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Let the tenting season begin

Project Briefs, Safety & Codes | April 1, 2011 | By:

Glawe kicks off the year with training and networking at IFAI Tent Expo.

This past winter was a challenge for those of us in a weather-related business. Recent sales calls with clients surveying an ice- and snow-covered site have me anxious for spring and the coming season.

The Midwest tent season typically tapers off by December, with occasional holiday rentals. This year our season began Feb. 26 with a small event, and we contracted for about a dozen tent sales in March. During these recent financially challenging years, the majority of our tent crew has gone on unemployment from Christmas until mid- to late March. Employees who stay on assess inventory, help make new tents and clean and organize the warehouse.

In January I took three installers to IFAI Tent Expo at St. Pete Beach, Fla., as an educational opportunity and a perk for their efforts throughout the year. They began Expo with Training for the Tent Installer and forklift certification and spent the rest of their time with hands-on tent installs and in speaker sessions. I networked with industry colleagues and saw new products from manufacturers offering show specials, affording the opportunity to add inventory at reduced prices. This show is a necessity to tent rental business management and involvement in the industry.

Our early spring schedule is weather dependent because rentals could be canceled due to snow and ice. Weather plays a critical role in our business in so many ways. The wear and tear and destruction of equipment, increased labor costs and the practicality of outdoor events in general all affect the profitability of the season.

This was an unfortunate reality for our company last year. An annual event in April requires a 20-meter clearspan structure, many sections of 8-meter clearspan and numerous other tents. In 2010, shortly before the start of this event, our 20-meter clearspan collapsed due to high velocity straightline winds. Thanks to a network of colleagues from IFAI, a geographically close company worked with us to install another structure.

The situation affected cash flow immediately and continued to be reflected in financial statements throughout the year. Fortunately our insurance had been recently reviewed, so the loss was not entirely out of pocket, and liability insurance was not needed because the tent was unoccupied. As part of our rental process, we stress the limitations of temporary structures and advise clients to be proactive if weather becomes threatening. Safety protocol and continuous evaluation of insurance policies are the most important aspects of a successful rental business.

As I look to the 2011 season and my 30th year in the business, I can only hope for high sales volume, low gas prices, conscientious and efficient employees and, of course, good tent weather.

The first of five installments by Kathy Schaefer, owner of Glawe Awnings and Tents, Fairborn, Ohio, reflecting on the 2011 rental season.
Founded in 1877, Glawe Awnings and Tents began manufacturing camping and party tents for its own rental use and even provided tents to the Wright brothers for use at Kitty Hawk. Today, the company supplements the purchased tents in its inventory with its own fabricated tents.

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