(more) Tips for site visits

Last week I covered making a good impression at a marquee site visit. This week I thought it sensible to add some tips about what to say and run through as the potential customer might be after you actually saying something as well as taking your shoes off and making a good impression.

  • Be confident. If you’re starting out then fake it till you make it and just act confident. A site visit is very much about convincing the customer to have faith in your ability to turn their patch of lawn in to a temporary venue.
  • Listen to the customer. The flip-side of being confident is you don’t want to come across as arrogant or think you know it all and end up telling them what they want (surprisingly easy to end up doing). Before you measure the garden, before you run through photographs just sit down with the customer and listen to what they’re after.
  • If it’s a wedding marquee then listen to the main decision makers. Generally this is (in order): Bride, mother of bride, groom. There’s often various hangers on present but if you keep those three happy then you’re doing well.
  • Once you’ve listened to the customers ideas then also ask if they had any plans for where they would like to position the marquee. It’s pointless measuring their garden in one place if they want to have it elsewhere.
  • Take your time measuring the garden. If you’re not confident at doing both jobs of measuring and explaining/selling at the same time then just say to the customer you need a few minutes to measure and you’ll come back inside once you’ve got an idea(s).
  • You don’t have to come up with all of the answers there and then. If you’re starting out and this all seems a bit overwhelming then don’t worry, take your time and take down all of their requirements and make accurate drawings of the garden. You can then email us and we would run through with you a few likely options together with the pro’s and con’s of each idea that you can then go through with the customer. It’s slightly delayed but it can still come across as a professional service and you don’t need to stress about having all of the answers there and then. We’re always here to help but it won’t take many before you know as much as we do 🙂

Ultimately the biggest bit of planning on your part is how big does the marquee(s) need to be. As I say this can be done after the meeting back in the office but it is easiest if you can do it there and then. I guess I’ll cover that next week.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Make a good impression on marquee site visits

Here are some tips to help you make a good impression on a marquee site visit:

  • Be presentable. Clean shaven, clean clothes, clean shoes. You don’t need to turn up in a suit, people appreciate that we do physical work so turning up in work trousers and a logo polo top is fine as long as they’re clean and presentable.
  • Ideally you want a smart and tidy vehicle (van or car) that is not more expensive than the potential customers. If you have to turn up in a beaten up or dirty car or a very flash one then park round the corner and walk the last bit, you don’t want to come across as struggling (old banger of a car) or likely to charge too much (flash car).
  • Turn up on time. I’d aim to be parked round the corner 10 minutes before the appointment so I knocked on the door at the precise time. Sufficient people appreciate being on time (or rather hate being late) to make this well worth the extra 10 minutes waiting. If you are going to be more than 5 minutes late then phone with a realistic eta. Phoning to say you’ll be 10 minutes late but turning up after 20 is just making it worse for yourself.
  • Take your shoes off in the house. Most people are find with shoes on but I remember getting a job purely on the basis that I took the care to take my shoes off on the way in. There are sufficient people who appreciate this to make it worth it.
  • Listen to what the customer wants. This sounds obvious but I was repeatedly told stories of other marquee hire companies arriving and just telling the customer what they wanted. Before you do anything ask the customer if they have any specific ideas on what they want or if they’ve seen something they like elsewhere. They may not but if they do have specific requests it helps you shape your ideas and stops any wasted time.
  • Get a proper surveyors tape measure. It looks more professional than a reel one or worse a small one where you have to take several goes to get to the desired length.

Of course none of this is as important as what you say and recommend regarding the marquee but it all helps. If you come across well and look professional then suddenly the site visit becomes a lot easier and customers are more likely to be guided by your recommendations rather than challenging what you say as the expert.

What you actually say and recommend is for another blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Best practices for marquees in windy conditions

With the recent bad weather in mind it’s sensible to mention how to deal with marquees in strong winds:

  • (obviously) make sure the marquee is well anchored down. Tie down kits are good, additional stakes over groundbars and/or fixing down to buildings even better.
  • The side of a marquee is more wind resistant than an end. Wind hitting the end of a marquee is blowing against a flat surface, when it hits the side there is the slope of the roof allowing the wind to pass over the top.
  • A marquee is more wind-resistant with the sides on rather than off. For some reason many people believe taking sides off ‘allows the wind to pass through’. Many people are wrong. Taking the sides off of a marquee turns it in to a large umbrella, umbrellas are not good in strong winds. Leave the sides on and have a single access on a side not facing the wind.
  • Marquees are not built to survive hurricane strength winds, even the far larger structures are generally only rated to 50mph/80kmh. There are (very very rare) occasions when the marquee has to come down or shouldn’t be erected to start with. If you don’t have time to take the whole marquee down then just take all of the covers (including the roof!) off and just leave the framework (still anchored down).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

 

The Showmans Show conclusions

Thank you to everyone who visited us at The Showmans Show last week. For those that didn’t make it we displayed one of our new pop-up marquees including linings, we also had a new pagoda style marquee that will be a standard stock item next year. We’re confident both will prove popular and really add something to the marquee hire industry.

The Show itself was again very quiet, personally I think a change to Fri/Sat would really help increase visitors. I know ourselves and many other suppliers will be monitoring the leads generated carefully as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify the large expenses incurred.

As an erector of smaller marquees it is always a joy to see what can be achieved in larger structures, some of the two storey marquees are very very impressive. Saying that I wouldn’t like to put them up!

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Showmans Show and cheap marquee for sale

This week we are at The Showmans Show in Newbury – it is open on Wednesday (23rd) and Thursday (24th). We went down yesterday to set up and despite everyone down there getting soaked to the skin it seems like all the usual suppliers are there.

The weather forecast for the two days has improved so we look forward to seeing you there. We’re always open to offers on the demo marquees we have on display too.

Speaking of which our Commercial Marquee demo that we’ve had all summer is on ebay starting at 99p with no reserve: 6x8m Commercial DIY Marquee

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hopefully seeing you over the next few days.

Spencer

How to erect a marquee on hard standing

The easiest way to erect a marquee is on grass using a tie down kit to hold it in place but sometimes a marquee has to go up on hard surfaces. With our DIY Marquees (and indeed most quality marquees) this isn’t a problem as long as you fit groundbars. Groundbars don’t hold the marquee down but they do make it more rigid – imagine the marquee as a box, securing the bottom line makes it a much stronger and more rigid box.

When erecting a marquee on hard standing:

  • Look around the site, if the marquee is to be erected on a patio often there are flower beds or other soft surfaces to gain anchoring points from and just use longer tie downs.
  • Assuming there is no existing anchoring point the remaining options are heavy weights or drilling in to the ground.
  • Drilling is usually only an option on car parks or old tennis courts (be sure to fill the holes afterwards with an appropriate filler).
  • Concrete blocks or sand bags can be used as weights but my preference is water butts. These are light to carry round but you only fill them up once they are strapped to the marquee (this does rely on having a hosepipe on site).
  • When using weights strap them directly to the marquee, having them a distance away just gives the weight room to drag slightly and then it’s lost most of its use.

Thanks for reading, not sure if there will be a post next week or not due to The Showmans Show

Spencer

Forgotten things to allow for in marquee weddings

You’ve put the wedding marquee up, it is perfectly finished and decorated and all of the furniture is laid out as per the flooring plan which gives a nice cosy but spacious feel to the marquee.

Then the customer comes out and says “Can we just fit this in somewhere” and life in the marquee gets a bit more cramped and complicated.

From experience there can be a wide variety of things that have to be fitted in somewhere but as usual it’s better to be prepared before the event (at the planning stage ideally though you cannot always allow for a bride’s last minute inspiration). The following are mainly from experience with wedding marquees but can also occur in other marquee events too:

  • Additional tables for hats and/or presents. Asking the question of where will they put ladies hats and any presents on the day can be done at the site visit and also show’s you’re being thorough with the planning.
  • Coat rails. During the summer any jackets would normally go on the backs of chairs but during winter months this should be allowed for (near the entrance if possible).
  • Cake table. Sounds obvious but I was on site once and asked “so where are we putting the cake” and hadn’t allowed for it anywhere. Easily corrected but still not a nice feeling.
  • Chocolate fountain. We had to fit one of these in last minute once and keep in mind that you need a fair amount of ‘splashing’ room around it that caused a few problems. A good tip – don’t put a chocolate fountain close to marquee linings, chocolate is a pain to get out afterwards.
  • DJ. Generally if a customer is having a dance floor you will allow space for a band or DJ automatically. But sometimes if a customer is having a band (which you’ve allowed for) they will also have a DJ (not originally mentioned or allowed for) to fill in between sets. If a customer is having a band just make sure they’re not having a DJ too.
  • PA system though this doesn’t take up too much space
  • Bar – a few times we had customers who had built their own bars and needed to fit them in to the marquee somewhere. Invariably this takes up a lot more room than a simple trestle table style bar.

That’s all I can think of though this post might be edited as more occur to me!

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Erecting marquees on bumpy or uneven surfaces

In an ideal world all gardens would be level as bowling greens and have vehicular access right next door. In reality gardens come in all shapes and sizes and most of the time marquees are erected well away from car parking.

Most garden surfaces can be covered one way or another but there are a few that are unrealistic for marquees. Unless they are prepared to pay for a scaffolder to build a temporary level platform then it’s time to regretfully and politely walk away. This happens very rarely, people who have incredibly uneven gardens generally know that they’re not suitable for marquees.

Some tips and tricks on marquees over uneven ground:

  • Customers are often concerned about sloped gardens. The marquee will go up easily but they’re concerned about furniture. An easy solution, take their garden furniture and test the slope. If they’re happy to sit on it then it’s fine to use a marquee for a sit down meal.
  • Avoid chocking up table legs. Chairs are a set height in comparison to tables, chocking up a table makes the guest look like a toddler at an over sized dinner.
  • Fill any holes in the garden before laying flooring. We used bark chippings as they’re garden friendly, cheap and easy to have a bag of in the van though can be a little spongy in large quantities. Alternatives are sand or newspaper. Lay plastic first to make it easy to clean up afterwards.
  • Remember you can always go over flower beds and small trees/bushes to make them a feature in the marquee. You lose a bit in useable floor space but it might give you a flatter area to erect the marquee.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

The Showmans Show 2013 and new ranges

The showmans show is next month (23rd & 24th October) at The Newbury Showground. We are on stand E277 -as usual come out of the main entrance marquee, turn right then left and we’re on the right.

I’m not sure exactly what we’re going to be exhibiting at the show, we’re very busy but in the midst of chaos from an extension being built to prepare for new product lines we’ll be stocking next year (more on that later in the year). We should have something new and interesting to look at so do pop in for a chocolate or two.

Panoramic windows are now back in stock. We’ve also introduced a 6x24m marquee for sale. It’s very big (and very heavy!) but it adds to our commercial and deluxe ranges.

Over the next week we’re also introducing a commercial pop-up range. We’re not going to stock lots of ranges of pop-ups we’re just aiming to offer the best and toughest one. It has 58mm aluminium framework and a very durable 500d coated roof and sides so should prove very effective for hire companies or people who want something stronger than the garden centre gazebos.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Get payment up front for a secure business

This blog is mainly aimed at start up marquee hire companies or those thinking of starting one. People running medium to large marquee businesses know far more than me about what’s best practice for them and as such the below may not be suitable advise for larger companies who deal more in corporate work.

When starting any business one of the most important factors is cash flow. Often you want to live on the bare minimum of wages just so all of the money can be re-invested back into marquees or equipment for quicker expansion and long term gain. Hopefully you’ll have seen some of the beautiful sales staff from DIY Marquees along the way. Or you can deal with our ugly sales staff, we’re not fussy.

When I ran a marquee hire business we would ask for:

  • 20% payment when booking. The industry standard seems to be between 10 and 25%
  • The balance of payment when the marquee has been erected but before the day of the event.

This one would need explaining to the customer a bit just so it came across in the right light. We would emphasise that we would make sure that the customer was completely 100% happy with the marquee before asking for payment. This gives the customer the reassurance that if there’s something they’ve got concerns about we will make sure that it is resolved before they have to pay (and rightly so). If they still raised issue with paying before the event then we would tell a white lie saying without payment they were not covered by liability insurance and so we could not allow the marquee to be used -it very rarely came to this but we were very persistent.

The exact wording we used in paper and verbally was “The balance is due when the marquee is up and you’re happy with it but before the day of the event”.

Getting payment up front drastically helps your business cash flow.  Because of this policy we only ever had one bad debt in over 10 years of marquee hire (a bounced cheque that we got most of the money eventually).

By way of comparison I know of two reasonable sized companies who are now out of business due to bad debts.

I should put this in to perspective and add a caveat or two – we mainly specialised in wedding marquees so our client base was private customers. The more corporate marquees you do, the more companies you deal with the more you will have to offer credit. Often it’s that or someone else will get the work. Just make sure you do some research, don’t assume just because they’ve got a shiny website and talk of a multi-million pound turnover that they’re actually a financially sound business.

Thanks for reading

Spencer