This month, Pittsburgh Party & Tent Rental owner Dan Skena starts a three-year term on the ARA board of directors as chairman of the association's Party and Special Events Special Interest Group, or SIG. Here, he describes his perspectives and goals.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: What does Pittsburgh Party & Tent Rental do different and better than the competition?
DAN SKENA: We strive to provide a high level of customer service and quality equipment on a consistent basis, regardless of who the customer is or how large the order is. We have earned a reputation as a company that does what we say we will do; we don't promise things that we can't deliver. Over time, we have gained the trust and respect of the “high-end” clientele in our market. They realize that we will provide top-quality equipment and service at a fair price, and that we are willing to go the extra mile by offering equipment and services that many other rental companies in our area don't offer. In recent years, we have done a lot with tent liners, clear-top tents, specialty lighting, colored glassware, square plates, etc. These are not uncommon items in many markets, but they are not offered by very many party rental companies in our area. Another factor that sets us apart from our competitors is our attention to detail; we tend to “finish” jobs better than most companies, making sure that everything is neat and clean. We do CAD drawings for most of our tented events, and in many cases, our staff sets everything up, according to the drawing. When the client sees the setup, it looks exactly like the CAD drawing that they received and approved.
Q: What are some of your goals for ARA?
A: During my three-year term as the Party SIG chairperson, I would like to concentrate my efforts in four main areas: 1) to improve the value of ARA membership to the party and special event segment of the industry. This could involve improvements to the CERP (Certified Event Rental Professional) program, improvements to our educational programming, improvements to our advertising efforts and so on. 2) Expand ARA membership among party and event rental specialists. There are many companies that specialize in party and event rentals that do not belong to ARA, and we would like to have them on board as members, regardless of the size of their operation. 3) To raise the level of professionalism among party and event rental specialists, and to raise our profile in the event industry. Rental professionals need to be on par with other event professionals, such as event planners, caterers, florists, decorators, etc. Event rental professionals have a wealth of knowledge and experience, which is sometimes overlooked. We need to work hard to earn the trust and respect of other special event professionals. CERP certification is a good way to get noticed, and to be recognized as a real “rental pro.” 4) I will work to strengthen the relationships that exist between ARA and other trade organizations that serve the event industry. I feel that we have a lot to learn from each other, and that we should continue to work together for the benefit of our members.
Q: What do you see as the pressures on party rental in the next few years?
A: The state of the economy has more of an impact on our business than any other factor; if the economy is strong, party rental will continue to do well. If the economy weakens, the strong operations will ride it out, but the weaker ones may not. Certain things, such as the cost of fuel, the cost of insurance and the cost of labor (operational costs in general) affect everyone; I don't think that the party rental industry is unique in that respect. There will always be new competitors coming into the marketplace, but I don't see that as a huge threat. If you run a good operation, you will be able to hold your own with any new competition. I haven't seen any evidence of price wars, and I think that would be a huge mistake for everyone involved. The margins are not great in the party rental industry; in many cases, I feel that some party rental companies don't charge as much as they should, and often discount too deeply.
If I had to identify one significant challenge to our labor-intensive industry that is not going to go away, it would be finding the labor that we need to do the work. It takes a lot of manpower to produce events, and much of it requires skilled labor. The party and event rental industry has to compete with all other employers for their workers, both skilled and unskilled. We need to find new ways to attract and retain the labor that we need to be able to continue to provide the services that our customers demand, to grow our businesses and to be profitable.
Monroeville, Pa.-based Pittsburgh Party & Tent Rental can be reached at 412/856-8368; the company's Web site is www.pittsburghparty.com.