Archive for the ‘starting out’ Category

Marquee flooring – how to lay marquee carpet or matting

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Marquee flooring: As we’re now supplying carpet it makes sense to run through how to lay it in a marquee.

First off you need to lay out a groundsheet or tarpaulin. Why? Well this stops any moisture coming up and prevents condensation building up. As I’ve mentioned/ranted previously I just don’t understand why anyone would use breathable flooring, we actually got called out by a customer once who said the marquee was leaking but it was just condensation (it hadn’t rained for 2 weeks!). Grass is tough stuff, even if it’s covered for a week it soon gets back to normal.
Carpet laying

Next you need to cut the carpet to the right length – we’ve used a 6m x 12m marquee as an example but obviously just cut it to whatever length your marquee is. At this stage you only nail the ends of the carpet.
Marquee looring

The carpet needs a little stretching but coconut matting needs a lot of stretching out, as I’ve mentioned previously it’s a natural fibre so can expand and contract so use more nails in matting than carpet.

marquee carpet laying

All make sense? Remember the carpet is in rolls 50m long so it leaves plenty left over to run paths to the marquee (nail these down too).

I hope this helps those who haven’t tackled marquee flooring yet.

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.

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.

Merry xmas to all marquee hirers

Monday, December 29th, 2008

A short post today as:

a. The factory’s closed and we’re not back at work until Monday 5th so this is eating into looking-after-baby-daughter time!

b. Our best friends wedding was last night and computer screens aren’t great with hangovers..

So thank you for reading over 2008, I realise I write a lot of gabble but hopefully there’s a few things somewhere in my posts that you find useful in running or starting up your marquee hire business.

Something I find myself repeating quite frequently over the phone is “what I’d do if I was starting up a marquee hire company again” so I’ll start writing posts covering that. If it goes down well I could bundle them up in one place for future readers.

For those who are already running their own hire businesses I’d appreciate any thoughts or ideas you have to include in this beginners guide. I’ve also got some ideas on offering some free (that’s f-r-e-e) promotional techniques or website features for you. Watch this space 🙂

For those of you who run temporary water supplies to marquees (mainly those who offer catering too) you should be aware that research is being done into providing a British Standard for water quality in temporary structures. No doubt the research will take a long time and may come to nothing but it’s something you should keep an eye on in case there are requirements you don’t satisfy.

As always thank you for reading, have a happy new year and let’s hope 2009 is the year of the marquee!

Spencer

Marquee Hire Websites

Monday, December 1st, 2008

We’ve finally got round to something I’ve been meaning to sort out for a while now -we can now offer websites for start up hire businesses (or existing ones if you want to change your current site).

An example is here

Cost is likely to be £180 for the first year, £45 a year from then on which we think is very reasonable for what we’re offering:

Home page – supply your own text to fill the page, change the locations you cover, choose your own colour scheme. This will also be optimised for the search engines.
Photo Gallery – all photos are included for you to use, we’ll also add your own photos when you get them.
Marquee Planner – we’ll add whatever size DIY Marquees you stock.
Contact Page – If you want other details for people to fill in we can do it for you.
Webmail – log in to send & receive work emails.
Advice on getting up the search rankings – We’ll point out what you can do to get your website up the search rankings and links to tools to help you. It can be time consuming but very little expertise is required.

Any extras you would like adding we can arrange (price on application). Once the website is up and running any subsequent alterations we’d also have to charge for (except adding photographs).

A .co.uk domain name is included in the price so you can choose whatever name you like (subject to availability) and your email address would be yourname@yourdomain.co.uk.

As always , feedback appreciated.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

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