Business Topics, New Products

Why we go to Trade Shows – Part 1

Streetcar - Uptown Spring Color - Azaleas - St. Charles Avenue

The ARA Rental Show was held in New Orleans, Louisiana February 18-21, 2018

When people hear I am heading to a trade show in a cool location like NOLA, they say, “Wow, have fun!” and “Must be nice.”  We do and it is.  We had a blast on Bourbon St, ate at a great restaurant frequented by locals (Gabrielle’s) and I had maybe my favorite sandwich ever at The Butcher.  However, the trip is more than play and so valuable to our business.  Not only do we get to see new products and buy at the greatest prices of the year, but we learn best practices, go to motivational classes and meet others in our industry which sometimes leads to great dealings.   

This is the time to purchase several products that need regular annual upgrades.  We save 20% on both poly linens and many of our regular china patterns.  To keep our quality high, we spent over $30,000 just on black, white and ivory poly linens and standard china.  We buy flatware and glassware to get us to levels we want for the year.  But we also find cool new things.  In the next few days, the first posts on this new equipment will hit our Facebook accounts.  

One of these is a crystal candelabra kit.  I say kit because it comes in parts allowing us to build it into many shapes with the various pieces we purchased.  When we buy products, we try to find things we believe we can keep in grade A condition with only reasonable upkeep.  From Chiavari chairs which need touch-up paint to stainless flatware that requires only using our burnisher, we try to find products that last.  By gaining these kinds of products, we are able to keep our prices low while maintaining higher quality.  This product fits this rule as it comes in pieces that attach with metal brackets.  This product is crystal clear, exquisite and can be assembled into either a table candelabra or a nearly 6-foot standup candelabra.  It will come in a box, and we will assemble on site.  Pricing will be on our Facebook post.    

We are always looking for ways to improve our efficiency.  Last year, we found chair dollies created to deliver Chiavari chairs.  In the past, our guys had to pick up a stack of 7 and carry them on their backs.  The new dollies hold 14, doubling the quantity one guy can deliver with much less physical labor.  This year, we talked to a company that makes a tent drying tool.  It works somewhat like a dry cleaner, in that the tents get attached to a track system on the ground that moves around whatever track you design.  It will save warehouse space as the tops hang accordion style by their width and save labor by allowing us to use only two employees to wash, dry, fold up and put away all of our tents.  

While talking to the manufacturer of this product, he discussed how they decide which tents need to be cleaned, and which are ready to rent.  We tag our tents in the field, or upon return to the shop marking whether a tent should be washed, is wet or can be put back on the shelf.  Many times, these tags come off, requiring us to unroll the tent to determine its status.  The best practice we discussed and will now emulate is turning the storage bags inside out before placing tops that need cleaning in them.  If a tent returns in a right side out bag, it is ready to rent.  Simple, but so efficient.

Sunday, they have classes all day.  This year, Mark, our operations manager went to a class on safety.  We talk to our guys about safety on a regular basis and hold meetings many times a year to discuss safe practices.  Even with the constant reminders, we have a few injuries each year. Most are minor, but all are avoidable.

We have found over the years that most our injuries happen to our worst, unengaged employees.  They do not care about doing things they way they should.  They don’t care about quality, service or safety.  We know this.  This class talked about how you need to get these employees engaged by talking with them, not just giving them orders or telling them what they are doing wrong.  By getting them engaged, they will learn to care or they will go.  

The strange group who often do not follow safety measures are the longest term and best employees.  What happens is these employees know how to do their job and have found shortcuts, which are typically less safe.  While they are rarely hurt because they have done it for so long, a newer employee will try the same thing without the learned skill and be injured.  It is important to talk to your oldest and best about how important it is for them to follow the safe practices.

In the upcoming part two of this blog which I will post next week, I will talk about another new product, a new group I am joining and the concept of the 12 week year.

Please feel free to join the discussion or let us know what other topics you would like to hear about.


written by J.P. Fritz, President of Lasting Impressions