Archive for the ‘starting out’ Category

How big a marquee do I need?

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Asking how big a marquee is required is one of your main jobs as a marquee supplier. Often the size of the garden will dictate the size of marquee but you still need to know how much space everything takes up to then plan suitable numbers.

Here’s how most marquee hire companies work out the space required in a marquee:

Round table seating up to 10 (usually 5ft or 5ft6in tables): Allow 3x3m -this includes space for walking between tables so for example a 6x12m area can fit eight 3x3m boxes so can fit eight round tables with space to walk between. Saying that it is more comfortable leaving one out to stagger the tables like this example.

Tradition long top table (usually three 6ft trestle tables but oval tables are similar): Allow 3x6m

Buffet (again usually three 6ft trestles): Allow 3x6m

Bar: Allow 3x3m for small functions, 3x6m in larger ones

DJ: 3x3m is usually fine

Band: 3x6m for a small band, larger bands you have to ask them (though be careful as they often want to take over half the marquee)

Dance Floor: A blog post in itself which will be written soon

Catering area: 3x6m or 6x4m for small functions, 6x6m for medium (80+ guests), 6x8m+ for larger functions (160+)

When planning layouts you also want to consider where people walk in to the marquee -ideally you don’t want guests walking straight in to a table so you may have to leave a gap. For marquees that are a bit tight consider having the entrance near the bar or dance floor to give some space.

Often you are asked to put marquees up over features like bushes, flower beds, small trees, water features or even swimming pools. This really adds character to a marquee so in my eyes should be encourages though as the marquee supplier it does make life a little harder and you should point out that it is not useable area. Often customers will need a larger marquee to allow for incorporating these features.

When planning the marquee remember which direction guests will be arriving from – you want it to look impressive. Windows make the marquee look more inviting – you don’t want guests believe that they are walking in to the back of the marquee. Also keep in mind access to the toilets, this may require an additional exit in the marquee.

Experiment with layouts using our interactive marquee planner, it allows you to drag furniture in to a marquee to experiment with capacities and layouts.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Before starting a marquee hire business

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Starting up any new business is a big step and can be quite daunting, marquee hire is no different. something we encourage is to do a lot of local research beforehand.

Use all of the usual search methods (google, bing, yellow pages, local magazines) and see how much competition is out there. If your local area is already saturated with marquee companies then it may be difficult to start up in competition.

See what marquees other companies are offering and how large an operation they are. The company that bought my old marquee hire business stated they didn’t want to do any job less than £2,000 (!), there is a very very good living to be made solely doing marquees under £2,000 I can assure you. Several of our existing customers work very successfully with a larger marquee hire company nearby, they pass on any larger jobs to the nearby company and in turn any job that’s too small for the large company passes it on to our customer.

At this point it’s also worth looking at where everyone advertises and if you can see any gaps. We found local parish magazines to be a useful supply of business, the advertising cost is so small that it pays for itself very quickly.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Welcome to DIY Marquees’ guide to marquee hire

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

This blog is intended to offer help and advice to those in the marquee hire industry or who are thinking or joining. From experience I can say that it is a very enjoyable professional that keeps you fit and has a large amount of job satisfaction.

Obviously the first question to ask is what marquees should you buy and where should you buy them from.

Naturally I’m going to say buy your marquees from DIY Marquees but apparently other suppliers are available. Here’s a list of reasons why we believe we’re the best supplier:

  • Experience. We’ve run a successful marquee hire business (and would still be doing so bar a freak injury), we know what products are needed and the quality of service required by a supplier. We are also on hand to offer advice whenever required.
  • Stock. We keep very large stocks enabling you to offer size options you may not actually have.
  • Accessories. You may not need too many accessories when you start out but over time as you expand you will require more and more accessories for your marquees.
  • Spares and replacement parts. Although our marquees are as durable as we can design them accidents can happen and parts can get damaged. Unfortunately as a hire company you often only find out when the marquee comes down (Mon/Tues) and you may need it to go back up in a few days. We keep large stocks and can get spares to you quickly (usually overnight). Before buying from elsewhere just phone them and pretend you need a spare part and see the service on offer, it may be fine, it may be that you have to wait a long time for a part to come from abroad (or they may refuse to sell you spares). We have a lot of people phoning to find out if our spares are compatible with other makes that they cannot get spares for.
  • A trusted family business. We have been in business over 30 years and are a second generation family business (the 3rd generation is in training). We have built up a reputation for being reliable, value for money backed up with excellent service.

Regarding what marquees to buy my recommendation is always not to buy too many to start with. You need one or two with which to learn how to put them up but then you can essentially offer all of the sizes we supply and just buy a marquee when you have a booking for it. If you already have a larger marquee of the same width you can always just buy a smaller roof.

The reason we have been in business for so long is because it is in our interest for you to be successful, to offer products that give you great returns on investment and ensure we supply everything you need to expand the business in the future.

Contact us today to see how we can help you start up or expand your marquee hire business.

Thanks for reading, the blog will become fortnightly this year while we try and expand our event planning articles (which will be written on alternate weeks)

Spencer

Make a good impression on marquee site visits

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Here are some tips to help you make a good impression on a marquee site visit:

  • Be presentable. Clean shaven, clean clothes, clean shoes. You don’t need to turn up in a suit, people appreciate that we do physical work so turning up in work trousers and a logo polo top is fine as long as they’re clean and presentable.
  • Ideally you want a smart and tidy vehicle (van or car) that is not more expensive than the potential customers. If you have to turn up in a beaten up or dirty car or a very flash one then park round the corner and walk the last bit, you don’t want to come across as struggling (old banger of a car) or likely to charge too much (flash car).
  • Turn up on time. I’d aim to be parked round the corner 10 minutes before the appointment so I knocked on the door at the precise time. Sufficient people appreciate being on time (or rather hate being late) to make this well worth the extra 10 minutes waiting. If you are going to be more than 5 minutes late then phone with a realistic eta. Phoning to say you’ll be 10 minutes late but turning up after 20 is just making it worse for yourself.
  • Take your shoes off in the house. Most people are find with shoes on but I remember getting a job purely on the basis that I took the care to take my shoes off on the way in. There are sufficient people who appreciate this to make it worth it.
  • Listen to what the customer wants. This sounds obvious but I was repeatedly told stories of other marquee hire companies arriving and just telling the customer what they wanted. Before you do anything ask the customer if they have any specific ideas on what they want or if they’ve seen something they like elsewhere. They may not but if they do have specific requests it helps you shape your ideas and stops any wasted time.
  • Get a proper surveyors tape measure. It looks more professional than a reel one or worse a small one where you have to take several goes to get to the desired length.

Of course none of this is as important as what you say and recommend regarding the marquee but it all helps. If you come across well and look professional then suddenly the site visit becomes a lot easier and customers are more likely to be guided by your recommendations rather than challenging what you say as the expert.

What you actually say and recommend is for another blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Get payment up front for a secure business

Monday, September 16th, 2013

This blog is mainly aimed at start up marquee hire companies or those thinking of starting one. People running medium to large marquee businesses know far more than me about what’s best practice for them and as such the below may not be suitable advise for larger companies who deal more in corporate work.

When starting any business one of the most important factors is cash flow. Often you want to live on the bare minimum of wages just so all of the money can be re-invested back into marquees or equipment for quicker expansion and long term gain. Hopefully you’ll have seen some of the beautiful sales staff from DIY Marquees along the way. Or you can deal with our ugly sales staff, we’re not fussy.

When I ran a marquee hire business we would ask for:

  • 20% payment when booking. The industry standard seems to be between 10 and 25%
  • The balance of payment when the marquee has been erected but before the day of the event.

This one would need explaining to the customer a bit just so it came across in the right light. We would emphasise that we would make sure that the customer was completely 100% happy with the marquee before asking for payment. This gives the customer the reassurance that if there’s something they’ve got concerns about we will make sure that it is resolved before they have to pay (and rightly so). If they still raised issue with paying before the event then we would tell a white lie saying without payment they were not covered by liability insurance and so we could not allow the marquee to be used -it very rarely came to this but we were very persistent.

The exact wording we used in paper and verbally was “The balance is due when the marquee is up and you’re happy with it but before the day of the event”.

Getting payment up front drastically helps your business cash flow.  Because of this policy we only ever had one bad debt in over 10 years of marquee hire (a bounced cheque that we got most of the money eventually).

By way of comparison I know of two reasonable sized companies who are now out of business due to bad debts.

I should put this in to perspective and add a caveat or two – we mainly specialised in wedding marquees so our client base was private customers. The more corporate marquees you do, the more companies you deal with the more you will have to offer credit. Often it’s that or someone else will get the work. Just make sure you do some research, don’t assume just because they’ve got a shiny website and talk of a multi-million pound turnover that they’re actually a financially sound business.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Example site visit: Golden wedding anniversary in a garden with lots of trees

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Just to confirm it is not a marquee party to which many trees have been invited, just a lawn with lots of trees in it (that may or may not want to go to a party).

The lawn is covered in large, medium and small trees. To give away how to tackle this problem the large and medium trees are too tall to fit inside a marquee but the small ones can just about fit inside.

Well tended gardens filled with trees and beds are usually owned by the older generation (hence golden wedding anniversary). Family gardens usually have more open spaces.

requirements:

  • Lunchtime meal ideally for 100 but maybe less depending on capacity available
  • No lighting or dance floor required

My suggested solution next week.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Example site visit: Wedding in a field part ii

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

The first thing to note is that marquees in a field are from from easy and far from straight forward. They’re easy to erect as there’s no constrictions and you can often drive to it but too much choice is often a head-ache.

Keeping everyone in one place is key, the easiest way to do this is to have large enough marquees to house everyone inside for a formal function or to create a courtyard type feel for an informal function. If you’re using an outside space for drinks or similar then you want to create a set area, this could be picket fencing (formal) or hay bales (informal) or outside seating collected together just outside the marquee.

My suggested solution:

It’s an informal function so I’ve used three marquees to create a horse-shoe arrangement to keep everyone in one place. The marquees would all be open to the courtyard so people can drift in and out of the marquees.

The hog-roast would be to one side of the outside furniture, it makes a good talking point and is like a magnet for some guests (mainly us blokes). Keeping it nearby (downwind of the marquee though so smoke doesn’t blow in!) keeps everyone together so you don’t end up with two parties.

Notice the large variance in number of expected guests, this is very common amongst informal functions. You just have to allow enough room and a variety of seating for most but not all people, that means the marquee won’t look empty if numbers are on the low side but can still cope with a higher number of guests.

Mixing up different size tables gives an informal atmosphere along with a few large open spaces and just chairs around the edge near the dance floor. The bar, buffet and music (generally a band rather than DJ in this set up)  are all central though people can sit away from the music but still be part of the party if they want to.

Other things to consider with marquees in a field:

  • Get the customer to cut the grass as short as possible as early as possible. Cutting it short just before the marquee is erected leaves spiky stubble which is difficult to get a good surface on using carpet or matting.
  • If the event is planned far enough in advance get the marquee footprint rolled as well as this makes the world of difference.
  • Parking is often in another part of the field, make sure the marquee is orientated to be attractive to people as they arrive (so they’re not clambering round from the back) and that there’s some lighting for them to find their cars afterwards.
  • Fields are generally a long distance from a house so generators are usually required (but can be set a long way back from the marquee so order plenty of cabling with it)

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Example site visit: Wedding in a field part i

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Easy one this week, a wide open field:

requirements:

  • informal wedding for 120-200 guests in July
  • guests will be parking in the field
  • food will be supplied by hog roast and bbq’s throughout the day so there’s no formal sit down meal
  • disco in the evening

Easy right? My suggested proposal next week.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Example site visit: Dave & Jenny’s garden part ii

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Before going any further clarification: The trees are too large to fit inside a marquee (thanks Chris). Small trees or flower beds are no barrier to erecting a marquee and can be excellent features but remember you lose that floorspace in the marquee.
I also forgot to mention what time of year the event was planned for, more on that below

My suggested solution:

A 6x12m marquee is probably around the right size, you could fit a 6x14m marquee in and they could fit everyone in to a 6x10m marquee but 6x12m seems about right.

You could rotate the marquee 90 degrees and run it down the garden instead of across, I’d discuss this with Dave & Jenny and give them the option of either way. If they wanted to have drinks on the lawn beforehand then they could use the left hand side and run the marquee down lengthwise. Otherwise I’d run it across the garden as you can see more of the marquee, can fit more windows in and it generally makes for a more inviting marquee.

If it was a winter marquee then I’d bring the marquee as close to the house as possible and consider using a walkway across the patio to connect the two. In the summer I’d set it as far back as the tree will allow to make it look more impressive for guests on arrival.

The internal layout is very informal, the middle dance floor area can be used for people standing initially but becomes the natural focus when the music starts. Having the bar & buffet in the same marquee as the dance floor keeps the party in one place and chairs around the edge give somewhere for people to sit down if they really want to. Fairy lights in the ceiling, black and white dance floors, illuminated bars are all possible accessories.

This is a very very popular layout for all different size marquees. As you use larger structures the dance floor and bar area become larger and more flexible – you can add sofas and/or poseur tables to create a real night club atmosphere.

That would be my suggested solution at least.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Example site visit: Dave & Jenny’s garden part i

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

It has been suggested that I should give examples of site visits to show what you should be thinking of when planning a marquee function. This sounds a good idea to me but I should stress – I’m not saying that my ideas are the best and only solution. I’ll state what I’d do but if you asked another marquee company or even someone else from our company they might come up with other ideas.

So in one blog post I’ll give the layout of a garden with measurements and a brief overview of their requirements. The following post I’ll look at what suggestions I’d offer.

Dave & Jenny’s garden:

The layout above is Dave & Jenny’s garden. The house (in red) is at the bottom with a patio (in grey) in front. There are some flower beds to the left and some trees/bushes towards the rear.

Everything in the marquee world is done in squares and rectangles so all we’re really interested in are the limiting factors – that tree halfway down the garden is going to limit what we can fit in so we need the measurements based around that tree, together with the maximum widths and lengths available.

Remember the 3 stages of site visits:

  • sit down with the potential customers and get an idea if what they’d like and especially what they dislike, what they’d like to avoid. Get an idea of guest numbers, whether it’s formal or informal and if they need a dance floor/bar/catering area
  • go out and measure the garden
  • go back inside and sit down to discuss their options (this is what I’ll cover in the next post)

Dave & Jenny’s requirements

After sitting down and discussing it with them we’ve gained the following information:

  • It’s Dave’s 40th birthday party
  • They are expecting 50-70 guests
  • It will be an evening function at the end of June
  • They want an informal atmosphere though there will be food and drink available
  • They’re going to have a 4 piece band playing
  • Guests will go round the side of the house (ie not through the house) to get to the marquee

That’s a typical amount of information you work with on a site visit, I’ll discuss my suggestions in 2 weeks (taking the kids to ‘sunny’ Wales next week)

Thanks for reading

Spencer