by Cathy Broberg
Who doesn’t yearn for work that involves creativity, problem solving and variety? That combination can keep you on your toes, and before you know it, you’ve spent your entire career in one industry. At least that’s the case for Andrew Ussher, president and co-owner of Premier Event Tent Rentals Inc., of Brampton,Ont., Canada.
Ussher has donned several hats in his 30-plus years in the tenting and events industry. First, he and a friend started a tenting company in 1987, which they sold 20 years later. Consulting work followed until he was presented with the opportunity to buy Premier Event Tent in 2015.
Formula for success
Through this deep experience in the industry, Ussher has learned what it takes to run a thriving tent and event business. He attributes Premier’s success to these factors:
1. A close relationship with its key manufacturer, Fiesta Tents Ltd., Montreal, Que., Canada. “They really work with us,” Ussher says, describing how the relationship has helped Premier with new product development and decisions regarding capital investments.
2. An effective and efficient warehouse. Ussher credits the behind-the-scenes work at Premier as being the backbone of the company. “Anyone can buy a tent and set it up,” he says. “The larger question is, can they do that 10 times?” A tent operation’s warehouse is what makes that possible, he says. “To do that well and be profitable, you need a very, very strong logistical effort.”
3. Skilled and dedicated staff. “Our management and our staff work in pretty tough conditions,” he says. The pressure in seasonal businesses such as the tenting and event industry are very real. “Deadlines are not negotiable,” says Ussher. “If our crew leader is sick or the truck is late, we still have to find a way to get the job done on time. Our key staff are the people who make that possible.”
Salaries, vacation time and retirement plans matter when recruiting and maintaining a skilled workforce, but a job’s intangible benefits are critical too, he says. “It’s the quality of the workplace that you operate—keeping your word, being reliable, treating people well,” Ussher says. “Over the long term, that’s what you need.”
Creating new spaces
“A favorite type of event for us is when we’re able to create something from nothing,” Ussher says. That might mean fulfilling a client’s vision for a special event held on a field, at a farm or even on the water.
Indeed, Premier has been diving into a new segment of the market that involves numerous logistical challenges: creating wedding venues on barges. In Muskoka “cottage country,” just north of Toronto, there are no flat open spaces, but clients still long to host weddings on their property. This is where barges come into play—they are welded together to create 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of event space. At that point, Premier steps in and transforms the space into scenes befitting an unforgettable wedding.
Weddings, corporate events and social events like graduations, anniversary parties and birthdays make up the bulk of Premier’s local projects. For sporting events, the company will travel throughout Canada.
Premier provides all tenting and flooring for the three top-tier professional golf tournaments in Canada each year—the RBC Canadian Open PGA, the CP Women’s Open LPGA and the Shaw Charity Classic Champions Tour. Those tournaments, plus the Grey Cup—the championship game for the Canadian Football League—offer Premier an international stage on which to showcase its capabilities.
Whether Premier is flexing its creative muscles—“creating an event space out of nothing”—or digging in for the multi-week setups required for major sporting events, it is guided by experienced leadership.
Cathy Broberg is a writer and editor who lives near Minneapolis, Minn.
Premier Event Tent Rentals Inc.
Brampton, Ont., Canada
Year founded: 2015
Employees: 25 year-round; 60 in high season
Primary business: Quality tenting, flooring and railing installations