Crains Detroit Business – 40 Under 40
Bryan Geoffrey’s roots in the parking business can be traced back to high school, where as part of a business marketing class he was assigned to create a business plan for a hypothetical parking company. He did it, and not long after graduating, while working an entry-level job in the parking business, decided to do it. So in 1995, he launched Universal Parking of America LLC.
His business plan was simple: Bring cheerful Disney-style service to the parking business, including a smiling greeting and goodbye for all customers. At first, it was primarily a valet service for private events, then restaurants and banquet halls. That eventually led to country clubs, hospitals, condos and now high-end car dealerships.
It’s turned into much more of a hospitality company, he said.
It nearly didn’t.
In 2005, Universal lost its largest account, the Detroit Medical Center (which was later regained). Revenue dropped to $1.8 million the following year.
We weren’t going to go out of business, but there’s never anything pleasant about taking a step back, Geoffrey said.
Geoffrey and his staff reorganized the company and rolled out software that manages parking and valet services, which was developed by Ali Alomari, now Universal’s executive vice president. The software proved to be the game-changer. It allowed Universal to keep track of every vehicle, every penny and every minute spent on a particular parking account — and it started producing new revenue for clients who previously used scraps of paper to run their day-to-day parking businesses.
For example, when St. Joseph Mercy Oakland implemented Universal’s software to track billable attendant hours, the number of vehicles parked and revenue collected, the hospital was able to add $50,000 in annual parking-related revenue, a 300 percent increase.
Today, Universal manages about 70 parking facilities in five states. It runs parking garages and surface lots at hospitals, car dealerships, condos and mixed-use developments, and does parking for special events. Universal manages all parking for the William Beaumont and St. John hospital systems and the Detroit Institute of Art.
Universal typically provides lot services to upscale dealerships such as for Mercedes, BMW, Land Rover and Lexus, but also chains such as AutoNation. It has nearly 600 employees and a revenue projection for this year of $10 million.
We reinvented those first and last impressions, Geoffrey said.
We’re in the hospitality business, it just happens to involve parking cars.
by: Bill Shea
Crains Detroit Business