To say that Allen and Tim McCandless stepped outside their comfort zone in 1985 to start their own business may be an understatement. The brothers were teenagers when they made the decision to enter the tent rental business and launch Commercial Tent Rentals & Sales Ltd. The brothers are still the owners today and remain hands-on in the company’s day-to-day operations. “The key to the success of Commercial Tent has been their willingness to step outside their comfort zone,” says Joe Potter, general manager. “They up the ante to the next stage, be it bigger trucks, jobs further away, new tent styles or obscure tent installations.”
The tent and event industry has come a long way since 1985, and Commercial Tent has evolved right along with it. “When the business was founded there was the mentality that anyone could put up a tent,” Potter says. “By 2004 the tenting industry was becoming a profession and there was a rapid market shift toward clearspan structures vs. classic frame and pole tents. Now the tenting industry is becoming a trade of its own with specialized installs, high safety requirements and engineering requirements that force installs to be done by experienced installers.”
The company’s range has grown to include weddings, industrial and commercial applications, music festivals, sporting events and small local shows and events. “We service the guy that needs a 10-by-10 (foot tent) for the weekend at the local market and the oil company that requires a year-round blast-proof structure,” Potter says.
A broad scope
Because Commercial Tent is located in a town of approximately 5,000, its market is limited and the company has needed to take on installations further afield. “A typical job for us has always been three to four hours away,” Potter says. “We’ve become logistics specialists, which has given us the upper hand when it comes to being organized and efficient. We have annual jobs from Alberta, Canada, all the way to North Carolina in the United States.”
The company recently received a call from an oil refinery, requesting a tent that Commercial Tent did not own at the time. The tent’s requirements included being fully floored, heated and cooled, snow rated, blast proof, and with glass doors. “Here we were sitting in a town of 5,000 being called by one of the largest companies in Canada, and we met their requirements,” Potter says. “That’s a pretty successful day.”
Moving into clearspan structures over the past 10 years has resulted in major changes for the company in storage, transportation, trailing and equipment. “However, the knowledge we have gained by getting into structures has helped us become more confident in our ability to take on any job, anywhere,” Potter says.
The challenges the tent industry faces in Atlantic Canada include a slow economy and a market that is slow to embrace the latest trends. “We often face challenges when trying to bring a new product into the market because the customer feels that what they have been using for 20 years works, so why pay more for something that serves the same purpose and only looks a little better?” he says.
We are family
Commercial Tent is a family-owned business and as the company has grown, that sense of family has continued to be central to the company’s operations. “It is not uncommon to hear our employees say: ‘This is my family.’ We do what we can to make our employees feel needed, wanted and part of the team,” Potter says. “We recently installed a large structure with a crew of 11. The customer said: ‘I have never seen a large crew of guys work with such comradery.’”