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

The best material for marquees

There are lots of different materials used to cover marquees, here are some pros and cons of each:

Canvas:

Pros: Essential for use on traditional marquees, thick and tough material, good resistance to tearing
Cons: Problem when wet, F/R issues

I don’t claim to be an expert on using canvas for marquees as whenever we tried sourcing canvas to make covers we had trouble finding any that was flame retardant. It’s been used for centuries all round the world so there’s no arguing with the benefits of it, it’s very strong durable material. The only problems arise when it becomes wet, it becomes much heavier to lift and could rot if left damp over a period of time.

PE

Pros: Cheap
Cons: Doesn’t last, creases easily, noisy in wind, F/R issues

PE is the entry level for marquee material, it is the same material used in tarpaulins and groundsheets. It’s very cheap, it will keep you waterproof but the material isn’t very tough so won’t last long. It’s also very difficult to get flame retardant PE material.

Poly/PVC

Pros: Cheap, more durable than PE
Cons: Not as durable as PVC

Polyester with a PVC coating makes a more durable material and so you are more likely to be able to re-use a Poly/PVC marquee than a PE one.

PVC

Pros: Durable
Cons: Can be difficult to clean, stretches

PVC fabric is far superior to PE and Poly/PVC, it is more durable and consequently your marquee will stay waterproof for longer. Without a laminate coating it can be difficult to clean PVC back to its original new appearance.

Ripstop PVC with laminate coating

Pros: Very durable and easy to clean, holds eyelets very well
Cons: Expensive to buy

When you see the professional large marquees 9-30m wide this is the type of material they use. Generally 500-700gsm fabric but I have seen some 800-900gsm fabric when a blackout layer is used in the middle (generally used in hotter European countries than ours). The material has a polyester (terylene) mesh core with every 10th thread larger to resist ripping. The laminate coating means companies can clean the fabric thoroughly so it appears as new but the laminate coating does make the fabric more expensive than standard PVC.

As a point of reference we use 500gsm (Commercial range) and 650gsm (Deluxe range) ripstop PVC with a laminate coating. We could make our marquees cheaper by using PE, Poly/PVC or standard PVC but the reason we’ve been in business for over 30 years is by supplying a quality product that won’t let people down. In our opinion laminate coated ripstop PVC is the best, that’s why we use it.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Why the middle of a recession is a good time to start your own business

There’s an excellent article on this written last year: why the middle of a recession is a good time to start your own business

Unfortunately the impressive business link service mentioned in the article has since been cut but otherwise the other points are still valid.

Spencer

What to do when things go wrong

Nobody’s perfect, when running your business something is always going to go wrong at some point. In the marquee hire world this is generally along the lines of:

  • Not putting the marquee up at the agreed time
  • Putting the marquee up in the wrong place
  • Supplying the incorrect equipment or incorrect quantity

The first thing we would do is simply put our hands up and admit the mistake. Trying to argue when you know you’re in the wrong is never a productive solution.

The second thing we would do is do everything in our power to end up with a happy customer. That saying that bad news travels faster than good news is especially true in marquee hire, some people will pass on a good recommendation but just about everyone will complain and spread word if something goes wrong.

If it means working in to the night, if it means upgrading some of their equipment then just do it.

I tend to think you see peoples true nature when things go wrong and the same can be said of companies.

Incidentally this is when you’ve done something wrong. There are times when you’ve done everything right but a customer will still complain, at that point it’s up to you how you handle it – does the customer have a genuine complaint or are they trying to get something for nothing?

Just to prove a point we’re not perfect either, we made a mistake with an order through ebay recently: forum comment on incorrect supply of order

If there’s a problem deal with it immediately, resolve the issue and move on. Letting issues drag on won’t save financially or on stress levels.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Can you make two 6x6m Marquees from one 6x12m DIY Marquee?

No.

Well that was a short blog..

This is a question I’m asked often by people planning a new marquee hire business and you can see where the confusion lies so probably requires a bit more explanation.

A marquee is made up of A-frames, end A-frames (where all the joints are 3-way) and middle A-frames (where all the joints are 4-way). If you’re planning on mixing up your marquee stock rather than keep them as individual marquees then you need to think in terms of how many A-frames (and roofs) you’re going to need for each job:

So you can see why you would be short if you tried to make two 6x6m marquees from one 6x12m, or indeed trying to make one 6x12m marquee from two 6x6m’s.

In my experience a good way to start a marquee hire business is to start with one 6x6m marquee, one 6x8m marquee and a 6x12m roof. You can see from the list above that a 6x6m and 6x8m will give you enough framework to create a 6x12m. This means you’re covering three different sizes so three chances of getting a booking.

Remember – if you buy one of our PVC roofs (6x12m say) like the example above but then find you’re so busy you need a 6x6m, 6x8m and 6x12m all on the same weekend then we’ll sell you the rest of the 6x12m marquee (frame and sides) at the same price as if you’d bought them with the roof originally so you wouldn’t be out of pocket.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Erecting marquees over obstacles

In my past hiring life I erected marquees over swimming pools, sunken gardens, flowerbeds, ponds, rockeries, trees, statues, just about anything you can find in a garden we covered at one time or another. The result can be stunning but the method can be tricky.

Some things to consider if you’re incorporating parts of a garden inside a marquee:

  • Allow longer to put the marquee up
  • If a tree needs cutting to fit inside then offer to cut it while erecting the marquee – this ensures the minimum amount is cut off (an unnecessarily trimmed tree can lead to an unhappy customer, I know from experience!)
  • Pools and ponds need to be completely covered by one marquee with enough space to walk round
  • Hedges and walls can be partly incorporated but this often means cutting a wall panel to fit around them – keep any old side panels for this kind of work or contact us as we often have marked walls we can sell cheaply
  • Plan how the marquee is to be erected while on site, failing that take some photos and email us and we will advise how we would approach the problem.
  • People pay a fortune to hire in small trees and bushes in to marquees, incorporating existing plants inside can really add a feature (especially covered in fairy lights for example) so it’s often a good sales pitch.
  • Remember that anything incorporated in to a marquee will cut down on the available floor space so decrease the maximum capacity accordingly.

Typically the best way to erect a marquee over any obstacle is to only partially erect the marquee. Say you’re putting up a 6x12m marquee and there’s a small tree at one end I would erect most of the marquee (6x10m say) leaving the last bay over the tree off completely. The most important bit – I would have the roof up on the framework attached on as much as possible so when the last bay is fitted (tall steps required) the PVC roof can just be pulled along that last bay to fit.

What you want to avoid is trying to lift and fit the PVC roof on to a fully erected framework, it is a very tough and heavy operation.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Fire safety in marquees

When starting a marquee hire business it’s worth having a chat with your local fire safety officer. In my experience they are very nice people and easy to talk to.

Why talk to them? Well it’s always better to be prepared and to know what is expected of you.

My personal recommendation is to have a suitable exit within 6m of every person in one of your marquees. A suitable exit being a zipped panel or a completely clear (ie wall removed) section. This is very easy with our interchangeable wall system, less so with some other systems.

Note:

  • For a 6x14m marquee or longer it is not sufficient to just have zipped entrances at either end, you would need a zipped entrance along one of the long sides
  • For marquees that use it dutch lacing is not classed as a suitable exit (unless it is permanently open)
  • In discussions with the fire officer talk about whether the exits need signs of any kind. Again in my experience any exit that is not immediately obvious needs a sign.
  • We didn’t supply fire extinguishers for catering areas, believing those who used/supplied the catering equipment should do so. A lot of marquee hire companies do supply fire extinguishers for this purpose so again one to think about.

Like many things fire safety is easy and almost common sense but it is always something to consider and speaking to the fire safety officer will give peace of mind as much as anything.

Thanks for reading.

Spencer

Attitudes to customers on site

In most successful marquee hire businesses the customer is treated very well when booking the marquee but is frequently ignored when the actual construction takes place.

The person originally pricing for the job is often not the same as the person in charge of putting the marquee up but even when it is the same person different attitudes can apply.

The attitude adopted when booking the marquee is usually one of careful consideration to the customers thoughts and requirements – this is obviously essential to get anywhere in the industry.

But when it comes to erect the marquee the erecting team often have the attitude of keeping the customer out of the way until it’s finished and they can come and ‘wow’ at the result. Any intervention by the customer is seen as a hindrance ‘this job would be great without the customers getting in the way’ is a view often expressed on site. I think this is a mistake.

If you actively engage a customer, if you explain exactly what you’re doing at each stage and why you’re doing it , if you explain that a customer can ask you anything about the marquee then you’re creating a much more pleasant experience for your customers. You obviously have to be aware of those customers that don’t want to know anything and just want you to get on with it but in general going the extra mile will create a nicer working atmosphere for customer and erector alike.

The big buzz around businesses in recent years is ensuring you engage with your customers (hey, welcome to our blog!), what can be more important than engaging with one of your customers who’s right there in front of you and shortly going to be paying you money?

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Natural listings on google vs pay-per-click

When starting up your marquee hire business google is going to be a big part of any advertising campaign. With this in mind it’s worth knowing how the listings work:

The paid listings on the page (in red) are achieved using google adwords (before setting up an account have a good look round as there’s often free £20-£30 vouchers available for 1st registering).

In your new shiny adwords account you can select the keywords or phrases you want to target, the text to appear in your advert and how much you want to pay every time someone clicks on your advert. The more you pay the higher up the page you’ll appear (it also takes in to account the click-through-rate so its worth playing with the ad to make it the most enticing).

To give you an idea I would expect people at the top of ‘marquee hire’ paid ads to be paying between 30p-£2 per click. In contrast for ‘marquee hire Dorking’ I would expect the top listing to be paying 5-10p per click. So you can see it’s worth targeting more local and focused wording (marquee hire mytown) than more general, expensive terms like just ‘marquee hire’ or ‘marquee hire uk’.

The natural listings appear beneath the top 3 paid listings (if you look closely the paid listings have a shaded background). Getting to the top of these listings is a bit of a science (called SEO – search engine optimisation) and takes a long time. There’s lots of information and tools out there to help get you to the top so you can teach yourself how it’s done, just avoid dodgy ‘black-hat’ techniques as google will strike off your website. Again targeting the more local phrases is a better bet than the more general terms. We know a fair bit about SEO so can give some tips if required.

Finally it is well worth registering  for ‘Google Places for business’, this often means your business will appear on a small map next to the listings or even as one of the high natural listings – like the map in the top right corner of the example image above. It’s free and absolutely essential to do.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Merry Christmas and thank you

Merry Christmas and thank you to all of our old and new customers and especially to anyone who takes 2 minutes out of their day to come here and read the ramblings of an old ex-marquee-erector.

Our Christmas opening hours are: well, essentially we’re closed! This Friday 21st Dec is our last day (don’t expect our usual immaculate customer service in the afternoon <hic>) and we’ll be opening again on Wednesday 2nd January.

If you have any issues that you need some urgent advice on then send us an email and I’ll do my best to fight through the pounding headache of a hangover and the pounding ears of toddlers playing with the packaging of expensive toys to answer.

If you haven’t received the circular then Essential Supplies are running some PAT testing and Marquee electrics courses next year, speak to Lauren if you’re interested.

Let’s all hope for a successful and marquee-covered 2013

Thanks for reading all year

Spencer