Ways to reduce stress

Marquee hire can (hopefully) be a busy business and during the summer you’re generally flat out. With that in mind you should try to reduce your stress whenever possible:

  • Have two mobile phones, a personal number for close family and friends that you rarely hand out and a business one that anyone and everyone can have. Turn the work phone off when you’re not working. Nothing breaks up your relaxing day off more than a work phone call that could have waited until the next work day. Incidentally turn your work phone off at night – the worst call we ever had was one at 4am asking if we hired napkins..
  • Buy a hands free kit – you will receive calls when you’re driving
  • Buy a live traffic sat-nav – it will save you travelling time and therefore improve your companies efficiency.
  • Have a pad of paper & pen with you everywhere

Customers like the idea of not being abandoned with their marquee, it gives great peace of mind if they have your mobile for any problems. On your side being able to turn the work phone off when you’re not working will help you relax away from the world of marquees.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee & linings manufacturer

Most of the time this blog is used to offer help and advice for anyone on the marquee hire industry. Sometimes we use it to promote our new products and things (hey, we’ve got to pay the rent). Very occasionally we’ll use it for our own vanity, such as today. Feel free to stop reading now and come back next week 🙂

DIY Marquees is part of C & D King Ltd who started manufacturing in 1979 when my mum (the D in C & D) fired up her sewing machine. We’ve scaled up quite a bit from then (not that we make absolutely everything we sell obviously) but at a time when people have quite loose interpretations of the word ‘manufacturer’ it was good to get back to our roots recently:

Water Chariots (the 2012 Games Canal Boat Service) approached us to help convert their functional new boats in to vessels suitable for VIP trips. The difficulty came not just in the awkward shapes and sizes required but how to attach it to a boat when you can’t make any permanent fixings (and no one’s invented sky-hooks yet).

Just to be clear – we don’t normally take on any custom-sized linings, indeed as a purely business decision it was up there with the chocolate tea urn I got from eBay last year. But everyone wants to be involved with the games in London this summer.

This is the interior of the boats before we made the linings:

And this is what it looked like with our custom linings fitted:

If you need linings made for marquees then please contact us.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee linings tip

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. Spraying a small amount of bleach will usually get rid of patches, if the area affected is large you actually 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

Looking after your marquee

Looking after your marquees is a fundamentally sensible idea for running a marquee hire business. The longer a marquee lasts the longer you’ll have a return on your investment before phoning those lovely DIY Marquee people to order a new one.

The biggest factor is keeping your kit dry. Putting PVC away wet will age it a lot quicker than necessary whilst obviously any metalwork kept in a damp environment would become tarnished far quicker.

It’s PVC that needs the most looking after. If it’s consistently put in an abrasive environment then it can obviously wear through (parents who have been to an old soft play area will know that one) but the most common way is the coated layers of the fabric breaking down with dirty water getting inbetween and drying – this leads to black marks left inside the PVC which is impossible to remove.

If you see old marquees at country fairs etc then they will often have this ‘black spot’ in their walls and roofs.

How to avoid this aging:

  • Start off with a good quality PVC. For example there are 101 different version of 500gsm, the one we use shouldn’t become brittle or break down as quickly as the cheaper end of the 500gsm  PVC range. This is the same across the whole range of PVC materials, going for a good quality fabric will save you money in the long term
  • Don’t put the PVC away wet if you can avoid it and certainly don’t keep it stored for a long time when damp
  • Don’t fold the PVC in the same place every time. A waterproof coat will leak first on the inside of the elbows, this is because it is forever under stress creasing and re-creasing in the same place. If you keep folding walls and roofs using the same fold lines then that is where the layers will crack first and you’re aging your marquee prematurely – use different fold lines or roll them up.

Thanks for reading, and remember – look after your broom marquee

Spencer

Erecting aluminium frame marquees

As their companies expand a lot of our customers simply expand their stock of DIY Marquees and take on more jobs of similar size. A lot of expanding customers wish to offer larger marquees than ours and venture in to aluminium frame marquees to run along side their existing DIY Marquees. There are merits to either path and we’re very happy to see people we’ve helped along the way succeed. We also get asked (and are happy to supply) advice on aluminium framework despite not supplying them, it seems there are a lot of suppliers who give you a brief diagram, a pat on the back and send you on your way!

So assuming you can follow the brief diagram for assembly these are some tips to save learning along the way:

  • Buy some hard hats. Do it now. I’ve never seen anyone hit on the head with one of our DIY Marquees. I have seen many people hit on the head using aluminium frame marquees (generally putting purlins in), the likeliest candidates are those new to it. It’s also useful to have whoever’s in charge in a different colour hat.
  • Leave the footplates and eave knuckles bolted on to the legs
  • Have two bolts in each leg so any leg can be used for scissors/cross-braces
  • Have spare bolts for putting the framework together, you will lose some especially if transported in trailers where it bounces around a bit
  • Don’t slide the legs or roof beams on metalwork (especially something like a roof-rack) it scratches the metalwork and ages it rapidly
  • The supplier should have given you a purlin lifter (long pole with a ‘U’ or ‘G’ at the top), one person hooks the purlin in and the other uses the purlin lifter to slot in the other end. When the purlin is in the lifter twisting it slightly will grip the purlin tightly
  • Start at one end of the marquee doing a bay at a time and have the hooks of the purlins facing the bays you haven’t done. This way the person hooking the purlins in can lean the frame back or forth if required (this makes sense when you’re doing it!)
  • Make sure the marquee framework and roofs are completely square, if not your marquee will leak! Trust me I know this from experience (with a lot of head scratching), this is also the reason that all of our DIY Marquee roofs are in one piece (if you’re under it, you’re waterproof). This is probably the trickiest part of erecting aluminium frames to learn, it takes experience to get it right but you must must do it. A leaking marquee is no good to anyone
  • The roofs are pulled on with ropes, your supplier should have given you some but if not just make them out of 8mm rope (spend some money and get nice soft rope rather than polyprop) and tie a clip on the end. You need at least 2 ropes each a bit wider than your marquee
  • Take it easy lifting the frames, especially the larger 12m+ ones so you don’t end up with a back injury like mine. It’s a very very heavy bit of kit and can be tricky to lift without bending your back but persevere.
  • On a similar note invest in a stake puller, our J shape ones can be knocked side to side a bit to take out but the straight ones in aluminium frames are a lot trickier so a stake puller is money well spent (you’re spending a fortune on the marquee just spend a little more!)

That’s all the main points I can remember about the shells of the marquees, no doubt there are a lot more tips to learn when doing it. There are more to do with the linings and once you’re familiar then there’s a few more advanced options – you can put up an aluminium frame (with all linings, flooring & lighting) without any steps for example.

Apologies if this doesn’t make any sense to most of our customers but it’s worth bookmarking for the future in case you’re considering expanding in the future.

Thanks for reading (sorry no blog last week due to family holiday)

Spencer

Seasonal weather

Working outdoors as a marquee erector you become a little more conscious of the weather than most. As mentioned previously when helping to plan weddings I found it useful to take along a list of that years sunset times to help plan lighting etc.

In my experience (obviously this is purely my experience with no scientific facts to back it up) the year generally takes the following pattern:

  •  Jan & Feb – obviously cold. Allow for maximum heating at all times
  • March – can be surprising and we often have 1 or 2 very good weeks (this year was a perfect example) so heating and wet weather planning is tricky
  • April – showery albeit not usually as bad as this year
  • May – events in early May are pushing their luck a bit, generally the weather is only reliably good by the end of the month (yes I’m aware this could come back to haunt me in 3 weeks time but I’m talking in general terms!)
  • June & July – reliably (as far as British summers allow) good, heating unlikely
  • August – can get surprisingly chilly later in the evening and we would often have heaters out just to take the chill off any non-dancing area
  • September – we often get 1 or 2 weeks of really good weather mid-September but by the end the weather has usually dropped
  • October & November – cold but not reliably so. The last 3 years at The Showmans Show (mid October) have been T-shirt wearing sunshine, then crowded round heaters and last year was rain. You can get anything.
  • December – reliably cold

Why is this useful? Well if you’re doing a business plan and wondering about buying heaters you might consider getting enough heating for March/November weather but hiring in the extra heaters you need for winter. Why do it like this? Well this way your heaters could get used 6-8 months of the year but the extra ones needed to supplement these for winter would only be needed for 2-3 months (also the quietest marquee hire months). Hopefully I’ve explained what I mean but if not please let me know 🙂

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Anchoring a marquee – the ground matters

Deciding how much anchoring a marquee needs is not an exact science, generally it comes from experience and obviously you should always be on the cautious side when deciding how many anchoring points to put on a marquee.

Our tie down kits allow for one tie down per leg but there are many other factors to consider:

  • The quality of the ground, if the ground is very soft you will need more (or larger) anchoring points than usual
  • The area immediately around the marquee, if it is surrounded by high wind-breaking obstacles then you can use less anchoring points than usual
  • The surrounding area, being in the middle of a field on top of a hill will require more anchoring points than usual
  • How the marquee is to be used, a marquee without sides (effectively a large umbrella) will require a lot more anchoring than usual
  • The weather forecast will also influence your decision

This information is supposed to help not intimidate any one starting up, for nearly every marquee job you take on our standard tie down kit will be more than enough. But for those odd occasions these are things you need to be aware of, if you turn up to a job on a beach or sand-school or if the weather is very bad consider adding additional anchoring points. If the weather is good and the marquee is secluded then you can probably allow less.

Out tie down kits use larger stakes than the industry average, they have better quality and stronger ratchet straps and also include a figure of eight strap for secure fixing to the marquee.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Planning a greeting drinks area

Part of your job when supplying a marquee is to help plan the event as a whole. Remember it’s in your interest for the event to go well and smoothly as that is likely to generate future bookings and expand your business in the best way – by word of mouth recommendations.

Once you’ve established where the marquee is going for most events you also have to plan somewhere to have drinks on arrival. Here are some ideas/thoughts/suggestions on that:

  • Have a wet and dry plan. In the summer invariably this will be drinks outside nearby in the sunshine or inside the marquee if it’s raining
  • If you’re running a path of matting/carpet to the marquee then don’t run it straight through the drinks area. Either have it run to one side or have it running to the drinks area then a separate piece from there to the marquee. It’s a difficult one to explain but if you have a path running through the drinks area it will effectively cut the party in two – no one will stand on the path. Have the path leading up to a table serving drinks (perhaps under a Pagoda?) then another piece by the marquee
  • Whether it’s benches, some spare chairs, hay bales or a selection of outdoor furniture allow for some form of seating. The elderly and lazy will always want to sit somewhere and if you don’t supply it they will start carrying furniture out of the marquee
  • Outdoor furniture should be exactly that – suitable to be left out in the rain. People aren’t going to be worried about your furniture if the heavens open.
  • In a large garden/field always keep the outdoor furniture in one area, this keeps the party in one place and preserves the atmosphere
  • If drinks are to be supplied from a bar in the marquee try to plan it so it can be accessed from outside without guests having to go in to the main marquee. This is easily done, just have a zipped or removable wall by the bar and tell them to have one table facing outside and another facing inside (for the evening). If people have to go inside the marquee then they will sit inside the marquee and you end up with guests everywhere when the catering staff are still setting up -or worse still on seeing some guests sitting down people may think everyone needs to go through to the marquee and spoil timings for everyone!
  • If you’re concerned about where guests will go for drinks in the event of rain think about erecting a roof only marquee or use one of our gable pieces to create a porch on the front of one of your existing marquees

Thanks for reading

Spencer

I want to set up a marquee hire business

This is something we hear often and fortunately this is where we can help. Arrange a time to come in and see us and we will sit down with you and discuss any ideas you may have.

How we can help:

  • We can offer advice from our many years experience both in the marquee hire industry (10+ yrs) and from running a business (30+ yrs)
  • If we can’t help you with something we’ll know someone in the industry who can
  • We are happy to discuss the pros and cons of all products used in the industry, not just the ones we supply/manufacture
  • We are happy to offer continued advice in the future, we take the view that helping you to expand and be successful is ultimately beneficial to both parties
  • We offer sample photos to get you started
  • We offer sample terms and conditions (the ones we used for 10+ years)
  • We include a list of industry contacts, these are people that we can recommend from either our experience or others who we have helped over the years
  • We are one of the most innovative marquee suppliers around, we repeatedly come up with new products and new ways for you to gain returns on your investment. We’d love to take all of the credit for these ideas but most of them come from our large network of existing DIY Marquee users

We can’t do everything for you (we’re not going to come and put the marquees up for you for example!) but we believe we are comfortably the best place to start –contact us to arrange a meeting.

Thanks for reading and thanks for to everyone reading who’s come to see us over the years.

Spencer

Negotiating, haggling and just being rude

There were a number of ways people would try to negotiate down the price of a marquee:

1. Negotiating for a much larger order than they will ever place

This is where a customer will ask you to quote for a lot of equipment and negotiate for a discount based on the large quantity. They then only book a small portion of it based on the same percentage discount (say an unlined marquee with flooring rather than several marquees with linings, lighting and furniture).

This can be a difficult one to handle as once you’ve got a deposit for a marquee booking in you don’t necessarily want to turn it away. As a precaution if you do decide to offer any discount on an order then always add the caveat ‘discount is based on the complete order’ to give yourself room to manoeuvre at a later stage.

2. The promise of a bigger order to follow

“If this goes well there’s a really big booking in 4 months time that we’ll need” -this one is used a LOT in the marquee hire industry. The promise of one or more bookings to come and how you should offer a discount based on all those future bookings.

This was used so often I just ignored it and treated each booking on it’s own merits. If people are going to book you again in the future then just say that you will then offer a discount off that one.

3. Staying silent

This is a standard tactic they teach on negotiating courses, when discussing figures and trying to agree on a price  they will suddenly just keep silent. This creates an awkward silence that a decent and polite person (that’s you) will fill using lower numbers than previously offered.

The solution? Also stay silent -trust me it’s fun! Yes it can feel awkward but eventually one of you will start talking again and you can carry on without such nonsense.

4. Keeping you waiting for an appointment.

This is a power thing as much as a negotiating trick and is very popular in large companies. They will make a fixed appointment but when you turn up to their reception you’re left waiting around. It’s a show of power that they’re in control and you’ve got to wait for them to be ready.

Again this is a difficult one to handle. I always used to stick it out but refuse to do any kind of discount when it came to negotiating. If someone did it these days then I would be out the door muttering and swearing under my breath after 10 minutes!

With the marquee hire industry discounts out of season are the norm, discounts during peak season are very rare.

I hope this helps, thanks for reading.

Spencer