I'm Spencer King, an ex-marquee erector. This blog is designed to help those running a hire business or thinking of starting. I don't claim to know everything, I'm just trying to help people avoid the mistakes I made! Check out our event planning section for advice on planning your own marquee event. Please contact us if we can help or offer advice in any way.
Have you ever had a shopping delivery from Tesco’s? We have and the attitude of the drivers is always fantastic, in my experience they are the most helpful and approachable people you could possibly get. Reflecting this back on my time running a marquee hire business I realised we did zero training for our team-leaders in public relations.
Whilst we never really had any problems leaving teamleaders on site without us we were solely worried about their standard (and speed) of work while we weren’t there. What we should have done is also express clearly how they should keep the customer informed of everything that was going on for peace of mind.
If you’re going to leave people other than yourself in charge on site then as well as training them for the job I also think it’s well worth training them to relate well to the customer, they are after all the face of your company when you’re not there.
Thanks for reading
We’ve got another marquee on eBay – this time it’s a brand new 6x12m deluxe, the only reason we’ve had to put it on there is because some of the outer packaging was torn in the store. The marquee is brand new so it could be a bargain for someone.
Our new instructional video is now ready and uploaded.
What’s new? Well we’re showing eave braces and the interchangeable wall system which weren’t on the previous video as well as a brief text commentary. The way we put together the first bay is different to most people, we just find it easier and puts less strain on any joints but there’s lots of different ways.
We are selling a marquee on eBay, the whole kit is worth just over £2,400 and we started the listing at 99p with no reserve. It’s now gone up a bit but is still very cheap so go over and grab yourself a bargain:
We put this marquee up brand new last week complete with red carpet, flat ivory roof lining, curtain linings and wall linings – something we’ll be introducing next year. It was for a wedding but we used the opportunity to make some long overdue new erecting videos that should be ready to publish in the next week or two. No doubt they will then be copied or imitated, I sometimes wonder if I posted my shopping list whether that would be copied (sales of Corona beer & Minstrels chocolate would certainly go up!) but I guess we just have to accept that’s where we are in the industry and take it as a compliment.
Happy bidding – remember this marquees has only been used once.
During my marquee career having a website has gone from being a luxury to an accessory to a necessity. It’s how a lot of people get their business and it should represent the face of your company you wish to project. Here’s a few tips for your website, each one can be summed up by the words ‘Keep it simple!’:
Text on the homepage should be brief and to the point. The fact the company was set up by your great-aunt Marge 100 years ago should go on the ‘about us’ page. There’s 2 techniques for keeping the text brief:
Write out everything you want to say and then delete any unnecessary words. And then do it again and again replacing or deleting words to make it more and more concise
Use bullet points. Eye catching and easy to keep concise
Put the area you cover on the home page. Don’t assume people will contact you to find out – if a customer finds a website that specifically says they cover ‘My Town’ then they are more likely to go there than try elsewhere.
Keep navigation simple, marquee hire websites don’t need to have a lot of pages so they should all just be one click away from the home page. At the minimum have a link back to the home page on every one of your website pages (who knows which page people will arrive on depending on what they search for)
Have a large photo gallery. Once a potential customer has established that you cover their area they will nearly always go to your gallery. They’re looking for the kind of work you do and ideally to find the exact marquee they want to hire (then they know they’re not wasting their time). For this last reason it is often worth separating the photographs in to different party/wedding/BBQ galleries
Don’t use a website made of just flash (a type of programming), you can do lots of cool things using flash (like our interactive planner) but search engines can’t read it so it’s useless in the search rankings. Use html for the bulk of your pages (nearly all template sites do)
Wedding fairs have always been popular and as a marquee hire company you’re likely to be invited to exhibit often. The organisers will promise a large footfall and explain 101 reasons why you should pay them to have a stand there.
The costs are usually relatively cheap, indeed all you need is one booking from a fair to be economically viable. Unfortunately it seems the type of future bride & grooms who go to wedding fairs are not those looking to book a marquee, certainly in my experience.
We tried many different ways of displaying our marquees on one 6ft trestle table – I even made a scale model of a marquee complete with linings and working chandeliers. All of this didn’t work, at best we covered our costs but after 18 months we called it a day.
Obviously it’s up to you if you want to go along to local wedding fairs but in my experience it’s simply not worth your time. Especially as it’s usually held on a valuable marquee day-off Sunday.
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:
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
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)
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.
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.
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 🙂
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!
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.
I'm Spencer King, an ex-marquee erector. This blog is designed to help those running a hire business or thinking of starting. I don't claim to know everything, I'm just trying to help people avoid the mistakes I made!
Check out our event planning section for advice on planning your own marquee event.
Please contact us if we can help or offer advice in any way.
I'm human, I make mistakes. All advice offered on this site is to the best of my knowledge and written in goodwill. If you find anything factually incorrect, offensive or generally disagreeable please contact me and it will be removed immediately.
I disclaim any liability incurred in connection to information supplied in this blog.