how ParkOffice.io has allowed her to transform her commute was really powerful. She now gets to stay with her kids until 8am, getting quality time with them in the morning. I just love when you can see and feel the difference you are making in people’s lives.
Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that ParkOffice is working on? How do you think that will help people?
Employee parking is broken. 47% of businesses report having employee parking problems. This is crazy. We see the same problems again and again: a lack of space, poor usage of existing space, large administrative burdens and environmental worries.
We have developed an extensive platform to eradicate all these issues. Our software has all the features a business needs to optimize, understand and ultimately reduce their employee parking lots.
In the short-term, we give companies all the technology they need to eliminate short-term problems like a lack of availability. In the medium-term, we give them the data and insights they need to understand their employee parking behavior. Finally, over the next ten years we are going on a journey with all our clients to help them reduce their staff parking dependency.
The offices of the future will have parking. However, every company needs to be looking at how to strategically reduce their parking lots. Parking needs to transition from being the default and become the exception instead.
This is ultimately the journey we are bringing companies on which is very exciting for the triple bottom line of people, profit, and the planet.
How do you think this might change the world?
Our first step with most employers is getting their motorists to travel more responsibly and more efficiently. We then start to work with them to reduce the number of people driving to work.
There are obvious benefits for businesses. ParkOffice.io saves their employees time, it reduces the stress of commuting and of course, it saves companies a lot of money on parking.
This complements the massive benefits for local communities too. ParkOffice.io reduces last-mile congestion around offices, freeing neighborhoods from the chokehold of congestion, particularly around peak travel times. The knock-on benefits for wellbeing and air quality are massive.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about your technology that people should think more deeply about?
We have a constant educational job on our hands. There is a massive disconnect for a lot of companies. Their employees are complaining about a lack of parking availability which is leading to increased investment in additional parking facilities.
At the same time, the same companies are making grandiose statements about the environment. The two don’t add up. I would worry that some companies will look for the short-term benefits of our software but aren’t gearing up for the long-term journey where we help them reduce car dependency.
However, to date clients are really buying into the vision. They know things need to change and they understand that we have the technology to help them now and in the future.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The pandemic has been a massive challenge for a lot of companies. However, we’ve been very lucky. It has massively accelerated our market.
Increased flexibility has made it much more complex to manage parking. Pre-COVID, many staff had fixed parking spaces that they could use every day. Now, if they are only going to be in a few days a week, can a company really afford to leave their spaces lying idle?
Figuring out who will be present and when, and allocating them parking spaces based on their commuter needs is too much to manage manually — particularly if you have more than a handful of staff.
Solving this issue is one of ParkOffice.io’s core features. Even pre-pandemic, 30–40% of parking spaces lay idle during the work day with staff out at meetings, etc. This number is only going to grow.
What we can see from markets like Australia & New Zealand, where offices have reopened for periods, is a massive uplift in demand.
What do you need to lead your technology to widespread adoption?
We have a solution that benefits half of the companies in the world. Our retention rate is through the roof, users love the product. Once we get in, we stay in.
Our one challenge is finding the buyer. A lot of companies manage parking by committee. This means that there is nobody tasked with managing the problems. It simply rears its ugly head again and again at meetings.
Often, we are contacted by companies, who want our solution, and they need it. They just aren’t sure who they need to sign off from. Luckily, we’ve gotten very good at working with companies to identify all their stakeholders in the parking journey and we’ve become very good at making it super simple for businesses to buy ParkOffice.io and get started.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
From day one, we’ve focused on building the world’s best employee parking management solution. We’ve always felt this is the best marketing strategy. The proof has been in the pudding to date. Recently, we were selected as the Best Value Product & Easiest To Use Product in the Space Management category by Capterra, the world’s leading software comparison website.
This is a great testament to the work we’ve done as not only does this place us ahead of any other parking products, but also it places us top of the pile when compared to all the desk-booking and workspace management software which are exploding into the market at the moment.
The standard and quality of the companies knocking on our door every week looking to learn more about our product is astounding. This is how we’ve managed to sign up leading global employers like eBay, Sanofi & Alstom.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I grew up with my Mum telling me I was destined for great things. This constant reinforcement has set me up with self-confidence to try to do things other people wouldn’t even dream of.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It’s definitely a little easier getting up every day and knowing you are making it simpler for people to get to work in a more environmentally friendly manner. ParkOffice.io is already having such a positive impact on employees, employers, and communities. I look forward to watching this continue to grow.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Always go for quality, in everything you do. When I was starting out in entrepreneurship, I was desperate to keep costs low. I ended up finding office chairs being given away for free. The chairs weren’t in great condition but hey a saving is a saving right? After a few months, I was sitting in the office one day working away and suddenly the office chair split in half. I landed on a metal rod which ended up lodging in my back. I was literally an inch away from being paralysed and required 12 stitches. You might think you are saving time & money in the short run by shopping around for bargains. However, in the long term quality always pays…
2. Surround yourself with great people. I have been fortunate to meet and become friends with some incredible people in my life. I believe you are the sum average of the five people you spend the most time with. I believe this but also push to meet people who inspire you and can teach you from their own learnings. Reach out to people you look up to and ask for that coffee or lunch meeting, you will be surprised with the mostly positive response to help.
3. Keep growing. I’m a big believer in self improvement, I created something called “self improvement Sunday” with my wife Neassa, where we would spend one hour each Sunday doing something fun, different, challenging. e.g. learn Spanish, rock climb, skydive, visit museums etc. This helps increase the scope of your imagination and pushes you to try new things. Make sure you spend quality time with loved ones, these are the memories you will remember.
4. Be more open, tell people you care. This is something I have to push myself on. Being brought up in the Irish countryside Colehill Co. Longford you are thought to be a man, to be tough, unemotional and that if you cry or say something emotional you are a “softie”. What I have found is that the more I open up to my friends, fiancé and family the better I feel. I regularly ask my friends now how they are feeling, ask them if I can help with anything and try and tell them openly how I feel. I would recommend everyone to try and open up a little bit more.
5. Material things have no value until they do. People spend too much time wasting money on material things, the next phone, watch, shoes and I have always found this need to buy things only leads to the same unfulfilling feeling, which can only be replaced by the urge to get the next thing, These purchases normally don’t have any alignment with your personal goals. I have found it’s better motivation instead to reward yourself with items after symbolic achievements.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger.
One of the main reasons which will draw people back to the office is a sense of community. I always wonder about how we could bring this sense of connection and community into commuting.
Personally I’d love to see one carriage on every subway/metro etc. designated as the chatting carriage. People would know that everyone who gets into this carriage is looking for a conversation during their journey. The bigger the world gets, the harder we need to work to bring people together.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
When leaving college, I would read about all of these so-called overnight successes, then I would push myself hard doing 7 day weeks, 20 hour days trying to create this success for myself. What I have realised is that success doesn’t happen overnight and it can take years of persistence and eventually you still might fail as business is hard and so many things can go wrong that are out of your control. Go easy on yourself, enjoy every moment and take the learnings as successes until you get to where you want to be (hard I know!). Relax and enjoy the ride.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
We are the market leader in a rapidly growing 50bn dollars market. The way the world parks at work needs to change. We have the product. We have the team. We have the traction. Let’s have a conversation about how we can change the world together.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.