SPOTLIGHT ON AN INFLATABLE HIRE COMPANY
NAME OF YOUR INFLATABLE HIRE COMPANY?
WHAT IS YOUR AGE?
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED HIRING OUT INFLATABLES?
I was an engineer for big industrial Ten-Pin Bowling Machines.
WHAT MADE YOU START AN INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS?
At age 38, I was made redundant. So, I opened up a tool hire business. I also hired out garden equipment, bicycles and camping equipment.
In 1989, I realised that bouncy castles could be an incredibly popular hire product, as there was no one else in Edinburgh hiring them out.
As a result I invested in three 12ft x 12ft bouncy castles from a company called Camelot.
The demand for my bouncy castle hire was much stronger than for my other hire products so it made good business sense for me to stop hiring the other products and focus 100% on inflatables.
Interestingly, despite living next door to a police station, I got burgled twice, and all my non-inflatable hire equipment was stolen. Fortunately, the thieves left behind my inflatables – on both occasions.
I then rapidly grew my inflatable hire business to one of the largest in the area.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES?
Ten Pin Bowling
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE?
All the Godfather movies.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL?
Indian Curry – Chicken Madras
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE UK HOLIDAY DESTINATION?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION ABROAD?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TV PROGRAMME?
The Walking Dead
YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS
Anything from the Rat Pack
With: Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr
WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT THE INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS?
I love being my own boss, and I have always loved the hire business. It’s so easy!
Also, my business keeps me physically fit and active which is really important as I’m 64 years old!
IF YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT THE INDUSTRY?
Back in the day (1990’s) I had loads of castles from Camelot which had front safety walls. They were a brilliant safety device as the kids couldn’t fall out of the front.
My customers loved them! Unfortunately, my PIPA inspector deemed them dangerous which was a shame as I thought that they made inflatable play safer not more dangerous.
So, if I could wave a magic wand I would want all castles to have a front safety wall and still pass their annual PIPA/RPII test.
I take health and safety extremely seriously, but sometimes I feel that the Health and Safety Brigade are trying to eliminate all risks, however small, as opposed to managing the risks.
Amazingly, all these years later, I still get customers ringing me up wanting to hire a castle with this front safety wall.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A HIRING FROM HELL? (Horror story or an unusual booking?)
First an unusual Booking.
I once hired a castle to probably the richest family in the UK (Perhaps richer than Royalty?) It was the Rothschild Family, and they are multi-Billionnaires.
Anyway, I arrived to collect my castle at the end of the party at their mansion (or should I say Palace!) and to my pleasant surprise several members of the family took the time to stop socializing with their guests and started helping me roll up the bouncy castle.
Hiring from hell 1
I delivered my brand new 18ft x 18ft bouncy castle to a school fete on its first ever hire. All went well with the setup and I put matts all the way round and in addition, the castle was tied to the school railings.
I then went and did my other day’s deliveries.
However, when I returned to collect my brand new castle from the school, I discovered to my horror that the whole of the underside of the castle had been ripped to shreds. What had happened was that someone (probably a teacher) had decided to move my castle to another location at the school and had dragged it across an incredibly rough playground with lots of sharp stones and uneven jagged edges.
As a result, the castle needed a brand new underside. To add insult to injury the school offered nothing in way of an apology or any compensation.
Amazingly, the following year, the school contacted me again to book the same castle for their school event – I’ll leave it to your imagination what my reply was!!!
Hiring from hell 2
I once delivered a castle to a customer who was a builder. He was clearly a wealthy chap and had all the trappings of wealth such as big house and new luxury car etc.
Anyway, I made sure he had a castle with a built-in raincover because the weather was slightly unsettled.
Half way into the day, there was a couple of light rain showers but nothing too bad.
Much later in the evening I arrived to collect the castle. The light showers had stopped long before and the kids were enjoying themselves on the castle.
But to my amazement, the customer refused to pay my hire fee on the grounds that during the party there had been a couple of light showers and the customer had apparently ordered all the kids indoors briefly.
I pointed at his kids playing on my castle, but he said that didn’t count, and that he should only pay for the time that the party was in progress.
I shook my head in utter amazement, and packed the castle away and drove off.
BIHA note: Interesting story Ronnie, and shows first hand why it is so important to get payment BEFORE the party begins.
DO YOU HAVE ANY USEFUL TIPS OR IDEAS THAT YOU COULD SHARE WITH THE OTHER BIHA MEMBERS.
1) When you have a really busy day with all or most of your inflatables hired out – for goodness sake get friends and family to help you out. I have seen hire company owners try and struggle to do it all alone when a single phone call to a pal would make all the difference.
2) Try to keep your castles in clean tip-top condition. Your customers will love you for it – and the referrals will come in thick and fast!
3) At the end of each season, do a stock take and record what inflatables went out on hire the most, and what laid dormant in your garage or lock-up. Consider selling your inflatables that had few hires.
4) If you want to be fit and active well into your 60’s and beyond, then make sure you still get involved in delivering and picking up bouncy castles. It’s great exercise! I get a free work-out every day!
HOW HAS THE BIHA HELPED YOU IN YOUR INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS?
Before I joined the BIHA, I felt very isolated and cut off from other inflatable hire companies (Living in Scotland, I felt all the action was in the Midlands and down South). When I needed advice there was no one that I could turn to for help. When I joined the BIHA and the forum, all that changed, and now I just have to switch on my computer for all the help I need.
Also, I get lots of tips and advice from the BIHA which helps me in my hire business. In addition, the BIHA gives me peace of mind because if I have any worries about my business – then I know that all I have to do is to pick up the phone or log into the forum.