Last month I was invited to attend a dinner party at the BusCon Expo in Indianapolis. One of the guests was the managing director of ground transportation for ACE Parking. He was a soft-spoken young man, shockingly only 28 years old. I watched him as he quietly listened to the stories told by the “old folk” and was intrigued by his mature and thoughtful demeanor.
Dinner was almost over when I got his attention and bluntly asked him, “What’s your story?” And little did I know what a loaded question it was. This is what he said:
His mom fled Guatemala when she was in law school and accosted by rebels who were forcing students to change to their democratic party. Her father wasted no time and sent her packing. She traveled alone through Mexico and into Los Angeles where she found relatives to live with. She worked downtown as a transportation coordinator while continuing her studies at UCLA. She fell for an immigrant from Pakistan but sadly, when she became pregnant, he left her and was never to be heard from again. She raised her only son in the heart of Los Angeles’ worst ghetto – Watts. They lived on welfare in Section 8 housing.
At age seven and into his youth, her son was tasked with spending his days at LAX counting the number of passengers of shuttles and sending those reports to his mother who would plug them into spreadsheets for her company. While he remained in school, he was no stranger to gang life until the fateful day he was arrested. He spent time in jail, and that was where he had his ah-ha moment and decided he needed to get into college, get out of the projects, and leave the ghetto behind. He studied hard. He attended a UC college and went on to get his MBA at Pepperdine University, amassing a $90,000 student loan debt. On the first day of school he met the love of his life, and just a few months ago they married. After graduating, she founded her own cyber security company to boot! They just bought a home in Laguna Beach, Calif. He has big aspirations for where he wants to take the family owned company, but for now is getting used to being a senior manager as a Millennial overseeing a 120-vehicle fleet plus a large staff.
That’s what I got from asking the simple question, “What’s your story?”
There has been a wave of negativity in this industry if you haven’t noticed. The game has changed and many operators are frustrated. We understand change happens to all industries, but having to own buses has complicated things for many. Diversification means a more scientific approach to cost versus usage. That means figuring out how to make maximum profits with varying types of vehicles while selling and serving in new ways to new industries. I get it.
But I want you to think about this young man’s story and remind yourself you have it in you to focus on solutions, not problems. Get unstuck by tasking your team for ideas. Fight burnout by spending more time being creative. You are the company you keep, and misery hates to be alone. So move away from those energy vampires. We are in a great and ever evolving transportation market, and its spoils will go to the victors!