Lessons from Entrepreneurial Leaders | Featuring C. Perry Griffith III
C. Perry Griffith III (aka PG3) joined Denison Parking, his family’s business, as Senior Vice President in 2017 after more than a decade in banking and management consulting. The strategy execution firm, BTS, worked with 55 of the Global Fortune 100 companies, and Perry’s experience with senior leadership teams at Microsoft, Accenture, AT&T, and others trained him to seek out diversity of thought and opinion.
BKB: Tell us about Denison Parking. What’s your story, your mission?
PG3: We’ve been a family-owned business since the 1930s. Originally, the family owned the Denison Hotel, a downtown Indianapolis landmark. Along the way it was decided to tear it down and turn the site into parking for the newly prolific form of transportation – automobiles. Denison has a history of innovating whether it be building one of the first self-park facilities in the country, or on the original namesake site offering parking and full service experiences– car wash, tire changes, and the like – for the neighboring legal and medical buildings visitors while your car was parked.
BKB: Talk about innovation! How has your purpose changed since then?
PG3: Today we are a 650-person organization across nine states with approximately 150 locations. We’ve cultivated a familial-like culture, in part due to the fact that we are still a family business, but beyond that it is something our team values a great deal. What’s evolved in our industry is how people access parking. We can probably all recognize that parking is never the objective. It’s an intermediate step. Our mission is to help our customers get to their end destination with a high-quality experience. It could be self-serve parking, valet, or even shuttle services. Ultimately, Denison offers transportation solutions that become a bridge, and an experience all its own.
BKB: How do you maintain a family feel within such a widespread organization?
PG3: First of all, it starts with the rich legacy of employees we have had over our 80 years of operation and the intentional hiring we do today. As an organization we’re really focused on hospitality. This resonates internally with our people and externally with our customers. We talk about our company values: uncompromising integrity (we own our outcomes), exceptional quality (what we do we do well), transparent communication (we respect one another), and acting with courage (we are brave). And we emphasize our mission: Denison Parking is committed to creating quality transportation solutions.
BKB: What platforms do you use to reach your team?
PG3: One thing we know is that you can never communicate enough! There’s a saying the former COO of Microsoft, Kevin Turner, used to share that it takes at least seven times to hear something before it really sinks in. The communication channels we’re using right now include a monthly corporate newsletter (crowd-sourced articles written by our own people); regular virtual town halls (focused on training and development, knowledge sharing and file transfers through Microsoft Teams); an annual conference for managers (we bring everyone to Indianapolis for training and alignment); and more recently, focused ideation through small V-teams –virtual teams– that come together to tackle a problem, devise a solution, present to leadership or peers, implement, and then disband.
BKB: What challenges have you and the company faced since you’ve returned home?
PG3: One thing that comes to mind is succession planning, identifying and supporting the next level of leadership. We were demographically an aging company, and like many companies, not much bench strength planning had occurred over the last decade. In the last few years, we’ve implemented a few things, including a more intentional system of employee evaluation, to identify future managers and leaders. This has made it important for managers to do regular 1:1s with their people to coach and support their team’s growth. We’ve launched an annual employee survey to be proactive with communication, and have started using the Performance Climate Survey to measure how we’re doing holistically. We’ve found that by combining accountability at the corporate and individual levels, we’re building a strong foundation for emerging leaders.
BKB: What else do you think about when it comes to leadership?
PG3: It’s easy to become insular. It’s important to continue to sharpen your skills and perspectives. Don’t be too focused on your own industry. Disruption often comes from outside. Pay attention to trends of unrelated industries because something there might impact you. Apply those learnings. And focus on what you do well.
Learn more about Denison Parking’s values at www.denisonparking.com/values. And join us next time for Jacob Houk, President of Hays + Sons.Back to Blog