Happy anniversary us

To the sound of a single party popper, the hurried scoffing of a jam doughnut and cries of ‘get back to work!’ we’re celebrating our anniversary.

Although I’d written about marquees in a few other places previously it was 5 years ago that we decided to put everything in one place and add this blog to our website. It was hoped that amongst all of the marquee drivel that spouted forth people may sieve their own nugget of useful information. It has generally proved very successful and as a result of this and our other advice there are now hundreds more members of the marquee hire community.

30 years ago my parents (the ‘C’ and ‘D’) decided they had best formalise the business they’d been running for the last few years in to a limited company before it grew completely out of control. To give you an idea of my status at this point I knew the ‘D’ stood for Dad but couldn’t work out what the ‘C’ stood for..

Thank you to all of our customers over that time, thank you to all of the staff we’ve had the pleasure of working alongside and especially thank you to the ladies who have been with us throughout the life of the business. These are the ladies who were in charge of me as a kid but who (technically if not practically) I’m in charge of now in one of those strange relationships you get in a second generation family business.

As always thank you for reading, my suggested solution to the previous post will be next week at which point normal service will be resumed.

Spencer

Example site visit: Golden wedding anniversary in a garden with lots of trees

Just to confirm it is not a marquee party to which many trees have been invited, just a lawn with lots of trees in it (that may or may not want to go to a party).

The lawn is covered in large, medium and small trees. To give away how to tackle this problem the large and medium trees are too tall to fit inside a marquee but the small ones can just about fit inside.

Well tended gardens filled with trees and beds are usually owned by the older generation (hence golden wedding anniversary). Family gardens usually have more open spaces.

requirements:

  • Lunchtime meal ideally for 100 but maybe less depending on capacity available
  • No lighting or dance floor required

My suggested solution next week.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Professionally finished marquee linings

Anyone can put up marquee linings, indeed that’s one of our essential design points when making new linings. But there are some small touches that make a difference:

  • Keep them clean. Yes it’s obvious but there’s no point going any further down the list unless you’re working with clean linings. To keep them clean only put them up after the flooring has been laid to avoid them dragging in dirt.
  • Pull them tight where possible. Pleated linings can only be tensioned along the pleats but flat linings can be tensioned in all directions. Always start in the middle of a lining and pull any slackness in the material to the sides.
  • Keep pelmets and swags as horizontal as possible. The linings at the end of our marquees should go across horizontally, not go up and down. If you are using swags then keep them straight and pulled tightly as you velcro them on. If the roof is gathered in places just pull the swag tightly across any gathered part and velcro on.
  • Curtains add a really nice touch to any marquee, they’re not just for covering the legs they also look effective covering velcro joins in wall linings. Having them evenly around all 4 sides of a marquee looks very effective.

The biggest difference in the world of marquees is going from an unlined marquee to a lined one (with decent linings at least). The points above will just give a nice professional finish.

There are two of our DIY Marquees currently being sold on ebay that look in very good condition and might be a bargain:

Thanks for reading

Spencer

 

Example site visit: Wedding in a field part ii

The first thing to note is that marquees in a field are from from easy and far from straight forward. They’re easy to erect as there’s no constrictions and you can often drive to it but too much choice is often a head-ache.

Keeping everyone in one place is key, the easiest way to do this is to have large enough marquees to house everyone inside for a formal function or to create a courtyard type feel for an informal function. If you’re using an outside space for drinks or similar then you want to create a set area, this could be picket fencing (formal) or hay bales (informal) or outside seating collected together just outside the marquee.

My suggested solution:

It’s an informal function so I’ve used three marquees to create a horse-shoe arrangement to keep everyone in one place. The marquees would all be open to the courtyard so people can drift in and out of the marquees.

The hog-roast would be to one side of the outside furniture, it makes a good talking point and is like a magnet for some guests (mainly us blokes). Keeping it nearby (downwind of the marquee though so smoke doesn’t blow in!) keeps everyone together so you don’t end up with two parties.

Notice the large variance in number of expected guests, this is very common amongst informal functions. You just have to allow enough room and a variety of seating for most but not all people, that means the marquee won’t look empty if numbers are on the low side but can still cope with a higher number of guests.

Mixing up different size tables gives an informal atmosphere along with a few large open spaces and just chairs around the edge near the dance floor. The bar, buffet and music (generally a band rather than DJ in this set up)  are all central though people can sit away from the music but still be part of the party if they want to.

Other things to consider with marquees in a field:

  • Get the customer to cut the grass as short as possible as early as possible. Cutting it short just before the marquee is erected leaves spiky stubble which is difficult to get a good surface on using carpet or matting.
  • If the event is planned far enough in advance get the marquee footprint rolled as well as this makes the world of difference.
  • Parking is often in another part of the field, make sure the marquee is orientated to be attractive to people as they arrive (so they’re not clambering round from the back) and that there’s some lighting for them to find their cars afterwards.
  • Fields are generally a long distance from a house so generators are usually required (but can be set a long way back from the marquee so order plenty of cabling with it)

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Example site visit: Wedding in a field part i

Easy one this week, a wide open field:

requirements:

  • informal wedding for 120-200 guests in July
  • guests will be parking in the field
  • food will be supplied by hog roast and bbq’s throughout the day so there’s no formal sit down meal
  • disco in the evening

Easy right? My suggested proposal next week.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Example site visit: Dave & Jenny’s garden part ii

Before going any further clarification: The trees are too large to fit inside a marquee (thanks Chris). Small trees or flower beds are no barrier to erecting a marquee and can be excellent features but remember you lose that floorspace in the marquee.
I also forgot to mention what time of year the event was planned for, more on that below

My suggested solution:

A 6x12m marquee is probably around the right size, you could fit a 6x14m marquee in and they could fit everyone in to a 6x10m marquee but 6x12m seems about right.

You could rotate the marquee 90 degrees and run it down the garden instead of across, I’d discuss this with Dave & Jenny and give them the option of either way. If they wanted to have drinks on the lawn beforehand then they could use the left hand side and run the marquee down lengthwise. Otherwise I’d run it across the garden as you can see more of the marquee, can fit more windows in and it generally makes for a more inviting marquee.

If it was a winter marquee then I’d bring the marquee as close to the house as possible and consider using a walkway across the patio to connect the two. In the summer I’d set it as far back as the tree will allow to make it look more impressive for guests on arrival.

The internal layout is very informal, the middle dance floor area can be used for people standing initially but becomes the natural focus when the music starts. Having the bar & buffet in the same marquee as the dance floor keeps the party in one place and chairs around the edge give somewhere for people to sit down if they really want to. Fairy lights in the ceiling, black and white dance floors, illuminated bars are all possible accessories.

This is a very very popular layout for all different size marquees. As you use larger structures the dance floor and bar area become larger and more flexible – you can add sofas and/or poseur tables to create a real night club atmosphere.

That would be my suggested solution at least.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Example site visit: Dave & Jenny’s garden part i

It has been suggested that I should give examples of site visits to show what you should be thinking of when planning a marquee function. This sounds a good idea to me but I should stress – I’m not saying that my ideas are the best and only solution. I’ll state what I’d do but if you asked another marquee company or even someone else from our company they might come up with other ideas.

So in one blog post I’ll give the layout of a garden with measurements and a brief overview of their requirements. The following post I’ll look at what suggestions I’d offer.

Dave & Jenny’s garden:

The layout above is Dave & Jenny’s garden. The house (in red) is at the bottom with a patio (in grey) in front. There are some flower beds to the left and some trees/bushes towards the rear.

Everything in the marquee world is done in squares and rectangles so all we’re really interested in are the limiting factors – that tree halfway down the garden is going to limit what we can fit in so we need the measurements based around that tree, together with the maximum widths and lengths available.

Remember the 3 stages of site visits:

  • sit down with the potential customers and get an idea if what they’d like and especially what they dislike, what they’d like to avoid. Get an idea of guest numbers, whether it’s formal or informal and if they need a dance floor/bar/catering area
  • go out and measure the garden
  • go back inside and sit down to discuss their options (this is what I’ll cover in the next post)

Dave & Jenny’s requirements

After sitting down and discussing it with them we’ve gained the following information:

  • It’s Dave’s 40th birthday party
  • They are expecting 50-70 guests
  • It will be an evening function at the end of June
  • They want an informal atmosphere though there will be food and drink available
  • They’re going to have a 4 piece band playing
  • Guests will go round the side of the house (ie not through the house) to get to the marquee

That’s a typical amount of information you work with on a site visit, I’ll discuss my suggestions in 2 weeks (taking the kids to ‘sunny’ Wales next week)

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Keep your website updated

You may write a blog, you may write articles, you may post photos in albums. Depending on exactly how you present this information chances are each one is dated in some way. ‘this article was written on…’, ‘Sarah & Tim’s wedding from ….’ feedback received on… etc etc

This is great for your website, it keeps the site looking fresh and relevant whilst also pleasing the search engines with changing content.

The only problem arises when you get too busy to update the site. If you’ve got dated information on your website that hasn’t had a new entry for 6 months then you risk losing customers.

Think of it from a customers point of view, a site that had regular updates and then stopped abruptly looks like a company that might have ceased trading. Rather than risk looking silly by making an enquiry with you they’ll go to someone else down the road.

Two options: Commit to updating the site regularly come what may or failing that don’t date stamp anything.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Inflatable sofas

Here’s something of interest: https://www.sofair.co.uk/

Inflatable sofas, if they are as good as they look then it could be an interesting option for the hire industry.

Hiring out sofas can be a pain, they take up a lot of room in transport and storage so having a collapsible inflating option could be an excellent idea.

I should point out I haven’t seen these in the flesh, the photos are obvious photoshops so this is probably quite new and there’s no mention of prices on the website (which really annoys me).

But it could be an interesting idea, maybe one to find at The Showmans Show in October.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity

It’s very easy to fall in to the trap of thinking increased turnover is always a good thing. In business circles you often hear people talking of how much they’ve increased the size of their business and what their projected turnover is but turnover means very very little.

Allow me to illustrate this with 3 scenarios and then I’ll draw comparisons with the marquee industry afterwards:

Job 1: Jim runs a company in the service industry, he has a turnover of £100k, has very very low overheads as it’s only him and his salary is £90k

Job 2: Dave runs a medium sized company, it employs 10 people, it has a turnover of £1.5m and he’s the highest earner at £60k

Job 3: Ian runs an international company but the overheads are very high. Sales last year was £8m but costs were £8.8m

Jim, Dave & Ian go out for a meal. Ian will talk about flying all over the world, how his company has grown in the last couple of years (turnover has gone up you see) and how high his stress levels are (often seen as a badge of honour for some bizarre reason). Jim will sit there contently with probably the lowest stress levels and confident that it won’t be his card that bounces when the bill arrives.

So bringing this back to the marquee hire industry (that being the purpose of this blog after all) keep in mind that the larger the span of marquee the higher the costs -purchase price, running costs and storage.

If you’re running a healthy marquee hire business offering whatever size marquees you do then don’t assume offering larger marquees will add to your profit. They will certainly increase costs, stress levels and turnover but that doesn’t always convert to increased profits.

Please don’t interpret this as I am against increasing turnover per se, growth is good and increased turnover is good provided it is increasing your profit.

Similarly I am not for corner-cutting to increase profits.  Cutting corners can lead to disgruntled customers and therefore increased stress for very marginal increases in profits. Much better to do a consistently good job.

I believe being successful in any business is finding your personal balance of stress vs reward.

Thanks for reading

Spencer