What’s stopping you start up a business?

For those who have already started up a business you can read smugly or skip this and wait for next weeks read 🙂

As the saying goes if you want to be a self-made man (or woman) don’t leave out the working parts. There’s no doubt that working for yourself can be bloody hard work, but it’s enjoyable and a hell of a lot more satisfying than working for someone else. So what’s stopping you?

Attitude? We all know someone who talks a good game. When applied to business they’re always ‘just about to make it big’ or have an idea that’ll make them a millioniaire. In reality these kinds of people will do too much research and the fire will fizzle out before they start up another dream, this is repeated several times until all they’re left with is looking in hindsight about how it was just bad luck they didn’t make it big.

Don’t make this mistake! To start up a marquee hire business (or any business) you need to be a doer not a talker. I’m all for doing research but structure it sensibly, work backwards. Say to yourself:

  • I want to be in business by ….. (say 6 months time-could be much less, shouldn’t be much more unless you’ve got a VERY good reason)
  • I need to make a decision on what marquees I want to buy and how I’m going to approach it by … (say 3 months time -this leaves enough time to buy equipment, set up a website and do other advertising before launch)
  • That leaves me with … (3 months) to do research. During which time you spend every spare minute doing research, speaking to as many people as possible in the industry finding out useful information.
  • Make decisions, do it, go for it.

Being your own boss is incredibly satisfying, but it rewards people who get out there and make things happen for themselves, not (at least very rarely) those who sit back wanting it all to be handed to them.

Intimidated?
It can be a little scary. But there’s lots of people out there who’ll help you. Small business advisers in banks are okay but can be biased towards their products (as they work on commission), places like Business Link are there to help people like you.

It doesn’t help when you get idiots/car salesman contestants on programs like The Apprentice who talk about ‘being in business’ as being members of some closed-shop religion or sect. Absolute rubbish. They don’t know all about business. I don’t know all about business. Peter Jones might know all about business.

My point is that you don’t need to know a damn thing about business as long as you’re willing to learn and put some hours in anyone can do it. And that includes you 🙂

To follow on from last week – we used large ifor williams trailers to transport equipment. Rack the back out to take long poles and have compartments at the front to take the canvas. Don’t buy triple axle trailers, they can take the same gross weight as double axle ones but you’ve taken some of that weight up with another axle. So a triple axle trailer actually takes LESS weight than a double axle one!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

So you’ve decided to start a marquee hire company

What now?

Well first off is the boring bit – research and budget. It’s not just the marquees you have to consider, it’s the advertising, insurance, storage and transport. Today I’m going to cover transport:

Regular readers may know I went on a course to become a qualified electrician a few years ago, most people there were learning a new trade to set up in business (I did it so I could do up my house at weekends). Loads of guys there had bought their own vans fully sign-written and ready to go. Some took offence when I asked – what research did you do to decide on what size van? (none in most cases). Some had chosen a name but hadn’t looked round to see if the name was already taken by someone else!

So let’s look at the options for marquee hire businesses: Lorries, vans (low, mid, high top or luton?) and trailers:

Lorries: You need an operators licence, regular maintenance and they can be awkward to back in to peoples driveways (though a marquee erecting mate points out that furniture removal companies use them so it can’t be too far a walk). You can store a LOT of gear in a lorry but for starting out I certainly don’t think it’s worth it.

Trailers: My favourite. As long as you know how to reverse properly and safely they’re very manouverable, remember modern drivers licences don’t include trailers -if you want to tow and you’re under 30ish (check your licence) you have to take a trailer licence. The big positives in my book are – you can keep your own vehicle (as long as it can tow), a trailer doesn’t need road tax etc and finally you can rack out a trailer so it acts as storage -this saves having to unload and load it for every job.

Vans: The most popular option for most hire companies – some will use trailers on the back of vans for good measure. The size of business you are depends on the size vehicle. If you’re only going to transport 2 or 3 of our DIY Marquees around then a little Ford escort-size van will be fine. If you’re likely to need some lighting, linings and the odd bit of furniture then a mid-size transit would be suitable. If you’re going to transport a lot of furniture and/or dance floors with your marquees then a luton could be your best bet (though I’d prefer a van and trailer personally).

At the end of the day if you want to change vehicles at a later date when you’re expanding then you can do it, I’d just encourage you to sit down for a minute and think about it. If you get it wrong then it could cost you money (especially if it’s sign-written) and that’s not what we’re in this industry for.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

DIY Detachable eyelets

I really try to keep this blog informative rather than a sales pitch for our shiny & lovely DIY Marquees.

Today I’m going to write about an ingenious gadget that we’re starting to sell but please realise that I love this thing which is why we’re now selling them – I’m not raving about something just because we sell it. Make sense? Probably not but regular readers will be used to that 😉

Introducing the DIY detachable eyelet:

DIY detachable eyelet

dimensions approx 8cmx4cm
This is a tool that means you can create an eyelet anywhere on a marquee wall/roof without leaving marks or making holes.

How’s that useful?

Our marquee walls used to be covered in very small holes where we’d have to attach them to a house -you get quite inventive how you do it but generally cable tying to a drainpipe or door frame is the most common. This tool saves any hole-making or damaging, just create an eyelet in seconds.

I promise you if these had been around when we ran a hire company I’d have bought them by the hundred, they save so much time and effort while looking smarter. They’re also good for emergency repairs or guttering.
They’re not on the website yet as we’re rushed off our feet (I nearly said snowed under there..) but costs will be:

  • £3.80 for 4 (p&p £1.20)
  • £7.80 for 10 (p&p £1.50)
  • £14.80 for 20 (p&p £1.80)
  • £29.80 for 40 (p&p £3.95)

We only stock white as all commercial marquees are white.

Thanks for reading, hope it’s not too marquee sales pitch like

Spencer

What to name your marquee hire business?

First off if you’ve got marquees up at the moment -make sure you fire up heaters to get the snow off the roof! We’ve got a pub next door (I know, it’s surprising we get any work done!) and their lightweight gazebo is now flatpacked having collapsed under the weight of 8″ of snow -why they took their DIY Marquee down but left that up I don’t know.

If you’re starting up a hire company one of the first things to think about is what are you going to call yourselves?

Something funny? There’s lots of play on words available in the marquee industry – too intents, pleasing people with your erections (suprisingly under-used double entendre!), able to cover everything etc etc.

Funny names make you memorable but you might be cringing in a few years time and it doesn’t actually tell customers anything about you.

Personally I think the best name is descriptive. So calling yourself Bradford marquees or Yorkshire marquees etc – that way customers know where you’re from or the area you cover. It also means you’ll appear higher in google for those search terms. The only downside is if in years to come you want to expand to a new area.

Sorry for the short blog, it’s taken me nearly two hours to get in this morning (5 mile journey) and I’m giving blood this afternoon so I should probably get some work done 😉

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. High-Spec Ltd offer a mould away spray that’s useful to keep in your van but only really good for small patches, if the area affected is large you 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

Marquee Hire Companies and PAT Testing (Portable Appliance Testing)

Most of this is taken (with permission) from our friends at Essential Supplies:

Did you know:

Under HSE guides and Electricity at Work Act you are responsible for the electrical safety of every electrical item your company owns. You must be able to prove that you have adequately tested all your portable electrical equipment whether it is for your own Staff’s use or hired to customers. For most companies this means that once every year all your electrical equipment is PAT tested, by a suitably qualified person. PAT testing companies and electricians commonly charge £2-£4 per item to be tested.
 
Essential Supplies are able to advise and supply you with all the necessary test equipment, teach you or your colleague how to perform PAT tests and record the results. This could lead to you saving a lot of money over the year, and is a great way to keep your staff busy during the quieter winter months. Any equipment needing repair automatically needs a PAT test which you can now carry out instantly after repairs are done making sure that item is safe.

Essential supplies are offering two training courses at their Basingstoke depot:
PAT Testing for marquees and event companies
to be held on Wednesday 11th February  £220.00

Basic Marquee Electrics
to be held on Tuesday 17th February      £180.00

Now as a qualified electrician I can tell you that PAT testing is a dull job, but it needs to be done and if you can save money by doing it yourself rather than paying an electrician then that seems sensible to me.

If you’re new to marquees or just want to gain confidence doing electrics then their basic marquee electrics course might be for you.

Interesting stuff. If you’re interested in going on one of the courses drop Essential supplies a line, I think places may be limited so don’t hang about.
Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee Hire Health & Safety

As with a lot of industries health and safety has become a bit of a nightmare, with ignorance no defence all you can do is try your best and hope nothing happens.

The biggest health and safety issue I heard of was someone dying (yeh that’s pretty big) by touching an overheard power cable with a marquee pole. If there’s overhead power cables just don’t put a marquee up there. Telephone cables aren’t a threat though would still be expensive if you knocked them down.

From memory I think power cables are run vertically, telephone cables are run side by side.

Once you’re past this point you’re onto the more day to day things. I’m far from an expert in this so don’t treat my word as gospel I’ll just recount what I experienced.

At the time the regulations were ‘if you’re lifting anything above head height you should wear a hard hat’. It depends on your style of marquee how long this would be appropriate for – on our DIY Marquees it would only be when lifting the sides so around 20 minutes. On aluminium frame marquees it would be a couple of hours (falling purlins are the main cause of accidents I’ve seen on site). Steel toe capped boots should also be supplied.

Now as an empolyer things start getting interesting. It’s not just enough providing a hard hat and/or boots. You need to be making sure they’re worn at the appropriate times and worn correctly. If someone suffers a head injury through not wearing a hard hat, even though you’ve provided it you could be liable. How stupid’s that? This is where common sense and health & safety don’t go hand in hand.

So if you’re employing people you need to supply hard hats and make sure they’re worn at the correct times.

I believe this is the sort of thing associations such as mutamarq cover. We never felt the need to join ourselves but I can see the appeal. It’s worth having a look at them whether you’re just starting up or have been hiring out for a while.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Party tents use powder coating, commercial marquees are galvanised

I’m often asked why we don’t powder coat our marquee framework so here’s why:

When I suffered my back injury and realised I had to go into marquee sales rather than marquee hire I started to do some research. Basically I picked the brains of mates in the industry, various contacts and searched round for what the current options were.

The boundaries are getting greyer and greyer but people clearly differentiated between ‘party tents’ and ‘commercial marquees’.

By general opinion party tents were made from thin PE material, were a budget option and had….powder coated framework.

Commercial marquees were always seen to have PVC covers, be more durable and long lasting and always used..galvanised metal framework.

Visiting a friends marquee hire business really made up our minds -he had a mixture of powder-coated and non-coated framework and after just one season the powder-coating was scratched and chipped. The galvanising looked better simply because it still had a uniform finish. As he said if people want a marque for anything other than a cover out of the elements then they’ll use an interior lining anyway.

I think most people would think a powder coated framework is superior when brand new. But our marquees are built to last a long time and after a few uses when that powder coating becomes scratched and peeling nearly everyone would agree galvanising’s a better option.

That’s why we use galvanising.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

Merry xmas to all marquee hirers

A short post today as:

a. The factory’s closed and we’re not back at work until Monday 5th so this is eating into looking-after-baby-daughter time!

b. Our best friends wedding was last night and computer screens aren’t great with hangovers..

So thank you for reading over 2008, I realise I write a lot of gabble but hopefully there’s a few things somewhere in my posts that you find useful in running or starting up your marquee hire business.

Something I find myself repeating quite frequently over the phone is “what I’d do if I was starting up a marquee hire company again” so I’ll start writing posts covering that. If it goes down well I could bundle them up in one place for future readers.

For those who are already running their own hire businesses I’d appreciate any thoughts or ideas you have to include in this beginners guide. I’ve also got some ideas on offering some free (that’s f-r-e-e) promotional techniques or website features for you. Watch this space 🙂

For those of you who run temporary water supplies to marquees (mainly those who offer catering too) you should be aware that research is being done into providing a British Standard for water quality in temporary structures. No doubt the research will take a long time and may come to nothing but it’s something you should keep an eye on in case there are requirements you don’t satisfy.

As always thank you for reading, have a happy new year and let’s hope 2009 is the year of the marquee!

Spencer

Marquee Hire pitfalls

I’m very wary about coming across as a smug know-it-all in this blog. I don’t claim to know everything about marquees but I know a reasonable amount. I don’t claim to have all the answers to your start up marquee hire business, but as I’ve been there I can point you in the right direction. To illustrate the point of my non-know-it-all status I’ll try to remember a few of our errors now and again:

We were brought in to erect a marquee for an evening presentation at a hotel/spa one day, the marquee was to be erected on one side of their car park and had to be up in the morning, down in the evening.

Now marquees going up on a hard standing are a pain in the backside. You need to either drill in to the car park (not allowed), hold it down with weights or use long guy ropes down to a nearby patch of grass.

We thought we were being pretty shrewd by lining up the marquee along the edge of the car park so we could knock stakes in the thin patch of grass on one side – hey presto we only need weights along  the front.

The presentation was a success and we’d nearly taken it all down when it came to taking the stakes out -upon lifting a stake out one of our lads heard a loud ‘hissing’ noise and smelt gas! Showing remarkable coolness he dropped the stake back in the hole before RUNNING out the marquee.

Yes we’d gone through the main gas pipe.
That fed the large hotel.
That was just about to seat 120 people for an evening meal.
Oh crap.

In actual fact we came out of it quite lightly. We paid for the British Gas emergency call out to repair the leak and we refunded half the hire charge. If we’d been pressed to compensate the 120 diners we’d have been in trouble.

So what’s to learn from this? MAKE SURE on your terms and conditions you have a line saying ‘there are no underground drains, cables, pipes or other hidden services on the site selected’ and ‘ cannot be held responsible for damage to such items unless informed in writing previously’ and only take a booking with a signature agreeing to these t’s & c’s.

If you buy one of our marquees we include a copy of our old t’s & c’s for you to use.

Thanks for reading, Merry Xmas 🙂

Spencer