Archive for November, 2008

Marquee Hire & VAT

Monday, November 24th, 2008

With a VAT cut due today it seems sensible to talk about VAT when running a marquee hire business.

On a personal note I’m not sure a ‘2.5% sale’ on everything in the UK is going to make much difference but apparently we’re not allowed by our EU friends to go lower than 15%. Thanks. For. That.

Anyway, marquees.

If your turnover is under a set figure (I don’t know the exact figure but it’s around 67k at the moment though there’s also a quarterly limit that affects hire companies more) then you don’t have to register for VAT, if you don’t have to register then don’t. I’ve heard some people think it makes their company appear bigger than it is, and it does mean you can claim the VAT back from any purchases. However, if you’re not registered then you don’t have to charge VAT on your hire prices so you’ve automatically got a sizeable and vital discount on your competitors.
For those charging VAT make sure you put in your terms and conditions ‘VAT charged at current rate’. This covers you if the VAT goes up between taking the booking and your customer paying the balance. Generally we’d have advance notice of any increase (this 2.5% cut is only temporary remember) so any customer who’s paid you a deposit can opt to pay in full in advance and take the lower rate applicable at time of payment. Does that make sense?

Here’s an example:

Jane Jones is marrying John Smith in June 2010. They book a marquee with you that’s priced at £5k + VAT by paying a 20% deposit in November 2009 (£1000 + VAT at 15% = £1150).
It’s announced that VAT will go back up to 17.5% from 1st January 2010 onwards.

You write to Jane & John saying they can either pay the balance before 1st January 2010 and pay VAT at 15%, or they can wait until their wedding and pay VAT at 17.5% (you see how adding that note about ‘current rate of VAT’ in your terms and conditions has covered you here?).

either a) pay £4000 + 15% VAT = £4600 before 1st January 2010

or b) pay £4000 + 17.5% VAT = £4700 at the time of their wedding.
Writing to your customer with this gives you goodwill and might help your cashflow while also helping the customer. Win-win 🙂

Cash jobs:

As it’s the VAT man you’re evading I think this is worth mentioning here. No matter who you are you’ll be offered to drop the VAT for cash. We used to lose around 8% of our business by not accepting cash jobs.

  • They’re illegal
  • It’s you who’s taking all the risk, not the customer.

You save by not paying income tax & national insurance but personally I prefer to sleep at night and not worry about VAT inspections (which are unpleasant even when you’ve got nothing to hide). It’s up to you.
Lastly
Geoff from www.roustabout.info has been in touch in case anyone wants to hire or buy big top style tents. Always worth remembering in case you have a customer who wants something different to clearspans.

Presenting your marquee hire quotations

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Once again apologies for the screwed up fonts on some earlier posts. I’ve no idea how to fix them, I copy & pasted from Word and the blog doesn’t seem to like it in some browsers. I now write on here directly (spilling mistakes and all).

So, back to marquees.

Obviously we got most of our work by being charming, witty and handsome chaps when visiting customers 😉 Unbelievably some people weren’t bowled over by a flash of our pearly whites and actually wanted some substance to our lavish promises.

I talked before (and undoubtedly will again) about site visits so won’t cover that now, just assume that you’ve left a reasonable impression. Likewise if you’re supplying quotes over the phone without viewing the site, hopefully you’ve left on good terms and they’re now expecting a quote in the post.

1st rule –dont leave your customer waiting. We’d always send our quotes out the same day or the following day. Any longer than that (problems can occur) and we’d phone to let them know.

2nd rule –always send a quote 1st class. Trust me, it’s worth the extra few pence.

Presentation is key. Send your quote out folded in 4 to fit into a small envelope and it looks cheap and not easy to lay out and read.

We sent all of our quotes our using A4 envelopes in a blue presentation folder (we actually had these printed with our logo as well but they’ve become more expensive since then). We then included:

  • Two copies of the quote with terms and conditions on the back. The customer would sign one and send it back with 20% deposit.
  • Stamped addressed envelope back to us (this can be a small envelope)
  • Colour diagram laminated
  • photocopy of the diagram for customer to draw all over

Short of including a pen for them to sign it with we tried to think of everything, it looked very impressive and professional.

If you’re just starting out I’d suggest all of this is a bit much but bear it in mind for the future as you expand. To keep it simple I’d just send out the quotes in an A4 envelope and clip a small diagram (courtesy of our shiny new marquee planner) to the top -remember to cut off our name. That way you’re getting most of the benefit without most of the expense (presentation folders & laminator).

Finally if your printer can handle A4 envelopes I always think it looks better having printed addresses (though that’s more personal opinion).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee layout planner, photo gallery & place any new orders sharpish.

Monday, November 10th, 2008

As you may or may not have noticed our diy marquee website has changed slightly, we’ve added a few new features and improved on some old ones.

Marquee layout planner -this enables people to plan a marquee layout. It’s useful for people starting out to learn how much furniture they can fit into a marquee. It’s also useful for hire businesses who use it to send out with their quotes -design it, print it (right click, select ‘print’) cut out the required plan (cutting off the DIY Marquees bit at the bottom). It gives you a professional floorplan without having to buy expensive software.

New Photo gallery -shiny new gallery with plenty of new photos (many thanks to those who sent some in).

Our prices have also had to go up, anyone thinking of ordering get in quick (end of this week) and we’ll hold the old prices for you even if it’s something to be paid for and delivered early next year (although we don’t take a deposit we need the order in writing).
If anyone notices anything wrong anywhere on the website please do me a favour and tell me about it. Also if anybody thinks of new ideas or features for the planner send them over. I can’t promise anything but I’ll do my best -I can just about handle html but java & flash programming I struggle with a bit

Back to normal next week, after Xmas is normally a busy time for enquiries so i’ll write about presenting quotes etc (unless something else distracts me during the week).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee Heaters

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

If there’s one thing that you want to get right it’s heating, if people are cold it’ll ruin their night no matter what the marquee looks like.

So here are things to bear in mind with marquee heaters:

  • Always always use ones with a fan in, you need to be able to throw the heat around the marquee. Halogen heaters*, patio heaters, cabinet heaters, table heaters are all useless in a marquee. Indirect heaters and space heaters are the best.
  • Think about the layout of your marquee, heaters should be positioned near seating areas and pointing towards doors or anywhere heat will escape from. Don’t have them pointing towards a dance floor.
  • In April/May and September/October you will just need heaters to heat the marquee up before people arrive and at the end of the evening when the temperature drops
  • In Dec/Jan/Feb you need at least twice as many heaters to make sure it’s toasty all night. I always made sure there were enough heaters to make the marquee uncomfortably hot, that way you always know your customer is in complete control (assuming they’re all adjustable).
  • If there’s snow forecast make sure your customer knows to have the heaters on regularly to melt it off the roof. If it builds up that’s a lot of weight to be on top of your marquee. Even if it means you have to go out with more fuel it’s worth making sure no snow settles on your marquee.

It’s got to be said the ideal heaters are indirect ones, they’re large units that sit outside the marquee and are controlled by a thermostat so the customer has complete control. They can be powered by gas or diesel, we preferred gas as it’s easier but lots of people prefer diesel. The only problem is indirect heaters are very expensive.

Indirect heaters typically cost £1500 and hire out for £150-£200.
Space heaters cost £100-£200 and hire out for £50-£90 but they’re quite noisy, not incredibly child friendly (a grate stops anyone touching the flame) and give off water vapour when burning gas.
* Knowing we’d be busy with the showmans show I wrote this 3 weeks ago, since then I’ve been to Paris (on business -which sounds good but really it was just an excuse to see my brother in law) and eaten outside under a halogen heater. I’ll concede that maybe in small (3m/4m) draughtless marquees they may be useful to take the chill off. In winter I’d still go with a fan heater.
Thanks for reading
Spencer