The time and effort involved can be worthwhile
During the summer months, festivals and fairs are ongoing across the U.S. Often, as soon as one ends, planning on the next one begins. Over the years, we have had the good fortune to be involved in several of these larger events. For us, the necessary elements seem to be great relationships, teamwork and available inventory.
In a lot of cases, as one festival is ending, we start on the next one. Several festival events have bidding processes, so that helps establish the timeline. In the bid process, you may see many other companies bidding the job who will subcontract items. Inventory and fleet is another consideration. You have to have the inventory to support the festival. It can be very competitive.
In some cases, when it’s a private company handling the festival or event, they can choose us without having a bid process. In many cases, it’s repeat business for us.
Once we have the event, planning begins. For the first year we do an event, we might meet more often with the organizers. The initial meeting includes a site visit and a meeting with everyone involved. After that, we might meet with those involved with load-in and placement, so from there you move to a smaller committee that is all decision-makers. With these events, you also have volunteer committees that aren’t the same every year. The torch passes, so in a sense, you start over again. You get to learn the event and you’re almost advising them even though they are in charge. However, most of the time it’s always better to listen than talk.
There’s a gap of time after initial planning when nothing happens. Then, about two months out from the event, you’re meeting again, confirming numbers, confirming power and units and vendors. For us, it’s checking with our teams and coordinating schedules, such as lighting companies or linen treatment, so that we coordinate with our other vendors.
Festival inventory may be different than inventory for other events. For instance, our pole-style tents apply to festivals, but they aren’t used as much for weddings. We also know what our resources are around us. We have an event that uses a lot of 10-ft.-by-10-ft. tents, but we know people we can subcontract those to if we need to. If we don’t have the inventory, that’s an easier fix than not having a crew available.
Once we are on the site, things move quickly. Typically, we do our setup, then we do our walk-through. We have after-hours and emergency numbers. Or, the client can decide, if it warrants it, that there needs to be a tech on the site, too.
Communication is constant. With the way things are set up with email and so on, we’re obviously available 24/7. Emergencies are after-hours, but we do exchange cell phone numbers and emails. I think people in this business often become part of that event, so we make a conscientious effort of wanting everything to be right because you don’t want that phone call and you don’t want all that hard work going down the drain. The best success makes for that ongoing relationship with that client.
Labor is the deciding factor on our ability to do other events in addition to whatever festival is going on. I have five tent crews of five guys and I know how many jobs we can book. We keep track on a daily basis. Once we max out on labor, we’re done. There’s liability on the site and these are skilled employees, so that’s our deciding factor.
We also have to make sure we’re tracking regular hours versus overtime. As some of our dates close out, we can check with our production team on overtime hours and then quote customers accordingly. We have to make sure to cover our costs.
You must have good relationships for these types of events, because in most cases when you take them on, you have to know what
you’re good at. Have a team in mind and know who your people are. We have a good lighting person, so they can handle that part. We don’t need to do it all. We relinquish those items and do what we do well. That way, we’re all getting business and that contributes to a strong community. We’re here to stay while that festival will pack up and leave. You don’t have to specialize in everything to do festivals well. Just plan your time wisely and keep your cell phone charged.
Laura Page, CERP, sales representative, Marquee Rents, Austin, Texas, can be reached at 512-491-7368, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.