When things go wrong running a marquee hire business

First off don’t worry. It’s incredibly rare to have any problem and even then they’re generally minor things.

If you’re starting up a marquee hire business you’re probably worrying about:

  • The marquees blowing away – make sure they’re always well anchored down. We never had this happen to us and I don’t know any hire business this has happened to.
  • Not being paid for the job. If you take a small deposit but then have the balance payable when the marquees up but before it’s used then you never have any bad debts (don’t allow any exceptions). It’s easy getting payment when you can still take the marquee down, if you leave it until after the event you have no leverage.

Realistically the only problem we really encountered (and to be honest it did happen a couple of times a year) is the customer complaining that the marquee roofs are dirty. If you put a marquee up under a tree when it rains all the dirt drips down off the leaves on to your marquee, this is the main cause of dirt building up. If it’s in your busiest time of year and it’s going straight back up you just don’t get time to clean it.
The solution? We’d give the customer a roof lining for free.This covered the dirty roof and the customer’s also happy because they’re getting a higher spec marquee than they’re paying for.

I was always reluctant to knock money off to solve any problem, you end up haggling and compromising so neither of you are happy and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Are people going to recommend you afterwards?

At the end of the day a happy customer has always got to be your goal, you need to do whatever you need (within reason) to make sure every customer is happy. You’d be amazed, some of our best recommendations came from people who’d originally complained but we’d sorted it out for them.

I’m a firm believer that you see the true side of a business (and a person) when things go wrong, make sure you react well and your reputation will only benefit from it.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee hire insurance and terms & conditions

A couple of people have mentioned about insurance recently so I thought I’d repost this:
If you receive money for marquee hire you need to be covered for public liability insurance and have some good terms and conditions to back yourself up.

Insurance

There are several insurance firms who specialise in marquee hire cover -we include their details with all of our marquee sales. They can cover you for one-off events (though they need at least 14 days notice) or provide annual cover.

One-off cover should be considered for part-time marquee hire companies but if you’re setting it up as a full time business annual cover will almost certainly be more economic.

Public liability insurance shouldn’t be confused with fire/theft/damage insurance. Public liability insurance is always included in the cost of hiring, fire/theft/damage insurance is usually an optional extra -it’s up to the customer to decide which they’d prefer:

  • Risk it, have no insurance cover.
  • Household policy cover -some household insurance policies cover marquees. When I started out most household policies would cover marquees, now hardly any do.
  • Insure it through yourselves -most marquee hire insurance companies will allow you to offer insurance at around 5% of the total hire charge which you can offer your customers.

Terms and Conditions

You may think t’s & c’s aren’t necessary, especially if you’re only hiring to friends or friends of friends -in my opinion you should ALWAYS have them, even though you’ll rarely have to use them.

Things like cancellation policy, what happens in the event of loss or damage of equipment and especially have a force majeure part – you may think nothing will stop you putting your customers marquee up but think of the fuel crisis, foot & mouth or even someone wrecking your marquee a week before your customers event.

A copy of the terms and conditions we used as a hire company are included with every marquee sale.
Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Marquee flooring – how to lay marquee carpet or matting

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

DIY show marquee now up!

For those who want to see before you buy and can’t wait for the Showmans Show in October we’ve currently got a show marquee up in a garden 10-15 mins away from our factory.

Show Marquee 1

It’s a 6m x 12m DIY Marquee though as we use the same design for all it’s useful to see even if you’re buying one 6m, 8m or 14m long.

We’ve got our new chandeliers in there and the new carpet that we’re stocking (details and prices should go on the website later this week). We’re very excited about offering these new products, they seem to have gone down very well and as people will see from the show marquee give the marquee an excellent finish.

We’ve also been experimenting with lining effects, the extra coloured trim in the with curtains seems to work well:

Show Marquee 2

When you think that this marquee costs around £1800 + VAT (excluding coloured swags) and hires out for £800-£1200 a time you really see how profitable marquee hire can be!

If you want to come and see the show marquee please phone ahead for an appointment, it’s in someone’s garden so we could do with knowing the day before to be polite.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Look after your back

In the world of road sweeping the motto is “look after your broom”. In the world of marquees it’s “look after your back” (anyone who hasn’t heard Trigger’s quote before do yourself a favour and put off starting up a marquee hire business until you’ve gone and watched every episode of only fools and horses!).

This is something I know a fair bit about as the only reason I’m now in Marquee sales is because I ‘retired hurt’ from Marquee hire with a back injury.

Does this happen with everyone? Certainly not! I’ve got friends who’ve been putting up marquees for 20-30 years with little or no problem. But it’s certainly something you have to keep in mind as keeping fit keeps the income.

In my experience the number of things you get told to help your posture and avoid a bad back is just one endless list that everyone’s keen to follow but then if you break one you just think sod it, I’ll ignore all of them. I’m no doctor, I’ve just suffered more than most with back problems so here’s my list of pointers that hopefully are realistic for your everyday marquee erector:

  • Ever wondered why golfers stick their back leg out when they’re getting their ball of of the hole? It’s because it reduces the strain on their back. When you go round picking up pegs/nails/whatever stick your leg out when bending over. If what you’re picking up is heavy then crouch down keeping your back straight and bending only your knees – this is the rule broken by just about anyone who hasn’t suffered from a bad back!
  • If you’re reasonably tall don’t drive a pick-up truck. Look at the seating position – your backside is about 4″ off the floor, just think how curved your back is to cope with that! Compare that with a transit van or a Land Rover where the high seat makes you sit far more upright. I’m speaking from experience, I used to own a pick-up that I’d have to fold myself out of after an hours drive. With a land rover I can hop out no matter how long the journey.
  • Sit back in chairs and sofas, don’t slouch
  • When lifting a heavy object (marquee roofs for example) keep it hugged close to the body rather than over one shoulder. Also try to avoid twisting when lifting as this seems to be the worst thing for your back. You often hear about people twinging their back when getting out of the bath – this is because they’re lifting (themselves) and twisting (to get out).

In brief: Stick your leg out when bending down, sit back in a decent height chair, bend your knees when lifting and don’t twist.

It’s easy to laugh all of these off but if you want to be in the marquee hire industry long term they’re well worth following, trust me I should know 🙂

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

My suggested approach to running a marquee hire business

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.

London 2012 has just published new event BS 8901 guidelines to ensure that its corporate and public events are organised and run in a sustainable way. Here’s the link

The key paragraphs are on pages 3 and 4.

Page 3 “ These guidelines have been developed primarily for our internal event organisers and those contracted or otherwise closely involved in delivering London 2012 corporate and public events: eg venue managers, suppliers, licensees, commercial partners and media organisations.

The types of events that these Guidelines are intended for include:

·         Conferences and seminars

·         Workshops

·         Road shows

·         Cultural events

·         Promotional launches

·         Open days”

Page 4 “ We expect the companies and organisations we work with to follow this process with us, to have in place a sustainability policy, to comply with all applicable legal requirements AND AT LEAST BE WORKING TOWARDS IMPLEMENTATION OF BS 8901 IN THEIR OWN RIGHT.”

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Well it’s useful to know in preparation for the Olympics, I’d expect a lot of marquee hire companies in the London area to be heavily involved so it’s something to look into as soon as possible.

For those interested in attending a BS 8901 workshop please contact our friends at TESA.

Back to my favourite subject – us 🙂

We’re putting up a show marquee up on Tuesday 31st March as long as the weather’s not too bad (like my golf I’m now a fair weather only marquee erector!). We’ll be putting up a 6m x 12m DIY Marquee in the morning then carpetting, lining and lighting it in the afternoon. If anyone wants to come along and witness my creaking bones in action you’re more than welcome (please phone beforehand to book your place in the bandstand). I’m not sure experienced people will learn much other than a few alternative swear words as my back celebrates it’s return to manual labour for the day!

The marquee will be up for the whole of April so if anyone wants to view before buying please make an appointment (it’s 10-15mins away from our factory).

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Marquee hire layouts – an example

My brother’s getting married in June, would you believe he’s having a marquee?

So I thought it would be sensible to run through the thinking process for his layout etc, I may revisit this again in more detail in the future but it seems a good example of the sort of thing you may face when planning a wedding for someone.

My brothers wedding is going to be held in my parents garden – anyone who’s watched our instructional 6×12 video and lived to tell the tale has already seen it in the background. It’s a fair size garden and gives me several things to point out of interest to marquee hire businesses.

Brothers wedding

  • The most attractive part of the garden is just above the patio where you’re surrounded by rockeries and small trees
  • There’s more lawn past the rockeries but it’s not as attractive a setting
  • The path along the side of the house is quite narrow

So here’s my thinking and how I’d recommend anyone new should tackle most gardens.

If this was a winter marquee, I’d recommend having the marquee either on the patio attached to the house or on the lawn immediately next to the patio for ease of access in to the house. The weather’s likely to be bad so you need to think of easy access for everyone.

If this was an evening function or one where you would only be using the marquee (nothing outside) then I’d recommend having the marquee on the attractive part of the lawn with plenty of windows – maybe having some spotlights or lanterns in amongst the rockery etc.

But my brother’s getting married in June, the weather should be good and he wants everyone to have drinks outside first so my suggestion is to use the attractive lawn area for drinks and have the marquee  set back above the rockeries on the less attractive lawn area.

You should always think about what people will see when they first arrive – first impressions are everything! For this reason I don’t think it’s sensible having the guests arrive around the side of the house via a narrow path. We’re going to have a strip of red carpet coming up the lawn – maybe with small pots of flowers or some kind of decoration either side leading up to the drinks area. This makes for an impressive entrance and means everyone knows where to go:

marquee hire layout
So when you’re planning a wedding marquee keep these things in mind:

  • What are people’s first impressions going to be? Try to avoid having them arrive at the back of the marquee for example.
  • What’s the weather likely to be? You’re generally guided by the time of year but if bad weather’s likely have the marquee closer to the house or have sufficient area for people to stand under cover
  • Don’t have too large an area for drinks – you lose a lot of the atmosphere

I’m sure there’s plenty more but hopefully this helps.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Keep your marquee advertising local

If you’re doing a marquee at someones house what does tell you about the area?

It means houses nearby are also likely to have gardens large enough for marquees. Not only that but chances are some of the local people will probably go to the event you’re doing a marquee for! So why not target them?

Every time you do a marquee it’s worth going up a down the road a little way posting flyers – just get something very simple made up saying another xyz marquee going up near here call 01234567890 to hire a marquee for your next event etc.

It seems a bit of a pain to do and after you’ve put a marquee up spending another 15mins going up and down the street might not be that appealing but think about it – this is advertising focused on exactly your target market. This type of advertising should give you the highest return on outlay you can possibly get.

Remember all this when it’s raining and all you want to do is jump straight back in the van and get off home!

You can guarantee when my posts are short it means we’re either very busy or my daughter’s not sleeping well – today was both 🙂

Thanks for reading

Spencer

What budget do I need to start up a marquee hire business?

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