Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting the Rental Order Right

Why is it important to get the rental order right? The obvious answer is so the customer will be happy. But it goes deeper. Rental guys are the first in and the last out. If we show up on site and don't have the correct order, it backs up everyone else - flooring, lighting, catering, florists, designers, everyone. If the client wanted black Astroturf but ordered green, it not only backs up the event but costs everyone in overtime. Often, clients forget to order specialty glasses. If we are sold out and can't acquire them, then that puts a large wrinkle in the event. The moral? Planners/clients need to study the order and verify it with us. Unfortunately, rental guys are like the Rodney Dangerfield of the event world!

Why is it critical to review the order?

I can't stress this enough. When we get called for a bid or an order, a sales associate goes down to the venue and does a walk-through with the planner/client to determine where all the rentals will be placed. We then do a diagram of where everything goes, write the order and send them to the client. Then, changes are made. Unfortunately, we are often left with openings, such as no final decision on what color the linens will be. This sometimes goes on until the week before the event, and in the interim we keep calling for a decision so that we can assure that we have the desired linens reserved.

More times than not, there are two plans, the preferred one and a rain plan. If the decisions aren't made, or the rain plan isn't in place, we can't guarantee that we will have the tenting and other essentials for the event.

Changes occur with budget modifications.  When those occur, we need to go over how to make the budget work. Do we change out the linens? Use different china? The key is to work together to get it right. If my client doesn't review the order (and the change orders), this all falls into a black hole.

Why is working together (client-vendor) so critical?

We delivered the order for a large event. It contained 1,100 knives that, when we did our pick-up, were missing. So, we sent a bill, $7,500 of which was for the knives. The client called upset swearing that the knives weren't missing. I suggested a solution. "Let me send my team and have building security go with us to look for the knives. If I can't find them, I will throw away the bill. If I find them, you pay double." The client screamed foul! So I suggested a place for them to look. They went on a search and found them. What had happened? In the planning, they had decided to cancel the knives but didn't tell us! The knives were found under a pile of stacked pallets because they had been set aside and not used. In the end, the client didn't have to pay, and we retrieved our knives. That's why communication and working together will make all the difference. When you make a change and don't request a change order, it affects everything. Unfortunately, this one resulted in a disagreement and didn't create any good will. Once the knives were recovered, all was well. Except we didn't have those knives to rent for two months.

What considerations should clients take under advisement when placing a rental order?

Placing a rental order (particularly for the tabletop) is like going to a restaurant with a variety of choices. Obviously, burgers are cheaper than lobster. So it is essential that the client create a budget and pick what is most important in it. Are linens more important than the china? Are the chairs important? I just did my daughter's wedding, and I put her on a budget and made her pick what was more important. That way we could be assured she would get what was near and dear to her.

This entire concept is comparable to going on a trip. You need to decide if you want to stay at a 5-star hotel in one place or go the 3-star route and go more places.

People who don't have experience obviously need to be guided. Unfortunately, people who do have experience sometimes don't approach the rental order in a way that will assure them of the best outcome.

For example, the original Spago had been a long-time client. One day I got a call from the general manager asking for my help. He normally ordered his canopies from us, but this time, trying to save money, he didn't. The company he used didn't tie down the canopy, and it had blown away and was resting against power lines. To make matters worse, the rental company he had hired was closed. Owner Wolfgang Puck advised us if we fixed the problem he would use no other rental company ever again. We fixed the problem, and Puck has been a loyal customer for 32 years. Moral: Cheaper isn't always better.

Finally, there is true value to having a rental associate on-site during events, along with a list of phone numbers for critical rental personnel. This is to cover anything going wrong during an event or last-minute requests (for which the client is willing to pay).

What are the most common ordering mistakes that clients make with rentals?

  • Ordering heat lamps instead of heaters. We always try to double-check it.
  • Ordering coffee urns thinking they are coffee makers. Another item we have to clarify.
  • Leaving the decision for items, such as the color of linens or specific tabletop, until the last minute and almost guaranteeing we will be sold out of the final choice.
  • Not reviewing the orders for accuracy. Example: a customer will order 1,000 glasses, will not look at the estimates and then two weeks later declare, "I only wanted 300." Then it becomes a problem.
Event professionals and clients should think of rental companies as their partners. Taking a few minutes to review and clarify orders will go a long way to making everyone, particularly the client, happy.

Michael Stern is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Classic Party Rentals at the company's El Segundo, California location. Working in the special events industry since 1979, he began as a trainee and quickly advanced to Partner and Vice President of Regal Rents. He became Regal's President in 1983, until it was sold in August 2004 to Classic Party Rentals. During Michael's early years with Regal Rents, the company expanded from a small Culver City, Calfornia start-up to five locations with $37 million in annual sales. The success of the company under his management led to the beneficial sale to Classic Party Rentals, which now has national offices in 33 locations. In 2008, Michael Stern was inducted into the BizBash Hall of Fame. He may be reached via To learn more about Classic Party Rentals, visit

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why Awards Matter

 I have often been asked if it is worth the time and trouble to enter the various awards that are available to the meetings and events industry. Absolutely! For a variety of reasons.

Planning Events as Award Entries Enhances Quality.

If you think of every event you propose and produce as a potential award winner, you will create and deliver a much higher quality event. You will pay more attention to detail. You will assure that you memorialize the event with photos and/or film and have the necessary imagery to promote it.

It Creates Media Buzz and Supports Your Marketing Strategy.

When you enter awards, which provides the opportunity to get nominated (like Woody Allen said, "80 percent of success is just showing up"), you can create a media buzz and get your company name out to potential and existing clients. Part of your marketing strategy should be to produce press releases for trade media, clients and prospects when you have something newsworthy to announce. Being nominated or winning an award is most certainly newsworthy. This makes a great promotion to present to prospective clients. It is even better promotion for the existing client that created the opportunity for you to work and showcase your work.

It Sets You Apart from Your Competition.

Having both award nominations and wins does set you apart from your competition. It is a numbers game, and I can't tell you how many awards we entered and didn't even get nominated. But, we kept on to the point that we began to get nominated every year. As of this writing, Extraordinary Events has won more than 50 awards across the event and meeting industries. It's a distinction that validates the quality of the company's work and has become part of our unique selling proposition.

It Helps Showcase Your Work Across Different Market Segments.

Entering awards allows you to create niches in various industries. Award competitions are available for meeting planning, conference execution, entertainment, spectacles, theatrical shows, exhibits, mobile marketing, event marketing, logistical management ... and the list goes on. Thus, you can appeal to different market segments.

Is it time-consuming and a lot of work? Yes! But think of it as part of your marketing strategy and devote some funds  for a specialist to write them for you or designate a team member with good writing skills to be in charge of getting them completed. (When you enter, pay close attention to the "criteria," because many worthy entries have been disqualified when they were not appropriately addressed.)

You will see positive results if you do enter award competitions, especially if you promote and market your nominations and wins.

Andrea Michaels was honored with the Special Events "Pillar of the Industry" Award! The TSE Gala in Nashville concluded with a very special honor for EE President, Andrea Michaels, recognized with a unique achievement award. On the heels of the 25th Anniversary of Extraordinary Events, Michaels was surprised with this special recognition honoring her for a lifetime of elevating the quality, integrity, creativity and impact of this amazing industry, as well as spearheading its international outreach. It is a one-time only award, being the first and last time this particular award will be presented. For more on Andrea (yes, that's me) or EE, please visit