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Dan Hooks, CERP

Where are the Workers?

Rental expert Dan Hooks, CERP, shares his perspective on the critical labor shortage in event rental.

The Spring 2018 issue of Special Events will feature our annual Event Rental Forecast, our exclusive prediction of the business outlook for the event rental industry.

The news for 2018 is good, with 75 percent of respondents predicting they will handle more events this year than they did in 2017. But a hot economy can overheat. And for event rental operators today, the robust business outlook means a lean market for labor. Indeed, worries over the lack of qualified labor is listed as the No. 1 headache in this year’s survey.

Here, rental expert Dan Hooks, CERP, head of big party rental firm Party Reflections, shares his take on what the tough labor market means for our industry:

The situation has become more than our usual banter regarding labor. I believe it is becoming a crisis that is on the verge of metastasizing to a critical level with no resolution in the near future.

Proven hiring methods from the past are no longer producing qualified candidates and even fewer hires. We are trying to figure out if the nationwide perception of the ‘correct’ minimum wage or some other labor expectation has changed the pool of candidates making it harder to find workers at the same starting rate as we have had over the last several years.

While insurance rates, trucking costs, and material costs have climbed steadily over the last decade, we have tried to maintain labor rates as much as possible to keep our prices competitive and profitable for the company.

We are now looking into the next level up of employees at a much higher rate to see if we can find more engagement and interest in our industry. This obviously is going to increase our costs and therefore our prices, but if we do not find qualified help, the result will be limited availability of quality teams to install the most difficult projects.

We rarely ever say "no" to any of our customers, but the current labor situation is forcing us to evaluate each team’s capability as orders are reserved, and to make hard decisions to turn down business because we do not have the labor to produce it. Our warehouses will still be full of equipment, but the limiting factor will be labor to install it.

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