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IAM1916 – Co-Founder Enables Innovation of Parking Facilities

Podcast Interview with Jerry Skillett

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode, the guest speaker is Jerry Skillett, the Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of SPACES.

Key Points:

SPACES: SPACES is a revolutionary technology services company that enables parking facilities to serve as innovative commercial transportation centers.

About Jerry Skillett: With more than 35 years of experience as an industry executive and innovator, Skillett provides SPACES with strategic guidance and visionary leadership. He has a rich history in the parking industry. Prior to founding SPACES, Skillett was the CEO of Citizens Parking, one of the largest parking companies nationwide where he supervised 1,200 locations, 8,000 employees, and 320,000 parking spaces across the United States and Puerto Rico.

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Jerry Skillett 00:00

Never, never, never give up, right? I had been a mountain climber. I was in the Ironman World Championship. And the thing is that I think I've climbed some of the tallest mountains in the world and some of these trips have been three, four weeks to get to the summit.

Intro 00:21

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless Values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:48

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast, and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on innovation, disruption, women entrepreneurship, DEI, gig economy, remote economy, even the cannabis industry. Think about these industries and these disruptive technologies that really sometimes aren't as disruptive but there are people that are just paying attention to what the market needs, and they're providing that. So really think about the things that are quote and quote outside of the norm, but really help entrepreneurship to grow and fully develop.

I think it's an extremely exciting time when we're talking about any type of innovation or disruption, because I think that there are so many opportunities and needs that aren't felt that are starting to be filled by different groups, different organizations, or even different industries. So what I want you to do is sit back and enjoy this special CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Jerry Skillett of Spaces. Jerry, it's great to have you on the show.

Jerry Skillett 02:12

Hey, Gresh. It's just such a privilege to be here. Thank you for the invite.

Gresham Harkless 02:15

Yeah, super excited to have you on and super excited about all the awesome things that you're doing. Before we jumped into the interview, I wanted to read a little bit more about Jerry so we can hear about some of those awesome things.

Jerry is the Executive Chairman and co-founder of Spaces, a revolutionary technology services company that enables parking facilities to serve innovative commercial transportation centers.

With more than 35 years of experience as an industrial executive and innovator, Jerry provides spaces with strategic guidance and visionary leadership. Prior to Spaces, Jerry was CEO of Citizens Parking, one of the largest parking companies nationwide. During his tenure, it's major brands encompass 1200 locations, 8,000 employees and 32,000 parking spaces across the United States and Puerto Rico.

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Jerry super excited to hear about all the awesome things you're doing, the massive growth you've been able to have. Are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

Jerry Skillett 03:06

I am ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:07

Awesome. Let's do it then. So to kick everything off. I know I touched on it a little bit, but what I wanted to do is just rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started. What I call your CEO story.

Jerry Skillett 03:18

Thank you. When I graduated from Kansas University way before you were born in 1981, I actually answered this ad for a management position in Kansas City, and it ended up being a valet parking management job at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City. I'll never forget my, I managed the valet parking for the hotel.

My hours were from 3 to midnight. My days off were Monday and Tuesday. And that's how I got introduced and started in the whole parking industry.

Gresham Harkless 03:55

Nice. I absolutely love that. So I love that you rewound that clock because I think we start to see I imagine, like, all that experience and how that probably even builds up to everything you've been able to build now.

Jerry Skillett 04:05

Thank you. It really does. I think that one of the huge advantages that I've had is that I started in this industry really from the very, very basic positions, worked my way up in, in some major corporations, held about every job that you can think of in the industry. And so when I started buying companies, managing companies and doing those things, I actually knew the business from the very, very, intimate details of what was going on.

I think that later it served me. Took some time, but it really, really was helpful. Yeah.

Gresham Harkless 04:43

There's the saying, the secret to the overnight success is it takes 10 years. And I think so many times what's glamorized is the opposite side where it takes 10 days or 10 minutes, and that's very, very rarely the truth. A lot of times, even if it does take 10 minutes, quote and quote, sometimes people have so much success or at least people around them that help them to achieve that success.

So I love that. I love hearing that story.

Jerry Skillett 05:06

I was fortunate the founder of the company I started with, his name was Monroe Carol with central parking. And at the time I joined the firm, it was just a regional parking company. His vision was to be a global company, the largest parking company in the world.

From when I started, that seemed like an impossible dream, but he actually did achieve it. And there were a group of us that grew with that, and that really was the DNA of our industry and in my DNA. So it was great to be an alumni of that organization.

Gresham Harkless 05:46

Yeah, absolutely. I know I touched on it about spaces and everything you're doing there. Could you take us through a little bit more on what you're doing and how you support the clients you work with?

Jerry Skillett 05:53

Yeah, so, Spaces, it's pretty an amazing technology. What we do is from the mobile device from inside your car you can enter, park, pay and exit any gated parking facility. And what's so revolutionary about this is that, as the power of mobile technology has gotten so good that now the actual hardware necessary to do all that is actually yourself. So we have it set up where you actually dial, what's interesting is that we simplified this process. What you actually do is you dial a phone number.

Every parking facility has its own phone number that accesses the gate. The gate opens, you receive a text message. In return, you set up your payment profile, which is the two-step process, and then when you exit, you dial a number to get out that bypasses hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and it simplifies this process to something that everyone knows how to do. Everyone knows how to dial a number. And you know what? They've been doing it since they've been seven years old, and they're really, really good at it.

So we just simplified a very difficult process, and made it easier. That's what we did.

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Gresham Harkless 07:25

Yeah. And I think so many times people don't realize you have to work at getting to simple. A lot of times is really why I love everything about your experience, because I think so many times you don't realize, like, all the different moving parts that you have to do the other way.

But once you start to see minutia, for lack of a better term that you have to go through, you have that opportunity to create an innovation that makes it so simple that people are already probably doing it. They just need to now use it to get into those places that we want to park.

Jerry Skillett 07:52

Yeah. So what we found, we tested for months and months, lots of different things, but we really had to have an Atlas environment because in transportation, think about it, to have someone download something to access a parking facility is super difficult to do. Because you're actually in an active vehicle and in an active transportation mode, so you can't have someone at a garage entrance downloading something to access the parking facility.

So, we really challenged ourselves to say, okay what's something that on an app list basis, could we do and, brilliantly really we leveraged the primary purpose of mobile technology, was always dialing a phone number. And so if you think about it, our native app, if you want to call it that, is in 99. 9% of all vehicles right now. So, that's unheard of, right? So we found it to be easy for people to understand and use. And yeah, we laugh. We just made something simpler and that ends up being revolutionary.

Gresham Harkless 09:15

Would you consider that to be what I like to call your secret sauce? The thing you feel sets you apart and makes you unique. Is it that ability to have that experience and see the simplicity within the complex?

Jerry Skillett 09:24

Yeah. I think that there are two things, one is that I think you'll continue to hear our story because no other payment platform, if you think about it, single platform exists like this, where we are installed base is already 99% or more, right? That's unheard of for a business to start off like that. So that's been interesting. The second thing is that we took the whole parking industry and reduced it to something just ridiculously simple, the mobile number and all of the advantages and efficiencies and things that come from that, we discover new things every single day.

And so, that's the secret sauce. I think that anytime that probably the ultimate sophistication really is when you made it simple, behind the scenes there's a whole bunch of stuff going on. But number one all they see is the fact that you can dial a number or call the number from Siri or whatever you need to do, and everybody knows how to do that.

Gresham Harkless 10:38

Absolutely. I love that, and I think that's a good sign of a good innovation and a good company where there probably are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes, but the user itself doesn't actually see that or know that and thinks it's wickedly simple. I think that's a good sign of being in the right place.

So, I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Jerry Skillett 11:02

I think personally I spend a lot of quiet time early in the morning. I'm an early riser. I'm a farm boy from Kansas. We all knew how to get up at 5a.m. to do chores. But that quiet time every single day, it's an hour, I think it really sets the stage for me to be prepared. I think as a CEO, there are two things I do. Of course, I get up early, but I really think in the opposite spirit.

When I say that innovation usually is the world is sitting over here. So I'm always thinking what's the opposite of that? And that is very challenging in your mind to do that. And you ask, opposite questions, you start looking at things differently that way. I think that really makes a difference. The other thing is that those around me laugh because I'm the first person that always runs into the burning house. And if I see friction, I see things like that, I know that is where I'm supposed to go because the answers always lie in that.

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I think that's very opposite of what people do. People avoid those scenarios. They try to compromise around those. But when those show up, I always move towards those and really great stuff happens when you do that.

Gresham Harkless 12:38

Absolutely appreciate that hack. I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. This could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something, if you were to hop into a time machine, you would tell your younger business self.

Jerry Skillett 12:49

Never, never, never give up. I have been a mountain climber. I was in the Iron Man World Championship. And the thing is that I think I've climbed some of the tallest mountains in the world and some of these trips have been three, four weeks to get to the summit. About day 10, everybody you're climbing with Gresh goes, jerry this doesn't look like the brochure. It's harder, the conditions are worse, you're tired and all those things, but one step, one slow step at a time towards that goal that you have, you eventually get there.

And then if you really relish that process and understand that actually you weren't going to be transported from here to the top, you actually have to walk all the way. If you just know that I just need to make a little bit of progress every day, then amazing things happen and I have lived that over and over again and as you learn it, you get better at it. I have written my son this very, very letter, but I was just like, look, just really, persevere. Just keep one step at a time, keep that goal in mind, and you're going to have just an astonishing life.

Gresham Harkless 14:13

So, I would ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're opening out different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So Jared what does being a CEO mean to you?

Jerry Skillett 14:23

Being a CEO to me means the buck stops here. And,  Gresh, I grew up on a ranch. One of the things I learned is that when I would move cattle out on the ranch, I would lead from behind when there was no danger and let them run. But when there's danger, I would move to the front and then people would follow me. And so, as strange as it seems, I've learned as a CEO, when there's danger, you move to the front.

When there's not, you let them run. And that's it, man.

Gresham Harkless 14:59

Jerry, truly appreciate you for doing that. Appreciate your time as well. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get ahold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working through.

Jerry Skillett 15:13

Absolutely. Look, it's been a pleasure. Our website for Spaces, is spacesusa.com. You can find out about us. And now I don't think you'll ever think about parking the same and realize that, over the next two or three years, you'll see that we'll be in 90% of the facilities in the United States.

So what a pleasure to be here and I thank you.

Gresham Harkless 15:35

Absolutely a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for the mentorship and insight that you provide and continue to provide. I truly appreciate it. I know everybody listening does as well. So we will definitely have the links and information in the show notes as well too, so that everybody can get ahold of you and find out where they're going to be texting in the next couple of years as well, too.

So, Jerry, truly appreciate you again, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 15:56

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast, powered by CB Nation in Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation@blue16media.com.

This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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