Through the Ranks: Nick Schloesser

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“When I go out in the field and work a valet shift I feel rewarded when I go home. Customer service is something that I really enjoy doing deep down.”

 

Meet Nick Schloesser, our Western Massachusetts Regional Manager. Nick manages roughly 100 employees, including 10 Location Supervisors. In addition to overseeing the daily operations of the region, Nick is responsible for creating the region’s schedule and handling Special Events within the region. He came to VPA in the beginning of 2006 as a valet attendant, fresh out of college. Recently, we sat down with Nick to share the story of how he turned his entry-level valet job into a career in management.

What were some of the locations you were working at when you first started?

I started at Baystate Medical Center. I really got along with everybody that I was working with at Wesson and Daly and I worked there pretty consistently. I was regularly at Bay State during the week and working the Delaney House on a Friday night. Eventually I was able to kind of manage Wesson here and there when the regular manager was on vacation. The recognition made me feel good about the job.

So from there were you able to start taking on even more responsibilities?

I really started taking on more responsibility once I moved to Albany, when we started valet service for St. Peter’s Hospital. I started here in January 2006 and in September, 9 months later, I was on my way to Albany. I kind of wanted a change of scenery and this was a good opportunity.

So you were part of that start-up crew?

Brian [Hiltpold, Capital New York Regional Manager] and Micky Dumais [Worcester area major account manager] went out there probably a month before I got there. We had originally started working with St. Peter’s doing their employee shuttling, and we did such a great job with that that they wanted us in there for the valet. So when that started I was there for day one of valet. Eventually I grew into an Assistant Manager role over at St. Peter’s.

Where did you go from being the Assistant Manager at St. Peter’s?

I was out in Albany for four years. I was kind of hanging around for Albany Medical Center because we were promised that we were going to be starting there and that actually ended up being a while. We started with the shuttle service at Albany Medical Center and were anticipating adding valet service as well. That started in ’09 and I was a manager over there for about a year. I came back to Springfield January 1st, 2010. I wasn’t unhappy with anything in Albany. I was making great money and I was working with great people. I just wanted to be back home and go back to school.

Once you returned to Western Massachusetts, what type of role were you able to settle into after gaining some managerial experience in Albany?

When I came back there wasn’t really any place for me to go. I was kind of bouncing around and managing Wing when Jacob [Johnson, Wing Hospital Manager] had a day off, and managing Bay State when Greg or Jay had a day off…. But I was doing weekend managing and Bay State Lot managing. I didn’t really have a home until I started managing Wing full-time, which was probably 10 months after I came home, in late 2010. I was at Wing for almost a year. I became Regional Manager in June 2011. It was a little bit of a rough start. This isn’t the easiest region to take over. Obviously we started here. We’ve been doing it for years. As time went on I started absorbing more of the responsibilities, the schedule, etc.

When you started here you were working at some of our older accounts, Wesson, Delaney House… Talk about some of the changes and expansion that you’ve seen the company go through since then.

When I started we all had to wait by the fax machine at Wesson for our schedule to come out, which was hand-written. Shortly after I started, the online scheduling program came out, which is an amazing piece of software. It can do so much. Obviously the growth that we’ve had since I started here; we were probably at 100 employees and now we’re at 600. That’s something. We had Bay State and UMASS in Worcester and some Restaurants and the Mountains in Vermont, and that was as big as we were. Now we’re all the way to Buffalo and down to the Bronx. The company has really streamlined everything, communication. The Franklin Covey system has made a big improvement. Working in Albany for as long as I did, it was hard to stay up to date on what was going on here in Western Massachusetts. For a short time we didn’t have the newsletter, which I missed and I think a lot of people did, too. The newsletter is definitely a great way to keep everybody on the same page. We were doing something called the Weekly Spotlight where Tim Duval would send out a quick email every weekend, a compliment we got or something. But the newsletter is great. My 4dx [My 4 Disciplines of Execution] is great. The expansion within the office is definitely great. When I started we had maybe four to six people in the office. Now it’s much larger. It helps out as a whole. It frees up a lot of time.The administrative staff takes a huge burden off of not only the regional managers but the directors of the company. That helps to keep the company moving in the right direction.

Nick (far right) pictured with other VPA Regional Managers and company executives. (Back row: Tim Duval, Director of HR; Allen Klinger, CT Regional Manager; Tim Graney, VP of Operations; Angela Chagnon, Senior VP of Operations; Ted Chagnon, President; Nick Schloesser, Western MA Regional Manager. Front: Nolan Skower, former Eastern MA Regional Manager; Brian Hiltpold, Albany Regional Manager; Jeff Sosnowich, Central MA Regional Supervisor.)

Nick (far right) pictured with other VPA Regional Managers and company executives at the incorporation of the Franklin Covey system. (Back row: Tim Duval, Director of HR; Allen Klinger, CT Regional Manager; Tim Graney, VP of Operations; Angela Chagnon, Senior VP of Operations; Ted Chagnon, President; Nick Schloesser, Western MA Regional Manager. Front: Nolan Skower, former Eastern MA Regional Manager; Brian Hiltpold, Albany Regional Manager; Jeff Sosnowich, Central MA Regional Supervisor.)

Can you talk about your personal progression that resulted from your growth within the company, going from valet, to assistant manager, to regional manager? What were some of the steps that you took to work your way up?

The number one thing that I look for when I’m moving my own staff up, and what I feel like was recognized within me, is you have to have leadership potential. I can recognize it easily. It was recognized in me. You have to have a good work ethic. I worked for somebody who has the best work ethic I’ve probably ever seen, Ted [Chagnon, President of VPA]. That’s something that I think every manager recognizes in his employees and feels that was recognized within him.

Did you face any challenges during your progression throughout these different roles?

As much as we try to get a handbook for this kind of stuff, there are some situations that are going to come up that we just don’t have any training for. Sometimes you’ve just got to wing it and do what makes sense and learn your way as you go. If any of my team gets stuck, they call me and I’m usually able to take care of it. If it’s something I’ve never seen before, I’ll call Tim Graney [VP of Operations] or Tim Duval [Director of Human Resources]. You still have somebody a little more experienced over you. And if I need to get a hold of the president of the company, I can. That’s really important. But you roll with it as you go and you learn your way. You can’t prepare for everything in one orientation or reading the handbook. You just kind of get out there and see what’s going on and figure out the best way to run your account. As you have problems, deal with them the best you can and if you don’t feel like you’re able to deal with them the right way, you always have somebody there to support you.

In dealing with different situations that you weren’t prepared for and having to come up with a solution on the spot, what motivated you to overcome those obstacles and continue your progression?

I’m a pretty competitive person so I see any kind of challenge as an opportunity to improve myself and gain more experience. I want to learn from everything I can. I want to be that guy that people can call and know what’s going on and what to do.

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Have you had any rewarding experiences or accomplishments, whether as a valet or a manager, that stand out?

When I go out in the field and work a valet shift I feel rewarded when I go home. Customer service is something that I really enjoy doing deep down. I get a little pent up when I’m sitting here in the office on my computer and on the phone. When I go home from being in the office all day I definitely won’t feel as rewarded as I do if I go home from working an actual valet shift. I think that’s something that nobody gets away from; good customer service. You don’t have to do anything major like push somebody out of the way that’s about to get run over, but just helping somebody out and getting them a wheelchair and taking time to show them that you’re there to care for them. You can see people recognize that when you come across them. There are times where I went above and beyond and went out of my way to help somebody out, but even just doing something simple for them makes me feel rewarded.

What do you like most about working for VPA?

The camaraderie, the family feel. I grew up with some of these guys. We’re definitely a family here. I like the job, even at its basic level. I like what I’m doing now. I like that I’ve been able to constantly get a change of pace and a change of scenery. I think that makes everything seem fresh. The opportunity of starting a new account obviously freshens it up. Going to Nantucket over the summer was awesome. It’s always evolving. It’s always changing. I think that’s a good thing.

Nick (pictured second from right) enjoying the camaraderie of VPA at the 2011 USO "Friends of the Forgotten Heroes" Golf Tournament with coworkers Mike Arsenault, Jay Guzman, and Jose Guzman.

Nick (pictured second from right) enjoying the camaraderie of VPA at the 2011 USO “Friends of the Forgotten Heroes” Golf Tournament with coworkers Mike Arsenault, Jay Guzman, and Jose Guzman.

What advice would you give to a new employee who is interested in advancement opportunities?

You’ve got to stick with it. Things aren’t always going to happen when you’re ready for them, but if you continue to show a strong work ethic, as soon as an opportunity comes along it will be there for you. It was frustrating for me when I came back to Springfield and didn’t really have much to do, but you just have to have patience. The company is going in the right direction. We’re getting more and more opportunities as opposed to less. That provides motivation to someone who’s looking to move up.

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A Summer On Nantucket Island

As spring winds down and the days get warmer, VPA prepares for the beginning of another great season on Nantucket Island, “The Faraway Island”. Between the long history, beautiful beaches, luxurious dining, and the quaint streets, this New England treasure is the place to be in the summer. We will be setting up our valet station downtown starting on June-September. To maintain the charming and picturesque feel that makes Nantucket so special, there aren’t many parking lots and there are no garages on the island. With thousands of visitors in the summer, parking becomes an issue. VPA’s valet service, conveniently located on Broad Street across from the Whaling Museum, provides an easy solution for visitors to enjoy their evening without the hassle of looking for parking.

Dan Caron, President Ted Changon, Jeff Belanger, and VP of Operations, Tim Graney at our downtown valet station

Rich Caron, President Ted Changon, Jeff Belanger, and VP of Operations, Tim Graney at our downtown valet station

Last year was our first year operating the town’s valet service. We sent over some of our senior employees to work this new account. Employees enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. Beach, sun, and waves; can’t beat a work location like that! Our employees came from all over our regions for the opportunity to stay in company-provided housing and work at Nantucket for summer.

Jeff Belanger and Henry Putnam at Galley Beach

Jeff Belanger and Henry Putnam at Galley Beach

We also provided valet service at one of the top restaurants on the island, Galley Beach. Restaurant guests enjoy the warm evenings overlooking the ocean while having their dinner. Providing valet service made it an even more pleasurable experience for the restaurant’s high-end clientele. Nantucket also makes for a luxurious wedding destination. Our private party valet service adds that extra measure of elegance for a Nantucket wedding.

We asked one of our employees, Henry Putnam, about his experience living on the island for a summer.

“Working on the island of Nantucket is a great summer experience, the work day starts at 5 and is usually done by midnight. The shifts are consistently busy so it goes by quickly.  In daytime there is plenty to do! Lots of nice beaches to visit and the days are beautiful, rarely humid or hotter than 85 degrees, most days are sunny and high 70s. The island has a vibrant young crowd with lots of fun people to meet, be it vacationers or other people working the summer on island. There is a live music venue, disc golf, bike trails and lots more. Absolutely take a bike, it’s a small island and a bike ride downtown is only 10 minutes, that said there are so many places to go! Lots of amazing scenery and best of all, no mosquitos!”

Some of our crew last year enjoying some downtime at the beach with President Ted Chagnon

Some of our crew last year enjoying some downtime at the beach with President Ted Chagnon

Johnny Inthaphiou, our Hartford Training Manager, spent some time last year working on the Island.  He shared with us his experience.

“My time in Nantucket was memorable to say the least. Being afforded the opportunity to work abroad as an ambassador for the company I wasn’t really sure what to expect. After a very short scenic ferry ride we arrived to the hustle and bustle of mid day activity in down town Nantucket. The atmosphere was filled with laughter and excitement while the air held scents of the surrounding saltwater and freshly prepared food.

The duration of my trip was filled with pleasant surprises. I was completely unaware of Nantucket’s rich history being at one point the whaling capital of the world. The cobblestone streets and the uniform construction of the houses with the cedar shingles almost takes you back to that point in time. The beaches were like that out of a pamphlet for an exclusive island getaway thousands of miles away. Sunsets had to be the island’s bread and butter, I’ve traveled to many corners of the world and would rate Nantucket high up on my list of beautifully preserved natural experiences.

The people are friendly, inviting strangers to sit and drink or play a game of sand bag toss or Frisbee. The food although has its pricey spots can be budgeted out to be fairly close to what you would expect to pay in a downtown area of any bigger city on the mainland.”

Whether you are visiting, living on the island, or working on Nantucket, it makes for a great and memorable summer. We are all excited for the 2013 season and can’t wait to see what is in store!

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We are currently hiring for our Nantucket account. If working at the beach for the summer, meeting new people, enjoying the outdoors, and earning some great extra cash interests you, apply at the following link. www.ValetParkofAmerica.com/employment.

Through the Ranks: Mike Prosciak

Mike Prosciak is the Operations Manager in the Springfield office of Valet Park of America. He started here as a valet in the late 1990s while he was in college and left the company after he graduated to pursue a career in finance. About two years ago he returned to VPA when the need for an Operations Manager arose. Mike has a great perspective to work with in the operations department since he has experience working in the field as a valet. Recently, we sat down with Mike to get the scoop on how he was able to progress through the ranks at VPA.

What is your current job title, and what you do for the company now?

Currently my title is Operations Manager, which would be nailing down the day to day operations on the actual function of certain accounts, whether it be valet or transportation, and going out getting accounts. I wear many different hats. I also work in client relations, employee relations, and quality control. Every day is a much different day. You never know what to expect.

How did you get started at the company? Did you start as a valet?

Yes, back in the late 90s, myself and Brian Hiltpold, who now is the Regional Manager of the Capital Region in New York and Vermont, were working at the Delaney House in Holyoke, Massachusetts valeting for them. Then Ted Chagnon [Owner of Valet Park of America] came in and actually got that account, so we started working at the Delaney House for Ted and VPA. From that point on we kind of grew with the company. I went from doing that to weekend manager and going around and checking on various work sites.

So you were working at the Delaney House internally as a valet?

Exactly. They did all their valet in-house. Ted was trying to expand his business and collaborated with the owner of the Delaney House to outsource their valet service through VPA.

From the Delaney House, did you start working at other locations?

Yes, I didn’t just do the Delaney House. I was doing Private Parties, working at the Yankee Peddler, Hotel Northampton, and Baystate Medical Center. Obviously it was much smaller then, but primarily in Western Massachusetts is where we would work.

Then you started getting into sales?

Yes. I kind of slowly learned the business. I learned about the customer service aspect, and one thing led to another. I had a good rapport with the company and I wanted to grow with them, so that was the next natural progression.

Mike in his valet days directing traffic at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, MA.

After that, I finished college and I did leave for five or six years. Brian Hiltpold who is my good friend stayed working here the whole time. As I mentioned he’s now a regional manager. So I kind of had ties with VPA that way. I always knew what was going on with the company. I knew they were doing well. I came back to VPA and in May it’ll be two years. I ran into Ted and it was kind of meant to be. One thing led to another and I came in here for a couple interviews and he offered me a position. I was excited to come aboard because it’s a growing company, as everyone can see. Every month we’re getting new accounts, which is great. He basically brought me on board to help with the growth and expansion of the company.

So it’s good that you have that insider perspective from starting off at the valet level and now working as an operations manager.

Yeah. In most businesses when people start at the entry level and work their way up they get to know every aspect of the business. Those are the ones that are most successful. Having been in the company for such a long time I know the customer service, the back of the house, the front of the house… a little bit of everything.

Are there any big changes that you’ve seen the company go through during your time here, as far as expansion, etc.? 

When I left back in the early 2000s they were still growing. I think they had maybe 200 employees then, and when I started I want to say there were probably 60 employees. So there was a lot of growth then. But it was amazing to see that we’re all over the Northeast now, with over 500 employees. It’s nice to see that with the clients that we are getting now, a lot of it is referrals because they’ve used our service in other places. We pride ourselves on customer service, that being the number one thing that we focus on as a business. That’s what I like about working with this company. It’s nice to see that other people recognize that. I think that’s why we’re so successful with getting referrals and why we continue to grow.

What were some of the steps you took towards progressing within the company? Were there any situations where you took initiative that helped you move up into the sales aspect?

I was always willing to go the extra mile. I’ve always been a pretty outgoing person. I worked in the restaurant business when I was younger. It basically takes hard work and determination. I like to try to do the best I can and whatever project I’m working on I try to get it done the best I can and help the company succeed in all their goals as well as my own. Since I’ve been back I’ve also taken most of our Leadership Development Courses, which are great, not only for me but for the up and coming future leaders of VPA.

Mike going the extra mile while assisting a customer at the Log Cabin.

Have you had any memorable or rewarding experiences during your employment with VPA? Any accomplishments within the company that you’re especially proud of, as a valet or a manager?

Just getting customer letters and feedback from people. Rochester General Hospital for instance, going up there and opening that account and getting positive feedback from the people we work for up there. That in itself is a great gratification, just to see your hard work pay off. And for all the guys who work there as well, to know they’re doing such a good job. I appreciate that. I work hard, they’re working hard, and everybody’s happy.

What are some things you like about working for VPA?

Every day is different for the position I’m in. I’m always doing something different. Every day is a surprise. I feel like you never know what you’re going to get, which I like. The other great thing is the company culture, which is fantastic. Everyone gets along outside of work. They get together, go out, have fun. That’s a nice thing to have. I think for some people the last thing they want to do when they leave work is hang out with anyone they work with, and that’s not the way it is here. The other thing I like about it is I get to travel a lot, too. It’s nice because I’m not behind the desk every day. Some days I’m in Western New York or on Nantucket Island… It has its pluses.

Mike Prosciak with his wife Carrie, current Regional Manager Brian Hiltpold, current VP of Operations Tim Graney, and Tim’s wife, Sue at Cara Mia’s, circa 2001.

What advice would you give to a new employee who is looking to be promoted within the company?

To be in this industry you’ve got to be customer-service driven. If you don’t like being around people and talking with people maybe you should look in a different direction. It takes hard work and being friendly and outgoing. You’ll go places, not only here, but in life in general.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It’s just been nice being back and seeing old faces. I’m excited about where the company is going and where we’re headed. I’m looking forward to being a part of that for years to come.

Yuriy Syromyatnyk, Beyond the Lot

Get a closer look at VPA’s October Employee of the Month

Hartford valet attendant, Yuriy Syromyatnyk, is the type of employee you want on your team. He was born in the Western Part of Ukraine in 1985 where he spent his childhood and the early part of his adult life. During his childhood, Yuriy enjoyed playing soccer, going to school and learning new things. He eventually took a liking to computers, and enjoyed spending time programming computers and various databases.

Yuriy graduated from Oriana High School in the Ukraine in 2002. He continued his education at the National University of Lviv Polytechnic for Metrologists, which; he explained, has nothing to do with the weather. Metrology is the study of measurement science, more specifically, the measurement of electricity comparing it to an American Electrical Engineer. He attended the University until 2008 when he left to come to the United States in 2009.

Yuriy  first resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for approximately two months. During that period of time he made a living by working construction. He eventually moved with his wife Olga to live with her sister in South Windsor, Connecticut. Yuriy applied to and was hired by Valet Park of America at Hartford Hospital in September of 2011. He indicates that he has learned many things working for VPA and he enjoys the people he works with.

He moved to Manchester, Connecticut where he continues to live with his wife. He currently attends Manchester Community College as well as Capitol College in Hartford where he is completing his general studies. He hopes to soon transfer his studies to Southern Connecticut State University where he plans to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Yuriy continues to enjoy the sport of soccer. He likes watching movies, going out to restaurants and sharing a couple of “Amstel Lights” with his friends. His favorite American food is “Buffalo Wings.” Yuriy plans on remaining in the United States of America, but hopes to someday live in a “Big City.”

As an employee, Yuriy is your “go to guy.” In October of 2012 he was respectfully named VPA’s October Employee of the Month. He is the type of employee that doesn’t work hard to receive praise but naturally has the dedication to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Yuriy’s co-worker that nominated him, Johnny Inthaphiou, submitted a very impressive nomination. He wrote, “Coming to this country with his wife supporting each other professionally and through their education, his motivation never falters, his mood is never swayed towards negativity. In my eyes as well as many others, Yuriy is the ultimate professional. Always willing to stay later or change his shift to facilitate site needs… Yuriy doesn’t just make it a pleasure for patients when they meet him during the duration of their stay in the hospital but he also improves the morale of the workers when they get to witness his never faltering work ethic.”

We are very proud to have Yuriy on our team and to award him Employee of the Month. His dedication to the customers and delivering a great service day after day makes him well deserving of this award. Great job, Yuriy!

VPA to Attend Job Fairs at Several Area Colleges

Valet Park of America jobs info table, with Now Hiring signs, company newsletters, application cards,
job descriptions, business cards, and free pens!

Valet Park of America is a great job for college students! We offer flexible hours and a willingness to work students’ job schedules around their class schedules. September is a busy time for us as many of our current employees who begin classes relinquish some of their work hours, while students coming into the area begin to search for employment opportunities while attending schools in our area. With these transitions happening, our HR team is especially busy. One of the ways we try to fill in the gaps left by employees who enroll in classes is by attending Fall Job Fairs. Many College Career Centers host job fairs where local employers can set up an information booth and interact with potential candidates. VPA will be traveling to several New England area colleges and Universities in the upcoming months in an effort to recruit students – and any other interested persons – to work as valet attendants at many of our busy locations.

Stop by our info table and ask how you can become part of our team
and receive one of these limited edition VPA Frisbees!

We have already had the pleasure of attending one such event on August 28th, at the Western New England University of Springfield, Mass – right near our corporate headquarters! Several of our current employees attend WNEU and we had the opportunity to meet some of their friends at the college, who expressed interest in working with their friends at a job they enjoyed. Members of our Human Resources team, HR Manager Mark Macero and HR Generalist Kelly Broderick, set up an info booth in the Rivers Memorial building on campus and handed out business cards, company newsletters, and online application cards, as well as VPA pens and Frisbees!

VPA Human Resources Manager, Mark Macero, ready to recruit some new candidates
at our jobs info table at WNEU – his Alma Mater!

It was a great opportunity to interact with motivated individuals who are looking to make a little extra money while attending school by working flexible hours in a fast-paced, teamwork-oriented environment. VPA would like to thank the staff at WNEU Career Services for allowing us to participate in the Job Fair, as well as the students for expressing interest in becoming an addition to our growing team!

Be on the lookout for a VPA table at your University’s next job fair!

VPA Launches New Brand

In 1990 Theodore Chagnon and Angela Chagnon started Valet Park of America in Springfield, MA.  The company began as a family run business servicing just a couple of restaurants.  Twenty two years later the company still operates with a family feel and has expanded into several states across the North East with over a hundred accounts and over 600 employees. VPA is proud to say our employees are our biggest asset.  Thank you to everyone who has helped us to build such a respected reputation.

Website

To bring us into a new era of growth, VPA partnered with a branding company to update our look.  This includes a new website, logo, slogan, and blog! VPA’s new website will highlight all of our capabilities with valet, transportation, parking management, and the numerous industries we serve.  Stay tuned! Our updated website will be launched within the next month.

“Driving You Forward”

We also implemented a new logo and slogan that will positively represent VPA. Our new slogan, “Driving You Forward”, exemplifies what we do for our clients day after day.  We are all working towards the same goal of delivering the best service for our clients, a service that will drive their business forward.

The Social World

Can’t get enough VPA news?  This new blog is a positive outlet to keep our clients, customers, and employees up to date with what is going on with the company.  We also actively use our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages to keep our communication and relationships strong.  Connect with us within these social media tools and keep up to date with the company!

To wrap up all of our changes, we created a message that embodies our VPA difference.

Our daily standard comes from a simple belief:

That attention to detail makes the difference.

A difference that drives us all,

More efficiently, more effectively, forward.

A difference which makes clear

That there’s no other way but the right way

Through preparation, process,

And a willingness to go beyond,

We make a moment, one of excellence,

And leave in its track, an impression that lasts.

 We are very excited to roll out this new look and share it with you!  Let us know your thoughts!