LAST MONTH, “RENTAL Essentials” looked at how their earlier careers paid off for eight party rental pros. This month, we ask what work experience pros look for in their new hires.

CARNEY ART

“My 36 years of hiring and helping develop future party professionals has taught me that there is one trait that must be there for success. I look for what I call ‘carney in the heart,’ that is, the character trait that is most consistent with carnival and circus people. They love ‘show biz,’ dealing with people and different and exciting challenges. They're flexible, they can think fast on their feet, deal with several issues at once and not get overwhelmed, adjust to bad weather, adjust to any change, and, most importantly, don't mind working long and hard because they love what they do.”
Ralph Stern, CEO, Tri-Rentals, Phoenix

“We want new hires to be familiar with our customers' sides of the business, like catering, event management or even arena or venue operations. We can always train people in our products, but understanding how to make a customer's event run smoothly seems to come from prior experience. It also thickens their skin when dealing with stressed-out customers, because they remember what it was like.”
Rob Kilgore, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Classic Party Rental/Alpine Party Rental, Englewood, Colo.

“They must be able to handle the pressure of deadlines and the pain-in-the-butt, know-it-all customer. I think that waiting tables or working for a caterer is a great early job, as well as any artistic jobs such as florist.”
J.P. Fritz, owner, Lasting Impressions Party Rental, Columbus, Ohio

“A good portion of the event rental business happens at the last minute. A good trait to have is a cool head and the ability to keep the customers calmed down. The ‘it's no problem’ attitude or the ‘we can do that’ attitude is necessary to be successful. Someone who can punch out a large workload in a short period of time is crucial in last-minute proposals, yet still has the accuracy to be profitable. Ideal new employees should have customer-service experience. Working with the public can be very demanding, and employees need to remember that without that customer calling on the phone, we would not be in business — no matter how small the order or how unintelligent the question is.”
John Schlueter, president, Karl's Event Rental, Oak Creek, Wisc.

FRESH START

“We mostly look for people who do not have any experience so we can teach them the event business as we know it. But if we have gone after any experience, it's people with a hospitality degree just out of college.”
John Bibbo Jr., president, Event Source, Cleveland

“When we hire, we look for follow-through. Someone who shows up late for the interview conveys the message that they are not detail-oriented and may not respect our clients' valuable time. We look for creativity and the ability to handle stress. This business is certainly stressful, although to the uninitiated, it may appear to be only ‘fun.’ We generally like past experience in the business or a very allied type of business. We also look for compatibility with our other workers.”
Marjory Eggleston, co-owner, Unique Tabletop Rentals, Rancho Dominguez, Calif.

“The event business is real-time theater. If the event starts at 8 p.m., you cannot reschedule to suit the staff. We do not say ‘no’ to our clients. We listen and work for a solution. I look for individuals with theater, design, lighting, warehousing or sales experience. I prefer individuals who have not worked in the industry before. They have not been taught bad habits. I look for individuals who are open to a challenge and are creative and will play on our team by our guidelines. The more diverse, the more new ideas we bring to our company.”
Damon Holditch, CSEP, president, Austin RentAll Party, Austin, Texas

“Unfortunately, in looking for new hires to bring into this industry, the main thing I look for is someone who can work long hours, under duress, ready to be screamed at — for nothing they specifically did — and enjoy it the entire time! Seriously, someone in the foodservice industry or the special event service industry overall is a good beginning. And, most important, a good work ethic and being tenacious.”
Jeff Volkman, special events director, Regal Rents, El Segundo, Calif.

“Any business requires financial training — whether book training or on the job — for long-term success. Event rental requires good marketing skills also. I look for attitude, and willingness to jump in and solve problems.”
Bick Jones, general manager, Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals, Carrollton, Texas

“I always look for customer service background. I want people who work well with people, like to be around people and especially do not become confrontational in a tense situation. We look for people who are problem-solvers rather than looking to blame someone or something when there is a problem.”
Jack Luft, president, Hall's Rental Service, Niles, Ill.

“While we've had wonderful positive results hiring individuals with rental and other special event experience, we look first for character and attitude, then aptitude, and then skill set and experience. With the great diversity of tasks we perform, we can find a place to start the candidate with potential. Every Abbey employee is to master their job, learn as many other skills as possible, and find and train someone to do their job better than they do. They are then prepared to do something else within or outside of the organization if they so choose, and the company benefits as well. We provide training and support on an ongoing basis at every level of the organization. Everyone teaches, everyone learns.”
Tom Gifford, operations vice president, Abbey Event Services, Burbank, Calif.

“They need to be motivated self-starters, they need to be creative, they need to be good communicators, they need to be good with people (clients and employees), they need to be organized, they need to be able to understand the basics of diagramming an event site, they need to be resourceful and be able to figure out a myriad of challenges on their feet, eager to step in and help whenever and wherever needed, they need to be hungry to learn new things, they need to be wired for this job, they need to under-promise and over-deliver, they need reliable transportation that is able to carry at least 11 chafing dishes in their protective boxes, and be willing to work long hours because they love what they do for a living. Last but not least, they need a big ‘S’ on their chest, because it takes superpowers to be in this business!”
Albert Funfstuck, general manager, Classic Party Rentals, Los Angeles

RESOURCES

Abbey Event Services, 310/900-0099; Austin RentAll Party, 512/491-7368; Classic Party Rental/Alpine Party Rental, 303/781-1111; Classic Party Rentals, 310/202-0011; Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals, 972/381-8000; Event Source, 216/901-0000; Hall's Rental Service, 847/929-2222; Karl's Event Rental, 414/831-7069; Lasting Impressions Party Rental, 614/252-5400; Regal Rents, 310/535-3660; Tri-Rentals, 602/232-9900; Unique Tabletop Rentals, 310/764-0373