The Wilhelm File Featured

9:18am EDT July 16, 2004
Born: 1954, Chicago

Education: Graduate school in city and regional planning, undergraduate degree in geography and environmental studies, Northeastern Illinois University

First job: Stock boy in the men's underwear department at Sears & Roebuck on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago (sophomore in high school during the summer)

Jobs: City of Chicago's department of planning and development (while attending graduate school) -- "I was responsible for improving some of Chicago's commercial business strips."

Chicago Department of Aviation -- "My last job at the department of aviation was the assistant commissioner responsible for operations of O'Hare, Midway and Meigs Field in Chicago. I hired Standard Parking when I was working at O'Hare to help address some of the parking problems with the O'Hare garage. I met Myron Warshauer (owner of Standard Parking) and his group then, and when we finished the job we set out to do at O'Hare, I went to work for Myron."

Vice president for operations at Standard Parking; senior vice president of operations executive vice president for operations in 1998 (following merger); in 2000, named president; in 2001, named CEO and a director

Boards: Past chairman of the Des Plaines Planning Commission; Athletic Fundraising committee of St. Viater High School; member, Executives' Club in Chicago; member, Urban Land Institute; member, National Parking Association

Resides: Mount Prospect

What is the greatest business lesson you've learned? I've learned the most important skill I've developed is team-building. In my mind, the key to our company's success, and any personal success that Myron (Warshauer) and I might have had developing the business, has been by the team that we put together. I know it's a clich answer, but it works for me.

I've found that surrounding myself with people with really diverse backgrounds who don't all agree on every issue serves the company and myself very, very well. And over the years, whether it was when I was working at O'Hare on the airports or trying to build and turn around Standard Parking, that any success that we had was by virtue of putting a solid team together.

I've been very fortunate to have selected the right people to work with me.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it? How do you take the passion that you have for delivering our product - in terms of insisting on excellence to separate us from the competition -- and originally applying that passion to 40 locations here in Chicago to, ultimately, 1,960 locations in 200 cities across the country? That certainly has been the most difficult challenge that we've faced as a team -- how do you get 300 senior managers and a team of 20 vice presidents and senior vice presidents passionate about delivering the product.

The key to our instituting that culture and that passion here in the United States and up in Canada has been a constant education system about what metrics we look at, a constant focus on Standard University and a delivery of excellence, and a constant stream of communication that emanates from my office in terms of our newsletter and communiqus that talk about the insistence on the product.

That, by far, has been the most challenging issue for us in growing the company the way we have.

Whom do you admire most in business and why? The person I admire most, even from a business sense, is my dad. My dad did not have the benefit of a high school education. He went to work on the back of a milk truck when he was a freshman in high school. He took that foundation and became a mid-level manager with one of the country's largest grain companies, and he did that by virtue of his work ethic.

At the time that he was working on the milk truck, to having three jobs when he first married my mom, he taught my brothers and me that the most important thing was working hard and being respectful of those people around you. The most important issue -- team-building -- came from my dad.

And whether it was lessons that he taught me in Little League -- in being there in terms of coaching and being around and teaching me the importance of being on a team and playing in team sports, and then, ultimately, how you treat people as you rise in business and enjoy successes and suffer through failures with a team -- all stems from my dad.

Some of those lessons he taught me as he tried to build a professional career without a lot of background. To this day, I'm thankful for those lessons that he taught me.