Archive for the ‘marquee hire’ Category

Merry Xmas to the marquee industry

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone in the marquee industry (and anyone else who reads this).

No advice today, just a thank you to everyone who takes time out of their day to read my ramblings on here.  I started this blog two and a half years ago because I like helping people and I miss hiring out marquees, I am always shocked and humbled by the number of people who have actually found and read it all. Yes I can see the number of visitors in analytics but that doesn’t necessarily mean much – A friend of ours sells hardcore and receives a lot of hits from google, they don’t stay for long when they see hardcore brick rubble rather than hardcore porn though!

I realise the quality of the posts varies, I write about what I’m thinking at the time which is sometimes useless, sometimes repetitive but hopefully there’s enough useful bits to keep your interest.

So thanks for reading, thanks for visiting, and let’s all hope for a successful 2011 🙂

Spencer

Marquee forums

Monday, September 6th, 2010

At The showmans show in 2008 I was approached about a new marquee forum that was going to help out everyone in the industry. I thought it was a good idea but sadly didn’t get off the ground. Lisa from County Marquees kindly pointed me in the direction of the office section on the blue room forum where a few people have posted about marquee hire and the admins have said if there’s enough interest then they’ll make a ‘marquee’ section.  If that doesn’t work then maybe we’ll just have to set up our own one.

I stumbled across this post on yahoo answers and wish I’d got there sooner to offer my own answer (basically they’re asking it is possible to hold a marquee wedding in a field).  In my eyes the question is perfectly reasonable and one you come up against regularly, it just demonstrates that your job is not simply to hire out and put up marquees but to reassure people that it’s possible and can be done successfully.  Some of the answers are also quite interesting so I’ll run through them here.

Answer 1: a different event was ruined by poor heating and a muddy field all down to the weather. Except it wasn’t the weathers fault, it was the hirers. There was insufficient heating (several small heaters are better than one large one) and ideally (certainly in a field) you should run a small path of matting or carpet across to the toilets and also as an entrance path. This avoids getting muddy and ladies losing high heels. As long as any long grass is cut short well in advance of the event and it’s relatively level then fields make excellent venues for marquees.

Answer 2: It’s more expensive than a regular venue. Possibly true, possibly untrue. There are always cheap ways of doing things -instead of caterers get a cold buffet from Waitrose or get a local take away to do the food for example.

Answer 3: Tents can be very expensive. They can also be very reasonable.

Answer 4: You don’t get married in a marquee, you get married in a church/registry office and hold the reception in a marquee. We did several marquees where the couple were married in a quiet registry service the day before but then held a blessing with all of their guests in one marquee before coming across to another marquee for the reception. Guests think the couple are getting married there but they’re not actually.

Answer 5: DIY Marquees aren’t expensive :). You only need a licence for a bar if it’s selling alcohol, if it’s free then you don’t need one.  A field generally has plenty of space for parking (lighting the parking area is an often forgotten item). Marquee hirers have public liability insurance as standard, we can give details of bespoke insurers if required but exactly what part of the property is going to get damaged? It’s a field.

What this person really needed was for someone to go on there and say yes this is a good idea and happens all the time. What you need is a few smaller marquees connected together to create a courtyard (a field is a large place, you want to keep everyone together in one area). Put some outside seating in the courtyard (or hay bails for that country feel) with a spitroast in one corner. It’s informal, you remove all the marquee walls facing the courtyard so people drift in and out of them. It won’t cost a fortune and you can do all of the decorating yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

There’s already a large marquee hire business in my area

Monday, September 14th, 2009

You want to start up a marquee hire business but there’s already a large marquee hire business well established in your area. What should you do?

In actual fact, this is a good thing. I’ll try to explain why:

Imagine you want to start up a marquee company near us in the South East, the problem is you’ve got someone like Charlesworth Marquees who are already established as the leading hire company. Starting any new business can be intimidating, when you’ve got someone like Charlesworth on your doorstep with their repuation it can be even more so.

But in fact it should be seen as a good thing. A lot of large marquee hire businesses don’t want to touch smaller jobs, and by ‘smaller’ they generally mean anything less than £2000!

Now there’s a lot of good business out there for less than £2k and you can make a comfortable living from doing several jobs of that size every weekend.

There’s also the opportunity of growing a partnership with the larger company, you pass them any job too large for you and they pass on any job too small for them.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee pricing

Monday, August 31st, 2009

When you start up a marquee hire business you have to do some local research for pricing – what’s everyone else charging for a marquee? Make sure you’re competitive (start ups will often just make sure they’re the cheapest to ensure they’re busy).

Once you’ve been going for a year or two what should you do with your prices? Put them up? Well hang on a minute, here’s a couple of stories to illustrate why you need to think carefully first.

Dave’s retirement:

A very good family friend (sadly no longer with us) semi-retired a few years ago. He kept on 3 customers for his maintenance business as he’d worked out he’d be financially comfortable working 3 days a week.
Unfortunately after a year one of his customers no longer needed him. His reaction? To go to his other 2 customers and put his prices up 50% to make up for it!
You can see his thinking, he needed a certain amount to live so needed to get it from 2 customers instead of 3. Unfortunately he didn’t take the views of his customers in to account and he promptly lost them.

Dorking parking charges

For those who haven’t visited us we’re based in commercial property on the outskirts of Dorking. Unfortunately Dorking town centre has the feel of a struggling town with lots of shops empty and many of the occupied ones looking to get out of their contracts.
Obviously this has a knock on effect to the local council who have found the revenue reduced. Their response?
Put up parking charges!
Honestly, you wonder the intelligence of these idiots.

So as a marquee hire company what can you learn from this? My advice is to respond to your customer demand.

If you’re turning away work all year and don’t have any quiet time (first off well done!) then by all means put your prices up. Don’t be excessive, more than a 5% annual increase might upset repeat customers.

If you’re busy some of the time but quiet on others, think of having special offers – 10% off for all August bookings for example.

The main advice I would give is if you’re not getting the returns you were hoping for, if you’re not as busy with bookings as you’d hoped, consider actually lowering prices or having several special offers to increase business rather than increasing your prices and thinking you’ll increase turnover & profit. It doesn’t always work.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer.

Marquee hire success

Monday, July 27th, 2009

When we ran a marquee hire company most of our business came from the fact that people trusted us. At the end of the day people are booking a marquee with you based on their experience of meeting you, speaking on the phone, looking at your website and any literature/research/recommendations available. Throughout each of these steps you need to come across well and as an outfit that’s not going to let them down.

A fundamental part of this is do what you say you’re going to do. If not then how can you be trusted to put a marquee up even though you say you will?

If you make an appointment for 10am on Tuesday make sure you’re there at 10am on Tuesday (I’d always aim to be sat round the corner 10mins before in case of traffic). If you’re going to be late for the appointment then phone with a realistic ETA.

If you say you’ll get a quote out today, get that quote sent out today!

You get the idea.

This is all fresh in my mind as we sold a marquee and some equipment to a customer this week who was only buying one because he’d been let down by his local marquee hire firm.

He phoned up asking for an appointment and was told as he’s only round the corner the marquee man would pop in on Friday evening. Didn’t happen. Customer phoned, was told definately the following Friday. Didn’t happen. You get the picture.

Once this had happened a few times the customer had understandably lost all faith in the local marquee man doing what he’d said he would and turned to us instead (which is extreme, normally they’d phone round for another marquee company)

So please remember your business is judged on the image of your business, people aren’t coming along to buy a product from you, they’re buying a service. You don’t just need to provide a good, reliable and value for money service you need to be SEEN to be providing these things.  Your website, attitude on the phone and manner when in a meeting must be that you’re there not only to help, advise and serve but that you’re capable of doing so.

Thanks for reading, I hope the marquee season’s going well for everyone 🙂

Spencer

Marquee catering partitions

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Larger marquees need specific catering areas where caterers can prepare all the food away from the prying eyes of Joe public. You wonder exactly what gets covered up back there then you realise that actually, you’d rather just not know!

Okay, so as the marquee erector/designer/whatever you call yourself you need to allow an area for the caterer. Keep in mind:

  • In an ideal world the caterers will be able to drive to the back of their area
  • The caterers access in to the main marquee shouln’t be straight on to the dance floor or in to a table
  • The catering tent itself should be around the back of the main marquee so people don’t see too much of it before going in
  • Try to position the catering tent access coming in to  a corner of the main marquee rather than the middle to prevent people seeing in (described further below)

Once you’ve decided where the catering tent is going you then need to sort out a partition to prevent people pearing in to see their duck a l’orange being peeled off the floor. As mentioned in the last point above it’s a lot easier having the access in the corner of a marquee:

Catering Partition

Catering Partition

For very large functions you might have to create an in and an out to the catering tent.

How do you make a catering partition in a marquee?

It’s easy, just tie a rope across where you want it to be, then tie another rope down supporting the middle of the first rope to prevent it drooping when weight’s applied. Cable tie a solid wall or lining wall along this rope as far as required, hold the bottom in place using nails or weights.

Gutter/Catering Partition rope

Gutter/Catering Partition rope

This is also the method used when you have to gutter the end of a marquee to the side of another (as there’s no bar to attach the gutter to on a gable).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquees: Who provides the power?

Monday, July 13th, 2009

In marquee hire there are a few common problems you face – one is the question of who provides the power? I’m not thinking of your lighting (as obviously you’ve got to run that power supply) but what happens when the DJ turns round and says where’s his power? Or the caterer, or the bar..

Mal at Premier Party Tent faced exactly this issue recently and to be honest it is a little tricky. You can’t be expected to wire up the marquee like a factory with sockets anywhere required but at the same time most customers would expect the marquee man/lady to sort everything out.

So, what’s the solution?

My suggestion is to sort it out in advance. When you take the booking ask the customer if there are going to be any other power requirements, if so how much power do they need? You then charge a set amount per extension lead.

If you leave it until you’re on site it could look like you’re trying to subtly get the bill up a bit (this never ends well) or you may feel obliged to provide them for free (unless it’s in exchange for tea or food this isn’t so good either).

There’s a few things to note about power:

  • One extension lead can take up to 3KW of power, this is normally enough for a DJ or bar but rarely for caterers. Tea Urns are 3KW each and often they’ll have 2 of those plus ovens etc so consider a generator or getting an electrician to connect a large supply across for large events.
  • You shouldn’t be running more than 3 or 4 extension leads from a house, any more and consider a generator or an electrician. Also when running several power leads plug them in to different areas of a house so they’re on different circuits.
  • A long extension lead from Wickes etc is quite cheap but long term you really want to be using blue arctic cable leads with 16amp connectors. The connectors are splashproof so you can leave them outside as long as they’re not on the ground and you just daisy chain leads together – terminate the lead with a 4-way standard 13amp socket adapter for the bar/DJ and plug in to the house using a 13 amp plug with an RCD to a 16amp connector.
  • If you don’t have RCD’s built in to your leads buy some adapters for them, these protect anyone if a cable’s cut through. These really are a must in the marquee hire industry.

If you’ve got the right kit then running power to a marquee is easy though not hugely lucrative. If you’re scratching round getting different extension leads and trying to weatherproof a normal 13am reel extension lead then it can be a bit of a nightmare.

Ask your customer their power needs in advance and charge for your work.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

PS the marquee and some red, green and honeybeige once used carpet is on eBay (there’ll be more carpet to follow).

Marquee Hirers suggestion to reduce stress

Monday, July 6th, 2009

It’s the middle of the season, you’ve had to work on Saturday due to a particularly large and tricky marquee job and now you’ve finally got to relax on a Sunday afternoon with your feet up watching TV. Suddenly your mobile goes off and one of the lads who works for you wants to know what marquees are going up on Wednesday as he’d like to knock off early. Or maybe a customer’s calling to add another table to their booking in 3 months time.

If you’re like me and it takes you a while to wind down then this is quite literally the last thing you need. Not everyone’s like this – I’ve got a mate who also sells marquees who can happily answer his phone on holiday and not let it ruin his day. Not me. And if it’s not you then the solution is very easy.

Buy another mobile phone!

Have one for your friends and family that stays on most of the time and one for work that you turn off when not at work. When contracts are as little as £10/month or even pay as you go there’s really no reason not to (other than the pain of carrying two mobiles). Keep your personal mobile number a treasured secret while your work mobile can be on your business cards and website.
If I’m working in the evening or at weekends, my work mobile’s on – as a lot of you will know I’ll talk about marquee hire all day! But when Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (my daughter’s current program of choice) is on, the work phone’s off.

Trust me, this really helps.

My only exception to this would be when you first start up. I’m fortunate enough to (part) own a 30 year old company that’s widely regarded as one of the market leaders. When you first start up you’re not so lucky (unless you’ve parted with a wedge of cash!), you need to stand out for your service and reliability -I’m afraid having your phone answered out of hours is one way of doing it.

So my advice? Buy a work mobile straight from the off – have it on as much as possible (note: wedding anniversaries and birthday parties probably come in the ‘not possible’ group) but when you start to feel under pressure or stressed -turn it off out of hours. Let yourself relax a bit 🙂

Just remember to turn it back on again afterwards.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

-I’m playing around with the comments section. I disabled them when I was getting too much spam from it (200 daily!) but hopefully it’ll be working soon.

-I’ve finally updated our gallery with some photos so pop in if you need some new ideas, there’s a few of our marquees used to replace a church in Nigeria!