Archive for the ‘marquee hire advice’ Category

Look after your back

Monday, April 6th, 2009

In the world of road sweeping the motto is “look after your broom”. In the world of marquees it’s “look after your back” (anyone who hasn’t heard Trigger’s quote before do yourself a favour and put off starting up a marquee hire business until you’ve gone and watched every episode of only fools and horses!).

This is something I know a fair bit about as the only reason I’m now in Marquee sales is because I ‘retired hurt’ from Marquee hire with a back injury.

Does this happen with everyone? Certainly not! I’ve got friends who’ve been putting up marquees for 20-30 years with little or no problem. But it’s certainly something you have to keep in mind as keeping fit keeps the income.

In my experience the number of things you get told to help your posture and avoid a bad back is just one endless list that everyone’s keen to follow but then if you break one you just think sod it, I’ll ignore all of them. I’m no doctor, I’ve just suffered more than most with back problems so here’s my list of pointers that hopefully are realistic for your everyday marquee erector:

  • Ever wondered why golfers stick their back leg out when they’re getting their ball of of the hole? It’s because it reduces the strain on their back. When you go round picking up pegs/nails/whatever stick your leg out when bending over. If what you’re picking up is heavy then crouch down keeping your back straight and bending only your knees – this is the rule broken by just about anyone who hasn’t suffered from a bad back!
  • If you’re reasonably tall don’t drive a pick-up truck. Look at the seating position – your backside is about 4″ off the floor, just think how curved your back is to cope with that! Compare that with a transit van or a Land Rover where the high seat makes you sit far more upright. I’m speaking from experience, I used to own a pick-up that I’d have to fold myself out of after an hours drive. With a land rover I can hop out no matter how long the journey.
  • Sit back in chairs and sofas, don’t slouch
  • When lifting a heavy object (marquee roofs for example) keep it hugged close to the body rather than over one shoulder. Also try to avoid twisting when lifting as this seems to be the worst thing for your back. You often hear about people twinging their back when getting out of the bath – this is because they’re lifting (themselves) and twisting (to get out).

In brief: Stick your leg out when bending down, sit back in a decent height chair, bend your knees when lifting and don’t twist.

It’s easy to laugh all of these off but if you want to be in the marquee hire industry long term they’re well worth following, trust me I should know 🙂

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

My suggested approach to running a marquee hire business

Monday, March 30th, 2009

My original title for this was ‘how to think when running a marquee hire business’ but I thought two things

– I don’t want to tell anyone how to think
– If anyone told me how to think they wouldn’t get a very good reception!

I’m talking about what stock to buy and how to use it. My suggested approach is simply to look at every factor when you consider buying something.

Sound obvious? Well there’s a lot of hire businesses out there that don’t so I figured it was worth mentioning. Here are the main things I’d consider:

  • Initial price
  • Storage space (both in store and in transit)
  • Labour time and number of people (setting furniture up, connecting up electrics etc)
  • Life expectancy

Initial price

Pretty self explanatary, this is how much it costs (include delivery etc).

Be careful – a lot of salesman think you operate on a 100% profit basis. I remember someone selling me advertising once said ‘if you’re getting £1000 per hire then all you need is two bookings to make this £1600 advert worth it’. I then had to explain about labour. transport, insurance and every other cost you encounter when running a business. But then I can’t talk as even we do it! We advertise our marquees saying you’ll be in profit in 2 hires but realistically with the other costs involved it’ll actually be 3 or 4 hires (which I still think is quite impressive).

Storage space

It’s no good earning £20,000 a year if storage and transport costs you £25,000. It’s for this reason that if Iwas starting again I’d think twice about stocking furniture. It takes up a lot of room in storage, it can fill a van up on it’s own and isn’t that lucrative – if there’s a good furniture hire company nearby I’d negotiate a discount with them and get them to do all my furniture.

Labour time & number of people

Again pretty self explanatory and probably the easiest thing to dimiss when costing out a new product as it’s ‘only’ your own time. Take chandeliers as an example – our double chandelier package costs £280 + VAT currently and most hire companies will charge £100 to £150 per hire for them. Put in the fact that they take up very little space in storage and they seem a no-brainer BUT they take at least 30mins to set up (longer the first time or if the power source is awkward). If you’re putting marquees up in evenings then this could add on time you don’t have.

You also need to think about the number of people needed for anything. It doesn’t matter how organised you are at some point you’ll be out on site with only one other person -this is actually why we make our marquee frames out of 38mm pipe, if we made it out of the next size up (50mm) then 2 people just couldn’t put it up on their own, you’d need 3 or 4 people at least. Besides 38mm is very strong and we use vertical and horizontal roof braces to strengthen the structure so there’s no need to use 50mm -the best of both worlds 🙂
Life expectancy

What’s the thing going to be worth in a few years time? How many years/hires are you likely to get out of it? Going back to chandeliers we had chandeliers that were 10 years old and still worked and looked fine (make sure they’re not knocking about in the van). Something like carpet however you’ll only get a few hires out of.

I hope this is of interest to you guys, I realise it all sounds like common sense but it’s very easy to get carried away in any hire business thinking you must buy everything straight away or you must buy the strongest possible.

If you wanted the best possible finish for a wedding then you’d build something out of brick with bespoke furniture inside. Marquees are by their nature a compromise, it’s creating the inside outside in a way that looks great but can be packed up in a van and put up again for the following weekend.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

London 2012 has just published new event BS 8901 guidelines to ensure that its corporate and public events are organised and run in a sustainable way. Here’s the link

The key paragraphs are on pages 3 and 4.

Page 3 “ These guidelines have been developed primarily for our internal event organisers and those contracted or otherwise closely involved in delivering London 2012 corporate and public events: eg venue managers, suppliers, licensees, commercial partners and media organisations.

The types of events that these Guidelines are intended for include:

·         Conferences and seminars

·         Workshops

·         Road shows

·         Cultural events

·         Promotional launches

·         Open days”

Page 4 “ We expect the companies and organisations we work with to follow this process with us, to have in place a sustainability policy, to comply with all applicable legal requirements AND AT LEAST BE WORKING TOWARDS IMPLEMENTATION OF BS 8901 IN THEIR OWN RIGHT.”

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Well it’s useful to know in preparation for the Olympics, I’d expect a lot of marquee hire companies in the London area to be heavily involved so it’s something to look into as soon as possible.

For those interested in attending a BS 8901 workshop please contact our friends at TESA.

Back to my favourite subject – us 🙂

We’re putting up a show marquee up on Tuesday 31st March as long as the weather’s not too bad (like my golf I’m now a fair weather only marquee erector!). We’ll be putting up a 6m x 12m DIY Marquee in the morning then carpetting, lining and lighting it in the afternoon. If anyone wants to come along and witness my creaking bones in action you’re more than welcome (please phone beforehand to book your place in the bandstand). I’m not sure experienced people will learn much other than a few alternative swear words as my back celebrates it’s return to manual labour for the day!

The marquee will be up for the whole of April so if anyone wants to view before buying please make an appointment (it’s 10-15mins away from our factory).

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Marquee hire layouts – an example

Monday, March 16th, 2009

My brother’s getting married in June, would you believe he’s having a marquee?

So I thought it would be sensible to run through the thinking process for his layout etc, I may revisit this again in more detail in the future but it seems a good example of the sort of thing you may face when planning a wedding for someone.

My brothers wedding is going to be held in my parents garden – anyone who’s watched our instructional 6×12 video and lived to tell the tale has already seen it in the background. It’s a fair size garden and gives me several things to point out of interest to marquee hire businesses.

Brothers wedding

  • The most attractive part of the garden is just above the patio where you’re surrounded by rockeries and small trees
  • There’s more lawn past the rockeries but it’s not as attractive a setting
  • The path along the side of the house is quite narrow

So here’s my thinking and how I’d recommend anyone new should tackle most gardens.

If this was a winter marquee, I’d recommend having the marquee either on the patio attached to the house or on the lawn immediately next to the patio for ease of access in to the house. The weather’s likely to be bad so you need to think of easy access for everyone.

If this was an evening function or one where you would only be using the marquee (nothing outside) then I’d recommend having the marquee on the attractive part of the lawn with plenty of windows – maybe having some spotlights or lanterns in amongst the rockery etc.

But my brother’s getting married in June, the weather should be good and he wants everyone to have drinks outside first so my suggestion is to use the attractive lawn area for drinks and have the marquee  set back above the rockeries on the less attractive lawn area.

You should always think about what people will see when they first arrive – first impressions are everything! For this reason I don’t think it’s sensible having the guests arrive around the side of the house via a narrow path. We’re going to have a strip of red carpet coming up the lawn – maybe with small pots of flowers or some kind of decoration either side leading up to the drinks area. This makes for an impressive entrance and means everyone knows where to go:

marquee hire layout
So when you’re planning a wedding marquee keep these things in mind:

  • What are people’s first impressions going to be? Try to avoid having them arrive at the back of the marquee for example.
  • What’s the weather likely to be? You’re generally guided by the time of year but if bad weather’s likely have the marquee closer to the house or have sufficient area for people to stand under cover
  • Don’t have too large an area for drinks – you lose a lot of the atmosphere

I’m sure there’s plenty more but hopefully this helps.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Keep your marquee advertising local

Monday, March 9th, 2009

If you’re doing a marquee at someones house what does tell you about the area?

It means houses nearby are also likely to have gardens large enough for marquees. Not only that but chances are some of the local people will probably go to the event you’re doing a marquee for! So why not target them?

Every time you do a marquee it’s worth going up a down the road a little way posting flyers – just get something very simple made up saying another xyz marquee going up near here call 01234567890 to hire a marquee for your next event etc.

It seems a bit of a pain to do and after you’ve put a marquee up spending another 15mins going up and down the street might not be that appealing but think about it – this is advertising focused on exactly your target market. This type of advertising should give you the highest return on outlay you can possibly get.

Remember all this when it’s raining and all you want to do is jump straight back in the van and get off home!

You can guarantee when my posts are short it means we’re either very busy or my daughter’s not sleeping well – today was both 🙂

Thanks for reading

Spencer

What budget do I need to start up a marquee hire business?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

This is a question I get asked often and my response is nearly always the same – don’t throw a large amount of money at it to start with.

Now this might be a little surprising considering my position, surely it’s in our interest to sell someone as much equipment as possible? Well yes, but we take a longer term view -if we look after you then when you expand or need to replace stock you’ll come back to us for more. If you turn tound afte a year with a lot of stock that you’ve never used then you won’t think much of my recommendations!
Basically I’d suggest something around £3000 to start with if you’re starting it up on a part-time basis:

Our silver package for marquees (£2000)
A Website (£180)
Local advertising (£300)*
Vehicle/trailer/transport (£500)*
* Depending in what you choose and have available this may be more/less

This is based on someone starting a business slowly and buying more marquees as needed – when our delivery time is generally 2-3 days from stock it makes life a lot easier to expand!

If you need a large return straight away and you’re doing this full time then obviously you’ll need more marquees to start with (this is what our gold package is aimed at).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

What’s stopping you start up a business?

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

For those who have already started up a business you can read smugly or skip this and wait for next weeks read 🙂

As the saying goes if you want to be a self-made man (or woman) don’t leave out the working parts. There’s no doubt that working for yourself can be bloody hard work, but it’s enjoyable and a hell of a lot more satisfying than working for someone else. So what’s stopping you?

Attitude? We all know someone who talks a good game. When applied to business they’re always ‘just about to make it big’ or have an idea that’ll make them a millioniaire. In reality these kinds of people will do too much research and the fire will fizzle out before they start up another dream, this is repeated several times until all they’re left with is looking in hindsight about how it was just bad luck they didn’t make it big.

Don’t make this mistake! To start up a marquee hire business (or any business) you need to be a doer not a talker. I’m all for doing research but structure it sensibly, work backwards. Say to yourself:

  • I want to be in business by ….. (say 6 months time-could be much less, shouldn’t be much more unless you’ve got a VERY good reason)
  • I need to make a decision on what marquees I want to buy and how I’m going to approach it by … (say 3 months time -this leaves enough time to buy equipment, set up a website and do other advertising before launch)
  • That leaves me with … (3 months) to do research. During which time you spend every spare minute doing research, speaking to as many people as possible in the industry finding out useful information.
  • Make decisions, do it, go for it.

Being your own boss is incredibly satisfying, but it rewards people who get out there and make things happen for themselves, not (at least very rarely) those who sit back wanting it all to be handed to them.

Intimidated?
It can be a little scary. But there’s lots of people out there who’ll help you. Small business advisers in banks are okay but can be biased towards their products (as they work on commission), places like Business Link are there to help people like you.

It doesn’t help when you get idiots/car salesman contestants on programs like The Apprentice who talk about ‘being in business’ as being members of some closed-shop religion or sect. Absolute rubbish. They don’t know all about business. I don’t know all about business. Peter Jones might know all about business.

My point is that you don’t need to know a damn thing about business as long as you’re willing to learn and put some hours in anyone can do it. And that includes you 🙂

To follow on from last week – we used large ifor williams trailers to transport equipment. Rack the back out to take long poles and have compartments at the front to take the canvas. Don’t buy triple axle trailers, they can take the same gross weight as double axle ones but you’ve taken some of that weight up with another axle. So a triple axle trailer actually takes LESS weight than a double axle one!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

So you’ve decided to start a marquee hire company

Monday, February 16th, 2009

What now?

Well first off is the boring bit – research and budget. It’s not just the marquees you have to consider, it’s the advertising, insurance, storage and transport. Today I’m going to cover transport:

Regular readers may know I went on a course to become a qualified electrician a few years ago, most people there were learning a new trade to set up in business (I did it so I could do up my house at weekends). Loads of guys there had bought their own vans fully sign-written and ready to go. Some took offence when I asked – what research did you do to decide on what size van? (none in most cases). Some had chosen a name but hadn’t looked round to see if the name was already taken by someone else!

So let’s look at the options for marquee hire businesses: Lorries, vans (low, mid, high top or luton?) and trailers:

Lorries: You need an operators licence, regular maintenance and they can be awkward to back in to peoples driveways (though a marquee erecting mate points out that furniture removal companies use them so it can’t be too far a walk). You can store a LOT of gear in a lorry but for starting out I certainly don’t think it’s worth it.

Trailers: My favourite. As long as you know how to reverse properly and safely they’re very manouverable, remember modern drivers licences don’t include trailers -if you want to tow and you’re under 30ish (check your licence) you have to take a trailer licence. The big positives in my book are – you can keep your own vehicle (as long as it can tow), a trailer doesn’t need road tax etc and finally you can rack out a trailer so it acts as storage -this saves having to unload and load it for every job.

Vans: The most popular option for most hire companies – some will use trailers on the back of vans for good measure. The size of business you are depends on the size vehicle. If you’re only going to transport 2 or 3 of our DIY Marquees around then a little Ford escort-size van will be fine. If you’re likely to need some lighting, linings and the odd bit of furniture then a mid-size transit would be suitable. If you’re going to transport a lot of furniture and/or dance floors with your marquees then a luton could be your best bet (though I’d prefer a van and trailer personally).

At the end of the day if you want to change vehicles at a later date when you’re expanding then you can do it, I’d just encourage you to sit down for a minute and think about it. If you get it wrong then it could cost you money (especially if it’s sign-written) and that’s not what we’re in this industry for.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

What to name your marquee hire business?

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

First off if you’ve got marquees up at the moment -make sure you fire up heaters to get the snow off the roof! We’ve got a pub next door (I know, it’s surprising we get any work done!) and their lightweight gazebo is now flatpacked having collapsed under the weight of 8″ of snow -why they took their DIY Marquee down but left that up I don’t know.

If you’re starting up a hire company one of the first things to think about is what are you going to call yourselves?

Something funny? There’s lots of play on words available in the marquee industry – too intents, pleasing people with your erections (suprisingly under-used double entendre!), able to cover everything etc etc.

Funny names make you memorable but you might be cringing in a few years time and it doesn’t actually tell customers anything about you.

Personally I think the best name is descriptive. So calling yourself Bradford marquees or Yorkshire marquees etc – that way customers know where you’re from or the area you cover. It also means you’ll appear higher in google for those search terms. The only downside is if in years to come you want to expand to a new area.

Sorry for the short blog, it’s taken me nearly two hours to get in this morning (5 mile journey) and I’m giving blood this afternoon so I should probably get some work done 😉

Thanks for reading.

Spencer.

Marquee linings tip

Monday, January 26th, 2009

This is something we learnt over the years.

It’s very difficult keeping marquee linings clean, especially when you’re flat out and they’re going up and down every weekend. To start with we used a commercial cleaning company who turned round the linings within 2 days, the only problem with that is the linings came back crinkled, we’d often get comments from customers that they needed an iron -we even hired a steamer for one particular wedding as the wrinkled linings were so bad.

Most linings fit into a domestic washing machine -all of our DIY Marquees are designed that way intentionally. Pleated linings up to 9mx3m can fit but you need a commercial washing machine for 12m and 15m.

So here’s my recommendation -wash the marquee linings at home in your domestic washing machine but only do it just before putting your marquee up the next time it’s out. Don’t put the linings in a dryer, put them up damp:

  • The linings dry very quickly
  • The linings dry in place, so no creases
  • You avoid having to use dryers – our biggest cause of small tears and damage
  • Make sure your hands are clean, damp linings will pick up any dirt (we used to keep a pack of baby wipes in the van for this)

If your linings are really bad (if they’ve been stored damp for a long time for example) and have mould on then simple washing won’t get it out, it needs something more drastic. High-Spec Ltd offer a mould away spray that’s useful to keep in your van but only really good for small patches, if the area affected is large you have to soak the linings in bleach, just make sure you wash them thoroughly afterwards and don’t leave them soaking for too long as it damages the velcro etc.

I hope that’s helped some people out there, thanks for reading.

Spencer