Archive for July, 2012

Signwriting vehicles

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Most commercial vehicles are sign-written, free advertising makes perfect sense. There are some circumstances in which I wouldn’t sign-write my marquee related vehicles:

  1. If whoever is driving the vehicle drives it like a go-kart. You will receive phone calls, they will not be pleasant and won’t be doing your local business reputation much good
  2. If you use premises that are not technically for commercial purposes (anywhere you don’t pay business rates essentially). If an inspector comes round believing that you’re running a business out of the site it is very difficult to argue otherwise if you’ve got vans or trailers marked up ‘Daves Marquee Hire’ around the place. If they’re unmarked then it’s easy to argue that they’re just used for business  part-time (or not at all)
  3. Double cab pick ups, sometimes they’re classed as commercial and sometimes as domestic (never in your favour by the way), if it’s permanently sign-written again it’s hard to argue you should be going through a toll as a domestic vehicle (consider removable magnetic ones)

Lastly if you are going to sign-write your vehicles please don’t put the writing on the front bonnet back to front. Think of the number of vehicles that will see you in their rear-view mirror then think of the number of vehicles coming the other way that will see your sign.

Thanks for reading


Use loading lists to avoid frustration

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

When I was on the way back to our yard one day thoroughly cheesed off that one vital part had not been loaded I came up with a solution. Up until that point we’d just loaded from memory.

The best system we came up with was to laminate the parts list for each marquee, each team would then tick off the bits as they were loaded using a white board marker that could be cleaned off before used again.

We also made sure that all PVC and linings were clearly labelled, it’s very easy to mistake similar sized roofs when they’re rolled up for example.

You have to drum in to every member of the team that it’s worth an extra 5 minutes making sure everything is labelled and stored/loaded correctly. Trying to load when faced with an equipment room that looks like a bomb has gone off is not a good thing.

Thanks for reading – please be aware that due to the Olympics over the next couple of weeks some deliveries may be delayed, especially in the London area.


When to call off, cancel or postpone a marquee booking

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

The recent weather is causing a lot of problems for marquee hire companies and events all over the country with Ireland especially hard hit. So should you as the hire company call off a booking? My opinion is no, it should be down to the customer.

If you start calling off an event then you might get hit with all sorts of legal implications/challenges from the other related costs of the function with deposits lost etc. This doesn’t stop you warning customers or offering advice along the lines of ‘if it was me..’

Assuming you have typical t’s and c’s along the lines of: Cancellation of a booking over 14 days is 20% to pay, 3-13 days 50%, less than 3 days then 100% I would write every customer a letter stating:

  • There has been exceptional weather conditions this year and as a consequence marquees can take longer to erect than planned. Please be patient with us, we will erect your marquee and won’t let you down -this allays any understandable fears they may have
  • Should you be concerned over the suitability of an area badly hit by the weather we are more than happy to come out and view the site to discuss how the marquee would be affected -better to pre-empt/warn of likely issues to save waiting round on erection day
  • Should the site prove unsuitable then we can erect the marquee at an alternative local venue at no extra charge (subject to a site survey)
  • Should you wish to cancel the event if it is 14 days or more before the event then you will only lose the 20% deposit already paid. If the notice period is less than 14 days then although 50% of the booking fee is due we are offering our customers a 20% discount off any future booking to compensate, this has proved a fair solution to a headache often faced this summer – I’m not sure of the wording or amounts on this but you get the idea, you’re stating their obligations whilst also trying to help
  • Please be aware that soft access surfaces may get damaged when delivering and taking away the equipment -this pre-warns them of any ruts you may leave getting in and out of the job

Like I say this would just be what I would do, I’m a firm believer in that pre-warning of any problem means if it arises it becomes a constructive chat to resolve rather than conflict.

Thanks for reading, I’m not sure that’s really the positive post I promised last week!

Please note that the factory will be closed on Friday afternoon from around 3:30pm as the Olympic torch is coming past 🙂

Tampering with marquees in your absence

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Once you’ve put a marquee up you leave the site and generally don’t return until you’re taking down the marquee. That’s often several days that customers or more likely friends of customers can look at the marquee and see how they think it could be improved.

There’s lots of talk on the marquee forum about what can happen in your absence with people (perfectly innocently) tampering with a marquee and creating a lot of problems.

In a similar vein to advice I received from an electrician friend a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Someone who is scared of doing anything to your marquee isn’t someone to worry about (though I once had a call asking if they could undo a zip. That would be the zipped entrance..). The likely (again perfectly innocent) culprit is going to be the hands-on bit of an amateur DIY-er who will happily volunteer to removed some sides to the marquee not appreciating that not doing the fixings back up afterwards might risk damaging the roof. Or some perfectly useless looking metal struts could be removed to allow access in one corner of a marquee.

So what can you do to prevent this occurring?

Not a lot, but you can minimise it by:

  • Making one person accountable for the marquee in your absence – particularly vital if you are dealing with a company rather than private customer
  • Have a form for a customer to sign stating that they have been shown what they can and cannot do with the marquee (make sure they have a copy to keep). Indeed having a ‘user-guide’ to leave with the marquee is a great idea (feel free to open windows but ensure they are closed again in high winds or overnight etc)
  • If metalwork is within easy reach then have all bolts slightly more than finger tight. This will stop children playing with them but might not stop their Dad with that shiny set of Black & Decker spanners he got for Xmas!
  • You can put stickers over the framework (and electrics) of the marquee stating ‘please do not tamper with this’, personally I’m not convinced by this.

99% of customers are very reasonable and wouldn’t dare do anything that might harm your marquee or endanger the people inside, as with a lot of things you have to take as many precautions as possible to prevent that remaining 1%. Informing customers of the painfully obvious do’s, don’t’s and liabilities is an unfortunate necessary, preferably with a paper trail proving such.

Thanks for reading. Bit of a negative post this week wasn’t it? I’ll try and post a cheerier one next time!


Getting stuck on site

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The most common cause of customers falling out with a supplier is getting stuck on site and ruining their grass. I’m hearing lots of stories along these lines with the recent poor weather so it’s not just restricted to Winter.

This really comes down to planning beforehand – driving on wet grass is always going to be risky with vehicles (vans & lorries) that are not renowned for their off-roading abilities.

  • Don’t take any chances, if it looks like it might be muddy then walk it however far it needs walking. Paying everyone an extra hour or two will be cheaper than having a lawn professionally repaired.
  • If you are going to drive on the grass then take the (driest) widest route possible, obviously avoid driving in front of the marquee.
  • Customers will be far more prescious about their grass before an event than after so it might be you can drive to the marquee on the take down – just keep in mind getting on site with an empty van is a different ball game to getting one off-site with a marquee loaded
  • Make sure any subcontractors (furniture, toilet or generator suppliers) are pre-warned before they get on site. Spending an extra day carrying all of a marquee across a lawn only to have the furniture suppliers tear up the lawn was a particular highlight of my marquee hiring career!
  • Don’t assume the ground will be in the same condition when you price a job to when it comes to erecting the marquee months later.

Thanks for reading – first mention of The Showmans Show on 17th & 18th October, put it in your diary.