Weathering your marquees to a house

Marquees often need connecting to a house, especially during the winter.

Someone will be organising a house party and will come to you because they basically want to gain an extra room. How are you going to do it?

First off you need to see if you can butt the marquee up against the house. Always use the 6m flat gable against the house if possible,  that means if it rains the water will go off the side and also as there’s no eaves bar at the end the door should open in to the marquee with few problems (as long as it’s not too high).

Sometimes this simply isn’t possible, in which case you need a walkway. But where can I buy one I hear you cry? Come along to our stand at The showmans show and you’ll see our new modular 2mx6m walkways that can be used as 2mx4m or 2mx2m. Priced very reasonably etc etc [fill in your own sales pitch here].

Other things to think about when using a marquee to gain a room on to a house:

  • Recommend either the food or drink or both is placed in the marquee. People always end up in the kitchen at house parties for a reason.
  • If there’s a window next to the door you’re butting up to don’t cover it over with a marquee wall, leave it open to help the atmosphere at the party (as long as it doesn’t leave draughty gaps)

We’re in our usual spot at The Showmans Show – Avenue E, stand number 267.  Come out of the entrance hall, turn right then first left. We’re along on the right. Alternatively follow your nose to the bar and we’re halfway there on the right.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Problems with power to a marquee

At some point in your marquee erecting career you’ll have a problem with the power supply, generally shown by a lack of available light, lack of music or lack of tea facilities.

What to do?

Golden rule: Start at the power source and work your way to the marquee.

There’s no point dismantling a chandelier looking for a fault only to find the extension lead powering it has accidentally been turned off in the house. Trust me I know as I’ve done it several times (an intelligent person would learn..)

If you’re getting your power from a house using RCD adapter plugs (if you’re not then you should be) then they have little red tabs in the top saying they’re working. No red tab means it’s either tripped (reset it) or there’s no power (house has a power cut) or the fuse has gone (replace it).

Next step is to follow the extension lead across to the marquee – you’re checking to see if it’s been cut through or damaged by a lawn mower/hedge cutter/etc.

Once you get to the marquee end of the extension lead disconnect it from whatever’s plugged in and test it with something you know works (you might need a separate 16amp plug to 13amp socket adapter for this step). Ideally this would be a 13amp socket tester but failing that a radio or hoover. Nothing too valuable in case there’s actually problems with the power supply! If you get power at the socket but not the other end then swap the extension lead.

If you have power then the next step (assuming it’s lighting) is to take the dimmer out -bypass it by connecting the chandeliers straight on to the extension lead. If the chandeliers work then you’ve got a problem with the dimmer (if overloaded they can melt inside which is fatal for them. Remember maximum two 5-arm chandeliers per dimmer). If the chandeliers still don’t work then you’ve got a problem with one or both of the chandeliers. Take them down and test them individually to see where the fault lies.

Problems with power happen quite regularly, generally it’s nuisance tripping (a bulb blowing) that means resetting the RCD adapter or even the trip inside the house. We test the chandeliers last as they’re furthest from the house and can mean taking down all the linings. It won’t be an early day.

Whilst talking about power it’s worth mentioning that most catering equipment isn’t electrically tested regularly enough so often trips an RCD. If it keeps tripping don’t be tempted to remove the RCD, it’s there to protect people. If there’s faulty equipment it should not be used.

Bottom line:  Always have a 13amp socket tester, a 16amp plug to 13amp socket adapter, a few fuses and a small screwdriver in your van. A torch wouldn’t go a miss either 🙂

An early blog this week as I’m away next week. Yes, yes more holidays than Santa. I’d point out that we’re having another baby in November when all hell will break loose so we’re going away while we can!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

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

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

The Showmans Show 2009

On the 21st and 22nd October is The Showmans Show. For those who dont know the show covers all things to do with marquees and outdoor events. Anyone who supplies the marquee hire industry has a stand at the show. So for anyone who runs a marquee hire business or are thinking of starting up it’s a must-visit.

I was talking to a couple of guys last weekend that are thinking of starting up a hire business who were shocked I recommended they visited the show. “But you’re pointing out somewhere with all your competitors”. I have no problem with that, I’d much prefer people bought from us having researched the industry fully. As well as that we’re quite uniquely placed in the industry in the quality and value for money we offer 🙂

We’re working very hard at the moment to give you all some more hire options next year. Just to reassure existing customers these are all ideas to expand our (and your) range of marquees & accessories, we’ll continue supplying our current ranges so you’ll always be able to buy spare parts etc if required.

What are these new ideas? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

Look forward to seeing you at The Showmans Show

Marquee pricing

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.

Theatre style seating in a marquee

Theatre style marquee seating

How much room do you need for theatre style seating in a marquee?

If a customer comes along and says they want to hold a ceremony in one of your marquees, how are you going to work out the size they need?

Like most things to do with marquees it’s very easy, assuming you’re using standard chairs with no arms.

Allow 50cm wide for the chair, and 1m depth for the chair and persons legs.

In the photo above we used a 9m wide marquee with a 2m (fairly typical size) aisle down the middle. That leaves 3.5m each side, enough for 7 chairs.

The marquee was 18m long and the front 2m was left clear for the ceremony. That leaves 16m for chairs – each row takes up 1m so 16 rows of 14 chairs = 224 chairs. Quite a few more than sitting around tables for example!

If you’re a bit cramped for space try turning the layout round 90 degrees so the aisle comes in from the side. It doesn’t look as impressive but a shorter aisle means more space for seating.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee site visits/surveys

When you go out to see a customer as well as creating a good impression you obviously need to take a good look at where the marquee’s going.

Ask the customer if there are any underground cables or pipes you should be aware of -if so have them clearly indicated on a diagram. If there aren’t any it’s worth mentioning at the bottom of your quote “you have indicated there are no underground pipes or cables to avoid when erecting the marquee”.

As well as under the marquee you need to look above. Are there any overhead power lines you need to worry about? Generally this is more likely when you’re putting a marquee up in a field rather than a garden but it should be taken seriously as this article from the BBC shows. Now don’t let stories such as this scare you, especially if you’re starting up a marquee hire business. It’s generally only on larger marquees and when you’re swinging 15ft+ poles around that you should be concerned but I’d always recommend contact EDF energy if there’s an overhead power cable nearby just to be sure.

If you’re getting a bit concerned about the things you need to think of when you’re on a site visit (remember you’ve also got to sell a marquee and come up with suggested plans!) then don’t worry – it becomes second nature after a while and it’s worth having a checklist just to make sure. If I can find them I’ll post our  old marquee site visit sheets up here to give you ideas.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

I’m away for the next 2 weeks so the factory will probably be more efficient but there won’t be any blog posts until I’m back, sorry.

Marquee hire success

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

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?

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).