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by Sarah E. Needleman | March 10, 2009


Dave Beckman is the top sales executive at Five Point Capital Inc., and every one of his roughly 200 colleagues at the San Diego company can tell, just by looking out at their office parking lot. For the past two years, the 27-year-old's midnight-blue, 2006 Porsche 911 has rested prominently during work hours in the spot closest to the equipment-leasing company's main entrance -- a perk the company awarded him for his strong performance.

"I like knowing that everyone sees my car and that it's there for a reason," says Mr. Beckman, a senior account executive. "It's a reminder every morning that I'm the No. 1 sales rep."

For those who drive to work, the spot where your vehicle sits during the workday can say a lot about your company status and day-to-day job satisfaction. Some employers reward top performers with spots closest to office entrances, while others reserve such spaces for senior managers. Some office parking lots have a first-come, first-served policy, though there may not be enough spots to meet demand, leading to a scrum for choice spaces.

Mike Brunker, a projects editor at, which shares a campus with Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash., says he tries to be a "close parker" by leaving for work every morning around 7 a.m. "I usually can get a spot about 100 feet from the elevator," he says, ensuring a shorter walk while lugging the many items he brings from home -- a laptop, papers and fruit snacks. "The closer I get to the elevator, the better I am," he says.

By contrast, Matt Heinz goes out of his way to park far from the main entrance to his employer's building in Kirkland, Wash., to work off some calories. "Every step counts," says the 30-year-old senior director of marketing at HouseValues Inc., a marketing-services company for real-estate agents. "When I park at the end of the lot, it's about 400 steps from my car to the door. That's 800 steps each day, back and forth."

Sales executive Gregory Choy at Benecard Services Inc. says he doesn't mind parking far from the entrance to his Lawrenceville, N.J., office as long as he finds a space at the end of a row. By resting his black Nissan right up against the edge, he can allow for enough room between his car and one parked on the other side to avoid a potential dent caused by a co-worker's passenger door.

Until recently, getting the same spot every morning was Peter Dowling's goal when he arrived at Jefferson Wells International's Norwalk, Conn., office lot around 7:30 a.m. "I liked the predictability of it because I didn't have to think," he says. But starting today, he'll be parking his tan 2006 Toyota 4Runner at a train station near his home to catch a ride to Manhattan for his new job as a business-development manager at a large accounting firm. Mr. Dowling doesn't expect to nab a regular space now that he's parking in a public lot, though he's used to such disappointment. He says he recalls several times at his former job when he found "his space" to be occupied. "It was a prime spot," he says. "I was upset when I didn't get it."

Most days Emily Davidson walks a mile-and-a-half to work at Inc. in San Francisco to avoid having to vie for one of just four spots open to the personal-finance company's 17 employees. The communications director's only other option is street parking, where a two-hour limit is strictly enforced, she says, leading to several trips to move the car.

Many companies reserve spaces for their top brass, though they're not always used. Twelve spots allocated for top managers at MSW Research Inc. are frequently vacant during work hours, says Hal Spielman, the research firm's chief executive officer. "By the nature of our business, it's not unusual for people to have meetings that take them out of the office," he says. "My space may be empty for two or three days if I'm out of the country."

The Lake Success, N.Y., company employs about 70 other professionals who must park their vehicles anywhere else in the lot, which is shared by several companies in the area. "You can't accommodate everybody," says Mr. Spielman.

In addition to empty spaces, Mr. Spielman says he often notices several cars with Mets stickers on their bumpers parked next to each other in his office's lot. Another cluster of vehicles, apparently owned by Yankees fans, is nearby. Sometimes cars with no baseball affiliation take up spots in-between and break the pattern, he says. Unsure to whom the cars belong, Mr. Spielman says the pattern amuses him whenever he looks out his office window.

Adding to the parking challenge is that space is limited in most major cities, says Will Van Dyke, a project manager who specializes in designing lots for Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. in its Chicago office. Building a lot from scratch can cost between $2,000 and $45,000, depending on whether it's underground, several levels high or is in an open space that requires landscaping, he says.

Designating some spots for strong performers may be a simple way to improve employee satisfaction and generate healthy competition, says Paula Marks, a vice president at executive-search firm Gilbert Tweed Associates Inc. in New York. "Noncash benefits are what a company can do to let people know they have added value without ruffling the feathers of others," she says. "Often times, it's the psychic gratification that makes people feel really good."


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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