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

How to clean a marquee

With most parts of the country suffering ‘a bit of rain’ recently cleaning your marquees suddenly shoots up your to-do list. And rightly so, storing your marquees away when wet ages them very quickly, especially windows.

Firstly, there are two types of dirt you get on marquees

  1. There’s dirt that gets splashed on: Mud splattered on the sides,food thrown against the walls and leaves blown down on to the roof are all like this. This kind of dirt is relatively easy to wash off.
  2. A grey film builds up on to marquee covers over time. This makes the marquee look old and ‘tired’ and is a bit harder to clean off.

For splashed on mud you need to get hold of a power washer and a big tub of traffic film remover (TFR – basically concentrated washing up liquid, available from auto factors and used for cleaning lorry sides). Steam cleaners make life a bit easier compared to power washers but they’re a lot more expensive and a lot more problematic (I speak from experience).

So just power wash the dirt off using diluted TFR. For stubborn marks pour some undiluted TFR on and leave it for 5/10mins, then wash off.

Easy huh? Remember to always take a small tub of TFR in a plant spray with a cloth or sponge to every job just in case you tread on a wall or something when putting it up (it also looks good to the customer to see you ensuring their marquee is clean for them).

Then we come on to the grey film that builds up (a lot of people think this is just the material aging like canvas but it’s not and can be cleaned off to look like near-new).

To clean this off you need to spray the TFR quite strongly over the area and leave it for 5 mins. When you come back you need to ‘irritate’ the grey film to lift it off the surface for which you need a stiff brush or broom. If you’ve got a lot to do we used to use an electric floor cleaner (like you see cleaning supermarkets etc). Once you’ve gone over the whole area just wash it all off with your power washer and hey presto -back to (nearly) new!

There are a couple of exceptions to this second part.

  • window material shows scratches so don’t go over any transparent section with a brush or floor cleaner, just wipe it as thoroughly as possible by hand.
  • if your marquee uses ‘pvc backed’ material rather than ‘pvc laminate’ (which is what we use) then only use the brush/floor cleaner on the non-pvc backed side. PVC backing as a product is fine but if you start attacking it with a brush or floor cleaner it might start to flake away. That would be bad.

Basically the better you look after your equipment the longer it will be before you come back to us for replacements so the more money you make. It’s also offering your customers a better service, which is never a bad thing.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

New size of marquees to buy

6m x 14m commercial pvc diy marquee

When we first entered the marquee sales industry no one was really offering PVC marquees at reasonable prices. Your choices were either to go for cheap PE party tents or expensive PVC frame marquees. Then we came along 🙂
Since then others have now copied (with mixed results) and offer reasonably priced PVC marquees.

We offered our marquee linings with our marquees. Others have also copied (with even greater mixed results).

We lead, others follow. But then imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so we take it as a compliment.

So in our constant strive to bring you the best available options for your business we’re now offering 6m x 14m PVC Marquees. They’re made to the same high specifications as all of our DIY Marquee range but the greater length means you can fit in ten 5ft round tables – giving a seated capacity of up to 100!

We really think offering these will help the rental market and should offer you excellent returns on investment.We will of course be making linings and other accessories for them.

“Hello Jerry, remember last month when I paid back that loan, well now I need you to do a favour for me” Homer J Simpson
It’s in this spirit that we’re asking for a favour. After constant requests we’ve made some carry bags -these are mark II versions that have carry handles and top access, the mark I’s we made were basically sacks with drawstring that we weren’t willing to sell/let people use.

Anyway, we’ll be selling these bags at £6 + VAT each but we’d like some hire companies to provide some feedback for us so we’re willing to sell some at half price (£3 + VAT for those with Monday-morning rusty brains!) as long as you provide some feedback and/or photos.

Contact me if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Marquee Hire Websites

We’ve finally got round to something I’ve been meaning to sort out for a while now -we can now offer websites for start up hire businesses (or existing ones if you want to change your current site).

An example is here

Cost is likely to be £180 for the first year, £45 a year from then on which we think is very reasonable for what we’re offering:

Home page – supply your own text to fill the page, change the locations you cover, choose your own colour scheme. This will also be optimised for the search engines.
Photo Gallery – all photos are included for you to use, we’ll also add your own photos when you get them.
Marquee Planner – we’ll add whatever size DIY Marquees you stock.
Contact Page – If you want other details for people to fill in we can do it for you.
Webmail – log in to send & receive work emails.
Advice on getting up the search rankings – We’ll point out what you can do to get your website up the search rankings and links to tools to help you. It can be time consuming but very little expertise is required.

Any extras you would like adding we can arrange (price on application). Once the website is up and running any subsequent alterations we’d also have to charge for (except adding photographs).

A .co.uk domain name is included in the price so you can choose whatever name you like (subject to availability) and your email address would be yourname@yourdomain.co.uk.

As always , feedback appreciated.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee Hire & VAT

With a VAT cut due today it seems sensible to talk about VAT when running a marquee hire business.

On a personal note I’m not sure a ‘2.5% sale’ on everything in the UK is going to make much difference but apparently we’re not allowed by our EU friends to go lower than 15%. Thanks. For. That.

Anyway, marquees.

If your turnover is under a set figure (I don’t know the exact figure but it’s around 67k at the moment though there’s also a quarterly limit that affects hire companies more) then you don’t have to register for VAT, if you don’t have to register then don’t. I’ve heard some people think it makes their company appear bigger than it is, and it does mean you can claim the VAT back from any purchases. However, if you’re not registered then you don’t have to charge VAT on your hire prices so you’ve automatically got a sizeable and vital discount on your competitors.
For those charging VAT make sure you put in your terms and conditions ‘VAT charged at current rate’. This covers you if the VAT goes up between taking the booking and your customer paying the balance. Generally we’d have advance notice of any increase (this 2.5% cut is only temporary remember) so any customer who’s paid you a deposit can opt to pay in full in advance and take the lower rate applicable at time of payment. Does that make sense?

Here’s an example:

Jane Jones is marrying John Smith in June 2010. They book a marquee with you that’s priced at £5k + VAT by paying a 20% deposit in November 2009 (£1000 + VAT at 15% = £1150).
It’s announced that VAT will go back up to 17.5% from 1st January 2010 onwards.

You write to Jane & John saying they can either pay the balance before 1st January 2010 and pay VAT at 15%, or they can wait until their wedding and pay VAT at 17.5% (you see how adding that note about ‘current rate of VAT’ in your terms and conditions has covered you here?).

either a) pay £4000 + 15% VAT = £4600 before 1st January 2010

or b) pay £4000 + 17.5% VAT = £4700 at the time of their wedding.
Writing to your customer with this gives you goodwill and might help your cashflow while also helping the customer. Win-win 🙂

Cash jobs:

As it’s the VAT man you’re evading I think this is worth mentioning here. No matter who you are you’ll be offered to drop the VAT for cash. We used to lose around 8% of our business by not accepting cash jobs.

  • They’re illegal
  • It’s you who’s taking all the risk, not the customer.

You save by not paying income tax & national insurance but personally I prefer to sleep at night and not worry about VAT inspections (which are unpleasant even when you’ve got nothing to hide). It’s up to you.
Lastly
Geoff from www.roustabout.info has been in touch in case anyone wants to hire or buy big top style tents. Always worth remembering in case you have a customer who wants something different to clearspans.

Presenting your marquee hire quotations

Once again apologies for the screwed up fonts on some earlier posts. I’ve no idea how to fix them, I copy & pasted from Word and the blog doesn’t seem to like it in some browsers. I now write on here directly (spilling mistakes and all).

So, back to marquees.

Obviously we got most of our work by being charming, witty and handsome chaps when visiting customers 😉 Unbelievably some people weren’t bowled over by a flash of our pearly whites and actually wanted some substance to our lavish promises.

I talked before (and undoubtedly will again) about site visits so won’t cover that now, just assume that you’ve left a reasonable impression. Likewise if you’re supplying quotes over the phone without viewing the site, hopefully you’ve left on good terms and they’re now expecting a quote in the post.

1st rule –dont leave your customer waiting. We’d always send our quotes out the same day or the following day. Any longer than that (problems can occur) and we’d phone to let them know.

2nd rule –always send a quote 1st class. Trust me, it’s worth the extra few pence.

Presentation is key. Send your quote out folded in 4 to fit into a small envelope and it looks cheap and not easy to lay out and read.

We sent all of our quotes our using A4 envelopes in a blue presentation folder (we actually had these printed with our logo as well but they’ve become more expensive since then). We then included:

  • Two copies of the quote with terms and conditions on the back. The customer would sign one and send it back with 20% deposit.
  • Stamped addressed envelope back to us (this can be a small envelope)
  • Colour diagram laminated
  • photocopy of the diagram for customer to draw all over

Short of including a pen for them to sign it with we tried to think of everything, it looked very impressive and professional.

If you’re just starting out I’d suggest all of this is a bit much but bear it in mind for the future as you expand. To keep it simple I’d just send out the quotes in an A4 envelope and clip a small diagram (courtesy of our shiny new marquee planner) to the top -remember to cut off our name. That way you’re getting most of the benefit without most of the expense (presentation folders & laminator).

Finally if your printer can handle A4 envelopes I always think it looks better having printed addresses (though that’s more personal opinion).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee layout planner, photo gallery & place any new orders sharpish.

As you may or may not have noticed our diy marquee website has changed slightly, we’ve added a few new features and improved on some old ones.

Marquee layout planner -this enables people to plan a marquee layout. It’s useful for people starting out to learn how much furniture they can fit into a marquee. It’s also useful for hire businesses who use it to send out with their quotes -design it, print it (right click, select ‘print’) cut out the required plan (cutting off the DIY Marquees bit at the bottom). It gives you a professional floorplan without having to buy expensive software.

New Photo gallery -shiny new gallery with plenty of new photos (many thanks to those who sent some in).

Our prices have also had to go up, anyone thinking of ordering get in quick (end of this week) and we’ll hold the old prices for you even if it’s something to be paid for and delivered early next year (although we don’t take a deposit we need the order in writing).
If anyone notices anything wrong anywhere on the website please do me a favour and tell me about it. Also if anybody thinks of new ideas or features for the planner send them over. I can’t promise anything but I’ll do my best -I can just about handle html but java & flash programming I struggle with a bit

Back to normal next week, after Xmas is normally a busy time for enquiries so i’ll write about presenting quotes etc (unless something else distracts me during the week).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee Heaters

If there’s one thing that you want to get right it’s heating, if people are cold it’ll ruin their night no matter what the marquee looks like.

So here are things to bear in mind with marquee heaters:

  • Always always use ones with a fan in, you need to be able to throw the heat around the marquee. Halogen heaters*, patio heaters, cabinet heaters, table heaters are all useless in a marquee. Indirect heaters and space heaters are the best.
  • Think about the layout of your marquee, heaters should be positioned near seating areas and pointing towards doors or anywhere heat will escape from. Don’t have them pointing towards a dance floor.
  • In April/May and September/October you will just need heaters to heat the marquee up before people arrive and at the end of the evening when the temperature drops
  • In Dec/Jan/Feb you need at least twice as many heaters to make sure it’s toasty all night. I always made sure there were enough heaters to make the marquee uncomfortably hot, that way you always know your customer is in complete control (assuming they’re all adjustable).
  • If there’s snow forecast make sure your customer knows to have the heaters on regularly to melt it off the roof. If it builds up that’s a lot of weight to be on top of your marquee. Even if it means you have to go out with more fuel it’s worth making sure no snow settles on your marquee.

It’s got to be said the ideal heaters are indirect ones, they’re large units that sit outside the marquee and are controlled by a thermostat so the customer has complete control. They can be powered by gas or diesel, we preferred gas as it’s easier but lots of people prefer diesel. The only problem is indirect heaters are very expensive.

Indirect heaters typically cost £1500 and hire out for £150-£200.
Space heaters cost £100-£200 and hire out for £50-£90 but they’re quite noisy, not incredibly child friendly (a grate stops anyone touching the flame) and give off water vapour when burning gas.
* Knowing we’d be busy with the showmans show I wrote this 3 weeks ago, since then I’ve been to Paris (on business -which sounds good but really it was just an excuse to see my brother in law) and eaten outside under a halogen heater. I’ll concede that maybe in small (3m/4m) draughtless marquees they may be useful to take the chill off. In winter I’d still go with a fan heater.
Thanks for reading
Spencer

Marquee Hire in a recession & photos of The Showmans Show 2008

Showmans Show 2008 Entrance

I was too busy talking myself hoarse to see other exhibitors but the mood of hirers walking round was one of cautious optimism for the oncoming year.

I think people will always find the money for a wedding marquee but parties may suffer a bit. Expect a lot of late bookings and haggling as people don’t plan too far in advance for financial security reasons and make sure they get value when they do book. Don’t worry if you’re sat there early season and bookings are down on previous years, wait until the end of the season and it’ll probably be surpisingly healthy.
My only concern for hire companies is if you have a lot of equipment on finance. We don’t offer finance on any of our equipment as I think it’s similar to the irresponsible behaviour the bank-lenders went through to put us into this economic mess. When the return from hiring is 50% of the purchase price I just don’t see why you need to spread the costs over 12 months, delaying it using a credit card is fair enough -that way you could be in profit before you’ve even paid for the marquee!

Just my opinion, thousands of businesses are built using finance/overdrafts or loans I just don’t think they’re necessary for a marquee hire business if it’s run well.

With new equipment (new types of lighting for eg) I’d always try to get most or all of the money back on the first booking. Once you’ve got it in stock you can then discount it for future bookings. Often we were asked if we offered different styles of chandeliers, the reply would always be yes but they’re a lot more expensive -so you either get a return on your current chandelier or you get most of the capital for a new style. It’s an easy way to expand your stock and keep track of current trends without forcing people to have the same options again and again.
Thanks for reading

Spencer

DIY Marquees Stand 2008 our stand (pagoda & 6mx8m)
Customising Your DIY marquee customising your marquees

Customising your marquees

So you’ve just hired out your shiny new marquees, the customer’s really happy with them and the world’s a happy place. While you’re away though the customer spots the manufacturers website printed on the marquee and finds they could have bought them for the same price as they’ve just paid you for hiring it! The world is no longer a happy place. In fact it becomes a very awkward place that you’d be lucky to get out of with your reputation intact.

We have the solution! (warning, sales pitch coming..)

We can now personalise our DIY Marquees with your website details.

We’re launching several branding options at The Showmans Show, I’m not totally certain how much it will be yet (one of many things I need to sort out tomorrow) but we’ll try to keep it as low as possible as I really think this will help hire businesses.

I’ll also sort out prices for extra signs so that people can customise their existing stock.
We can of course still supply the marquee unbranded as we’ve always done.
Sorry for the mixed up fonts recently, depending on where I am sometimes I write in word or notepad rather than direct and it doesn’t always copy across well.

Thanks for reading, I’m genuinely grateful/shocked that people read my ramblings on here. Please pop in and say hello at The Showmans Show -stand 235 Avenue E next to Prima flooring who are giving away free burgers this year:)

Spencer