Sunday August 1, 2021
UK Tents’ business is not a retailer of Marquees. They are not in the business of providing tents for events (hey, maybe one day that’ll be a slogan?). Poles, PVC, PE, straps, and portable flooring is not their business.
Don’t get me wrong, UK Tents sell’s all of the above, as well as much, much more but that’s not the company’s main business, it’s “mission” if you will as a company ethos is to “support customers to get the right product at the right time at a competitive price” or as Daniel, the Director and driving force behind UK Tents, phrased it most succinctly, when I had a sit down with him “doing what needs to be done to help our customers”.
It was a sunny day when I met Daniel in a golf club in Bedfordshire, not far from the large two-story warehouse the company occupies and of course we met in a Marquee that his company had supplied, that had been erected adjacent to the club house.
Daniel had just completed a zoom presentation and question and answer session from within the tent to a school in Hampshire, something I discovered he does quite frequently. He’s a big believer in community and “giving back”. I caught the tail end of his talk and soon discovered that he had been invited to participate at short notice and as such, had really had little preparation time. I would have testified that what he had delivered had been a well-rehearsed presentation but there were no notes to be seen.
What I found was a man with a real passion for delivering absolute customer satisfaction. When I suggested that was the case he corrected me, “Satisfaction isn’t enough. I want to delight my customers.”
Over a coffee, for me and a large orange and lemonade (apparently, he drinks, neither tea nor coffee) I asked him what he meant by ‘delight’.
He began “I hate to use the word as it’s been so overused during the last year and a half, but there has been an unprecedented demand for Marquees during the pandemic. Government advise is that outdoor gatherings are safer than indoors AND a marquee with the ends rolled up provides sufficient ventilation to be considered as outdoors.”
He told me that he set the company up when a friend of his struggled to buy a marquee for his pub, when beer garden only service was the then rule. His friend had been quoted lead times of months rather than weeks and Daniel realised that his friend’s business would be in real trouble without the weather protection offered by a marquee.
Daniel found a supplier in Germany that was no longer prepared to export to the UK, a combination of the health crisis and the UK leaving the EU but was more than happy to sell to Daniel at wholesale prices BUT on a click and collect basis only!
After establishing a line of credit he and a friend hired two tail lift trucks and set off to Germany via Eurotunnel to collect and bring back their first order. Half of this consignment had already been presold; such was the demand! The remainder was stored in Daniel’s first warehouse… his double garage!
He invested in a website and using his contacts in hospitality, Daniel’s background is in event management, to sell on his remaining stock, the fledgling company was born! Since then, the company has blossomed. He operates one of the very few retail Marquee companies with warehousing in the UK. Has manufacturing contracts so he is not wholly dependent on wholesalers and the goodwill of a single European supplier and uses both in-house delivery and a trusted courier company (alongside a click and collect option) to fulfil orders. The ethos remains the same, however.
Daniel is passionate. It was clear to see from his expression as he shared a few anecdotes of how UK Tents helped resolve some sticky problems to ‘delight’ customers around the country. He told me of a football presentation night in Manchester that was nearly scuppered by the pandemic, when the rules changed to make it impossible to hold in the function hall they had booked.
At short notice, after other suppliers had let them down, Daniel assured the organisers that he would meet their needs. This necessitated another trip to Germany in another hired truck as at that stage he didn’t have the size required (remember when the Suez was blocked by a ship that had run aground? A large container’s worth of Marquees was amongst the cargo trapped in that “traffic jam”). The organisers took charge of their large professional grade marquee with a few days to spare before the intended ceremony… all 13 boxes!
By taking charge of the largest of the tents, a school prom in Bristol was saved. Covid compliancy was ensured as the 6th form were considered a single bubble and the sides of the marquee were left rolled up for the entire evening. Pupils loved the evening and suggested that even in a post pandemic world, that the marquee be used as a feature for future proms. A suggestion that the staff are keen to take on board.
A Birthday party became a garden party for one family in London, thanks to one of UK Tents’ products. It was a last-minute order as the customer was unsure of the weather but because of the Bedford headquarters Daniel was able to meet this order in rather tight timescales.
A school in Bushy used a marquee, supplied of course by UK Tents for a school fete. The tent being spacious enough to socially distance and have a one-way system. This helped them raise much needed funds for worthy causes.
There was one instance where although the marquee had been supplied by a rival company they had been let down as they were advised that the necessary flooring would not be delivered for months!
One of Daniel’s team responded, realising that the entire event could be jeopardised to supply the flooring from stock!
What was clear was that Daniel is passionate about the company he has built and the customers he serves, many of whom are referrals from other satisfied clients or as a result of the many five-star Trust pilot reviews. I suggested that it may be interesting to comeback for a follow up interview (to be honest it was more a case of Daniel volunteering information rather than me having to tease it from him, he is a dynamic, personable, and proactive kind of guy). He chuckled and suggested that so long as we chatted in one of the UK tents supplied marquees, he’d welcome me back!
Daniel, I may just hold you to it.