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WITH 650 EMPLOYEES under your watch, you might be inclined to overlook the little things. For Classic Party Rentals president John Moran, though, the little things matter big time. Especially when it comes to the small ways his staff demonstrates its pride in performance. “Our team has high expectations of themselves and of their colleagues,” says the head of the Culver City, Calif.-based rental giant, which operates six California locations and claims $46 million in annual revenue.

He cites a telling example: “A few years back, I saw our guys in the parking lot cleaning the trucks, and I was surprised to see them applying Armor All [tire polish] to the tires. Initially, I thought that it was a waste of labor and ultimately of money, but then I realized how it made sense. If our guys care about how our trucks look, they are more likely to care about other things, such as our rental equipment and, ultimately, our [clients].”

Moran, who has been with Classic for seven years, says the company empowers employees by including them in weekly meetings where their opinions are eagerly solicited. While Classic doesn't “manage by consensus,” he explains, “we are very inclusive. People are comfortable sharing their point of view, and sharing constructive criticism — not of one another, but of performance, suggesting ways in which the company can get better.”

It's not just staff input that Classic seeks in keeping its competitive edge. With such high-profile events as the Grammy Awards and the San Francisco Symphony opening gala on its regular roster, the company also counts its clients' creative ideas as a vital resource. “We often buy products specifically for an event,” Moran notes, explaining that such items typically end up renting out over and over again.

Over time, the need to meet the demands of its design-minded clients has led Classic to build up more than $20 million of inventory. It has also led Moran — a pharmaceutical marketing pro in his former life — to become an expert on what rents well. His take on trends this year? “Draping, draping and more draping. We are draping velon and fabric inside garages, ballrooms and over canopy frames without skins,” he says. Meanwhile, he adds, “Wood-grain chairs continue to gain popularity.”

With its warehouses amply stocked and new positions recently added — including a vice president of sales and a human resources manager — Classic is putting a hold on growth, for now at least. The event industry can expect Classic to “lay low on the acquisition front for a year,” Moran says, “so that we can lend more focus to our people and our [clients].”

Classic Party Rentals 8476 Steller Drive, Culver City, CA 90232; 310/202-0011;


“The most significant change to the event rental industry over the last five years has been the proliferation of equipment selection. In the L.A. market in 1998, I think we had five patterns of china. Now we must have a dozen. It's the caterers and party planners who always want to be on the edge, offering something different to their client base.”


“I was driving back to the office one day and was following one of our trucks. In front of it was a car stalled at the stop light, so [my employees] pulled their truck to the side of the road, got out and pushed the stalled car out of the way. I love to see stuff like that. I was proud that they did the right thing and were helpful. This can-do attitude is important when on a job site.”


“Find the right person in a particular [rental] company with whom you can work. Often, it's so much about the personal chemistry and effective communication between two people that make for a good working relationship. We move clients around until they're happy with a particular person.”

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