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The Last Word: Kevin McBride Has the Last Word

For many people, it takes a few tries to find the right career path. For others, it seems the right way was lighted in neon. This is true for Kevin McBride, who has molded his 29-year career in the tent industry after his father's.

"I've never done anything but work in the tent industry," McBride says. "While I was in college, I worked my summers at tent companies." At the same time, his father, Patrick, was working at national tent company HDO Productions.

By the time McBride graduated with a business degree from the New York Institute of Technology in 1975, his father was ready to start a new venture - P.J. McBride party tent rentals in West Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island.

"My father and I had an idea of how we could bring a different level of professionalism, quality and ideas to the New York area," McBride says.

"We grew very slowly, picking our way through the minefields and choosing the direction we wanted to go in and the types of equipment we wanted to offer."

Since 1975, the company has grown from two employees to 42. But McBride says the focus remains on the standards of quality and professionalism set by his father. "I think he's taught everyone who works here lessons in ethics and honesty," he says. "One of the things we still talk about as we have grown is we never want our clients to settle for less at their event than we would settle for at our own event."

P.J. McBride has provided tents for the last three World Series championship parades for the New York Yankees baseball team. During the Series, "we have our people waiting on hold. You don't know when they are going to win, so you don't know when you can start installing," McBride says. "Throw New York City traffic into the mix, and schedules go out the window."

Over the years, McBride has seen many changes in the event industry. One of the biggest is "the advent of white vinyl fabric, which allowed manufacturers of tents to create real white tents," he says. "Tent fabrics before were cotton. They could be bleached white but could have a tinge."

Today, McBride is vice president of the company; his father works as account executive. The younger McBride says his co-workers are key to the company's success. "It takes all groups working in har- mony to make events successful, and those events are what make us successful."

"Most conflicts are dealt with by me because 90 percent of the time the client really believes that something didn't meet their expectations. And they are not trying to be difficult, they're not trying to complain; however, they feel let down. What I need to do is find a way to make them feel better about what occurred and perhaps help them to understand why it occurred."

"Relax and face each crisis as a challenge. There are no two ways about it, you need to relax and look at the problems and chase them down. These are not life-ending situations. There are all kinds of problems in this world; a delivery not being on time is not that big a deal in the scheme of things. Keep things in perspective."

"I try to go out and take photos of three or four events every weekend. It's a lot of fun to see when you've met all of the bride's expectations. Corporate events are great, but everybody gets caught up in what the event is providing. There's still something special about a summer bride. The rest just pays the bills."

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