Archive for the ‘starting out’ Category

Essential items for your van

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Over time you find there are certain things that you want to have in each vehicle, if you’re starting up then this is the sort of list that you need to equip each van/lorry with:

  • Wire cutters to cut all those cable ties (preferably a few pairs)
  • A few hammers (for nailing down matting/carpet)
  • sledgehammer
  • A pair of steps large enough for whatever size marquees you offer
  • several packs of cable ties
  • spare nuts/bolts/bungees/drop-nose pins whatever easily lose-able small parts your style of marquees use
  • spanners
  • ratchet straps
  • vacuum/leaf blower, whatever you use to clean up flooring
  • map book or sat nav
  • pack of baby wipes to clean hands before putting up linings etc
  • stake puller (if you use them)
  • purlin lifter (if you have the style of marquee that requires them)
  • hard hats (if you’re lifting metalwork over your head then you should wear them)
  • Cloths, bucket and some cleaning fluid (plant sprays are good for keeping cleaning fluid in)
  • a roll of rubbish sacks
  • 13amp fuses
  • selection of screwdrivers
  • 13amp socket tester (worth it’s weight in gold for testing sockets to trace any problem/fault)
  • small container of bleach (in an emergency you can remove marks on a lining at the last minute)

It sounds a lot but most of it will just stay permanently in the compartment above the cab or in a tool box. There are bound to be some things that I’ve missed but these should cover most eventualities that you may face.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Advertising

Monday, April 18th, 2011

If you’re starting up in marquee hire a big issue is advertising. How much do you spend and how do you spend it? Obviously we all want to get to a stage where most of our work is coming from word of mouth recommendations (a claim a suspiciously large number of hire websites announce). But if you haven’t had any previous customers then there’s no one to start the recommendation!

Several of our customers have recommended marqueehireguide.co.uk as a good place to obtain useful leads. They also offer (currently) a 3 month free trial so there’s nothing to lose. There are a few directories offering this service but this is the only one I’ve been consistently recommended. I should point out that I am in no way connected with this website, indeed I think it’s actually run by a fellow marquee supplier but I’m just giving an honest recommendation.

Lastly, want to know how to erect a 9x12m marquee in under 30 minutes? Try this marquee.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Showmans show 2010 & more on guttering

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

After my article a few weeks ago on how to gutter a marquee it was pointed out that I’d left an important part out – remember to pull any slack material of the gutter out away from the marquee as far as possible. If you just leave the extra material in a heap on the floor then the water won’t be taken far from the marquee and more importantly you’re probably kinking up the end of the gutter in the marquee.

For anyone unaware The Showmans Show is a must-visit for any marquee hire business. Every supplier to the trade has a stand there, it’s where you meet all of the required contacts/suppliers as well as keeping in touch with any new products that are coming on to the market.

The show is at Newbury Showground on 20th & 21st October

We’re going to have some new ideas and products available, we’re working on them now so I won’t mention them just in case they don’t get through testing in time!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

New Marquee Hire Websites and stock photos

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

When you first start up a marquee hire business something you always struggle with is photographs for your website. Obviously we supply a few to get you started but really you want a wide selection showing a variety of marquees and effects for customers to see but until you’ve done a marquee like that you haven’t got any photos of it.

One solution is to buy some ‘stock photos’ (I can’t recommend one particular site so just google it to see what I mean).

If you’ve been in business for a while and suddenly a new business pops up who look as if they’ve already done wedding marquees similar to the Beckhams then this is probably the answer, they just bought some stock photos.

Saying this, you do have to be a little careful here.

  • The photos look good. That’s why you bought them after all but..
  • Chances are the photos aren’t of your style of marquee. What if someone comes along as says – I want one of those!

You also have to be careful of misleading customers (even Burger King are at it). My personal view is by all means use them but be very very selective on the photos you buy. Choose ones that show people having a good time at a wedding/party for example rather than one that shows an unknown marquee in detail.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Starting out – get a website set up pronto

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Setting up in marquee hire? Get a website up as soon as you can.

  • websites take a while to appear in google, hence the need to get something online swiftly
  • don’t underestimate the effect search engine optimisation (SEO) can have on your website, getting it on the first page for ‘marquee hire your local area’ will add a LOT of business
  • when people come to a marquee hire website they want photos showing what they’re looking to hire. To help we can supply some sample photographs for you to use until you’ve got enough of your own
  • if you don’t want to do it yourself and don’t have a friend/relative to ask then it’s either get a professional to do it or use our marquee hire template
  • people want to be reassured that you’re reliable and do a good job, try to make sure your wording is written accordingly
  • have your contact details on every page, you want people to get in touch -make life easy for them

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Got your number.

Monday, March 8th, 2010

A telephone is pretty vital yes? I think we can all agree on that.

The problem you have when running a marquee hire business is most of the time (hopefully) you’re out putting marquees up. So who answers the phone? If you’re large enough to afford office staff then well done (and pretty much stop reading now!)

Option 1. Getting a standard landline

Pros:
Having your local area code will help attract local business.

Cons:
Someone’s got to answer it or they’re expensive to redirect to a mobile. You can ask someone at home to take all calls (if it’s a full-time mum remember that a. they’ll be working harder than you most of the time! and b. screaming kids in the backround isn’t good for either side). I’m not sure what they’re called but you can have your number put through to a company that act as an office – I knew someone who used to do this and got on very well with the service. Finally I’d avoid using an answering machine, you’ll lose a lot of business.

Option 2: Use a mobile number

Pros:
Convenient, it means you can go anywhere in signal and act as an office from your car/van whilst on site.

Cons:
Companies that advertise mobiles are one-man bands, this might stop you getting larger work and growing your business

Option 3: Use an online redirectable number

Pros:
The number can follow you anywhere, easily redirected through to your mobile, landline or a messaging service (if you have to). It’s worth having two mobiles on separate networks to increase your coverage if you use this.

Cons:
You lose the local presence a local area code gives

If I was starting up again I would use an internet redirectable number and wherever I advertised the number  (website, leaflets etc) I would always put the area we covered.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee hire & employees

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Employing people can be stressful but a necessary evil if you want to build up your large marquee hire business. When you start you can call on family and friends for a while but the novelty soon wears off for both sides.

It’s a lot easier if the people working for you are self employed, you don’t need to worry about PAYE etc but the downside is they decide the hours/days they work, they can turn round and say no to you. I think technically they should supply their own tools and shouldn’t be constantly under your direct supervision but I’m not an expert in these matters.

When you’ve got a lot of bookings and you take time to train up some staff so they don’t need you there all the time your main worry is they’ll leave halfway through the season leaving you in trouble. Our solution, and it worked very well all round, was to offer a substantial bonus to key staff. They received the bonus at the end of the season (mid September) provided they still worked for us.

A few extra points with offering a bonus:
-we deducted the cost of any tools broken by them or their team (this reduced breakages immensely!)
-although we didn’t, I know a lot of companies offer bonuses for months in which no sick days were used.  If it becomes a problem then it’s certainly something to consider.

University students are ideal labour to recruit as their holidays generally coincide with peak wedding/party marquee season and if you get a 1st year student it means he’ll come back for the following season or two.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Interesting articles

Monday, February 8th, 2010

James from JF Marquees posted last week a link to 40 mistakes every start up makes. And it makes interesting reading:

  • Point 3: “Resist diversifying too early” is an appropriate one. Don’t try and take on every job of every size initially. Specifically don’t spend a lot of your time quoting for jobs that have 500-1000 guests if you don’t have the equipment to do it. By all means sub-hire it to someone else if that’s what you want to do but make sure you concentrate your energies on your target market.
  • Point 18: ‘Agonise over minutiae’ In my job I see this time and time again, people going over so many minor points with if this happened or if that happens, there comes a point when you’ve just got to take the plunge and go for it. You’ll always find a reason not to do something.
  • Point 21 is very interesting as it’s basically contrary to what I’ve written on price. It’s  saying you shouldn’t beat your competition on price, you should offer better service and a more personal touch than the competition. This is certainly one approach and it’s perfectly valid, I know several people who have targeted the higher end more personalised marquee weddings and are doing very well. My argument is it’s higher risk. If you know you can undercut larger companies due to your lower costs then you can pretty much guarantee work. If you offer better personalised service then you’ll soon find you can increase your prices and still keep the work coming in as your reputation grows.
  • Point 27: Also leads on to some advice Mal at Premier Party Tent offered the other day. Get a good accountant on board, they’re well worth the money. Be a little careful, some accountants believe they’re Gods gift to business (I should know, enough of my mates became accountants and preach to me about what I should be doing). Just remember this – if accountants were so good at running their own business why aren’t they doing it themselves? A bit like my articles on here -listen to the advice and pick and choose what you want . Accountants are also mentioned in points 33 & 34.
  • The best quote I remember is ‘if you want to be a self-made man don’t leave out the working parts’. By all means some businesses fail and it’s not your fault but don’t let it be as a result of lack of effort, drive or hard work.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Starting a marquee hire business: research

Monday, February 1st, 2010

If you’re starting up a marquee hire business you need to do your research.

The first thing to research is the competition. If your local area is swamped with small-medium marquee companies then you might need to think twice about your venture. If there’s hardly any firms or (just as good) only large companies then it’s worth setting up.

When you first start up in any business you have no reputation, the safest way to make people come to you is to undercut the competition so you need to find out their prices. This is where you’ll see if it’s worth starting up ot not, can you make a living hiring out a 6mx12m marquee (for example) for 15% less than the lowest current supplier? Remember if they’re VAT registered and you’re not then you’ll automatically be 17.5% lower than them anyway 🙂

Go through the yellow pages, thompson local and trawl online for all your local marquee hirers then sit on the phone and find out their hire charges for a particular weekend during the summer (winter will be cheaper and harder to compare like for like). I’ve mentioned before that it would be worth getting a couple of companies round pretending to be a prospective hirer to hear their sales pitch but I know a lot of people aren’t keen on this idea. When you’re successful this will happen to you (I know from experience) so my view is you might as well while you can!

The other thing to research is obviously the marquees themselves. Obviously I’m going to say all you need is available from DIY Marquees but go out and have a  good luck round at what’s out there. Then when you learn that we’re better and cheaper come back to us 😉

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Starting a marquee hire firm: website

Monday, January 4th, 2010

It may sound surprising but a website really is one of the first things you should get organised when starting up a marquee hire firm.

Google (and other search engines) take a while to find a new website and even longer to position it anywhere near the top of the search rankings (think 3-12 months).

But this is a 2 stage process. Google finds a new website but then leaves it a month or two before having it appear anywhere in the search rankings. As someone starting up this system actually buys us some time – simply set up the website with an ‘under construction’ page so google finds it and design the marquee website at your leisure (as long as it’s done in a month or so).

Thanks for reading – I hope you had a good New Year.

Spencer