Canadian sales executive Michelle McCulloch knew from age 12 she wanted to become involved in the tent rental industry.
Growing up in the Ontario-based family business Regal Tents & Structures, the now-40-year-old sales executive was able to learn the tricks of the trade thanks to strong mentorship from her parents. While she answered phones and otherwise worked behind the scenes, her bookkeeper mom showed her the financial end and her salesman dad taught her the importance of establishing relationships.
“I remember being a kid and sitting around the dinner table talking about the incredible events we were going to be a part of,” she notes. “Once we did a brand launch in Central Park, and another time we put a tent on the White House front lawn. It just
sounded so exciting to me, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Playing in the big leagues
Because Regal is known for its ability to aptly handle large and challenging projects, many of its installations have been very high profile. For example, the firm was hired to install multiple tents for the Super Bowl LIII Live Experience in 2019, a task that involved custom branding for multiple sponsors. McCulloch calls the outcome “an incredible feat.” One event that stands out for McCulloch was the $2,500-to-$10,000/plate fundraiser held by Madonna and fashion brand Gucci on the lawn of the United Nations, to benefit her charitable organization Raising Malawi.
Due to temperature variations, Regal had to transport vinyl for the fundraiser in climate-controlled trucks, using electric blankets and heat blowers to prevent cracking and shattering. A custom-engineered floor was also designed to weigh down the structures.
Loyalty leads to success
McCulloch gives much of the credit for Regal’s success to its team of employees, which temporarily expands from 45 to about 100 people during the May-through-October busy season. Some loyal workers have been with Regal for longer than 30 years, a happy situation she attributes to luck, investments in employee training and a family-like company culture.
“We have this incredible team of experts, from sales managers to operations managers to crew leaders and their crews,” she says. “We’re committed to partnering in every event and doing everything we can to make events successful.”
That’s not to say maintaining those standards is always easy.
“I think the greatest challenge is the seasonality of it,” she says. “We make 80% of our revenue in six months of the year. It can also be difficult to retain incredible talent and to bring in new inventory products when the market
For better or worse, the off-season is almost equally busy for McCulloch, who spends that time developing her teams, buying new inventory, evaluating issues from the previous season and forming new strategies for spring.
“Maybe this sounds a little kitschy, but you’ve got to come to work and have fun and enjoy the people you work with,” she says of her managerial philosophy. “If it’s not fun, you shouldn’t be doing it. And investing in your team and your people is the most important thing.”
Michelle Miron is a freelance writer based in Hugo, Minn.
Regal Tents & Structures
Year founded: Regal Tents was founded in 1987. It was purchased by Chair-man Mills in 2021 and its tent division is comprised of Regal Tents & Structures and Advanced Tent Rental.
Number of employees: Regal and ATR each have 25 full-time staff. Both companies double in size during the summer season.
Primary business: Regal and ATR are tent rental companies, focusing on tent and flooring rentals across North America. The parent company, Chair-man Mills, has a rental division and a premium furniture rental division.