RESOLUTION NO. 1: Set strategic staffing levels.

After several lackluster years, many party rental operators expect a rebound this year, and some are planning to add staff.

“Our main goal for the upcoming year is to increase staff with competent personnel to meet the growth that we had this past year, and expect to continue into 2004,” notes Rusty Parr, president of A V Party Rentals in Newhall, Calif.

But others plan to run lean in the New Year. Denver-based Butler Rents reversed its traditional 60 percent part-time/40 percent full-time staffing ratio over the last five years, says general manager Barry Reynolds. But the company is going back to its former ways. “We're learning to be more efficient with less full-time help,” Reynolds notes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2: Build relationships with clients.

Butler Rents has, however, added another full-time salesperson, whose job is to get out into the field and call on clients. The field sales staff “visits old clients as well as prospective new clients and updates them to new inventory items as well as discusses any concerns or problems,” Reynolds says. “This also allows the customer to put a face with a name, and has improved our relationship with new and old customers twofold.”

Vows Mark Clawson, president of Salt Lake City-based Diamond Rental, “I will focus as much time as possible on delivering quality service to each customer; that's what this industry is all about.” He adds, “The small customers are just as important as the large ones, and that's easy to forget.”

Carrollton, Texas-based Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals intends to make 2004 the “year of managed networking,” according to general manager Bick Jones. “Trade group meeting attendance will be balanced with newsletter advertising, and showcasing equipment at key meetings. Our goal is to partner with the program committee chairs to maximize the bang for our buck by having showcased at these meetings.”

He says also that 2004 will be the “year of the sample”: “By following our regular reservation procedures, samples will be checked out and taken to customers or delivered to customers, to see our new items firsthand.” By educating the client about its inventory, Ducky-Bob's hopes to outfit the entire event. “We do it well; we just need to do more of it,” Jones explains.

RESOLUTION NO. 3: Make inventory exciting.

New inventory doesn't excite only clients, it also excites the sales staff presenting it, Jones notes. He is looking to colorful glassware and glass plates to brighten tabletops, and dressy chiavari cushions to boost his ballroom-chair business.

G. Richard Young, head of New Orleans Event Rental of Metairie, La., also plans to research and develop new products for the industry. “But we'll focus on products that are highly unique and offer possible exclusivity, especially in lighting,” he explains. He also plans to explore foreign markets for new products, and “focus on company branding in primary markets.”

Phoenix-based Prime Event Group is introducing European tent structures to the United States market this spring. “We have also imported a new fabric welding machine that uses a laser-guided mechanism to ensure the most accurate fabric welding possible,” says sales manager Murray Hamilton.

RESOLUTION NO. 4: Create new revenue streams.

Newtown Party Center in Newtown, Pa., is developing an option that combines party rental with catering. According to sales manager Larry Ott, Newtown's “Open Aire Affairs” have his rental company establishing partnerships with picturesque locations that had never before served as event venues. “Brides, event and wedding planners, corporate event planners, and civic and charity organizations may bring their events to our locations where we have installed state-of-the-art tenting against a scenic backdrop,” Ott explains. “From a fully functioning winery and vineyard to a beautiful farmhouse with open land — the locations allow our customers to hold outdoor events when their own locations may not have that ability. We have left the vendor lists open on many of our locations so that the customers have the ability to express their own personality in their event. If they want Tuscan-style cuisine with a heavy metal band and balloon-art centerpieces — so be it.”

RESOLUTION NO. 5: Think big.

Salt Lake City-based Clawson laughs that he is busy trying to “figure out how to get the Winter Olympics back in Salt Lake City!”




RESOURCES

A V Party Rentals, 818/362-8389; Butler Rents, 303/388-5971; Diamond Rental, 801/262-2229; Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rental, 972/381-8000; New Orleans Event Rental, 504/888-7368; Newtown Party Center, 215/860-0819; Prime Event Group, 206/426-1375