Weathering the Storm: Six Lessons TNT Learned During Turmoil

Weathering the Storm: Six Lessons TNT Learned During Turmoil

After 36 Years, Tent and Table has Learned How to Endure

In all the years Tent and Table has been in business—36 years, to be precise—we’ve never witnessed anything quite like the COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak. Our entire society flipped a switch and transitioned practically overnight into coronavirus outbreak preparedness mode. And that’s great … all of these precautions will definitely save lives. But what about all those industries economically stressed by these social distancing efforts?

Ours is an industry that thrives in gatherings. The bigger the event or party, the more successful a day our business is having. It’s only natural then for an event and party rental company to worry (if not outright panic) when faced with a global health pandemic like the coronavirus outbreak.

In those nearly four decades of business, we learned one critical lesson above all else. And it’s going to probably sound counterintuitive, given the vast efforts society at large is undertaking right now to enforce social distancing and minimize public events. But it’s as applicable today as it was in those other national and global crises: hold fast.

Business might slow down. Larger events may be postponed or canceled. But smaller private functions like birthday parties, church functions, and most weddings? People are still going to put these events together. And they’re going to need your help as a party rental company to make that happen.

Lesson #1: Normalcy and Peace of Mind

The coronavirus outbreak is scary to most children. It’s like something you might see in a movie or a video game. Politicians and other officials on the news using scary words and phrases like “containment” and “quarantine” and “prevent the spread.” Supermarkets drained of their most important and critical goods. Mom and dad staying home from work while your school is out “indefinitely.” It’s a lot for a child to process.

During a crisis like the coronavirus outbreak, it's important children feel a sense of normalcyIn times like these, parents will want to provide their children with peace of mind. They’ll want them to feel like things are normal … as normal as things can possibly seem, anyway. So while parents might limit how many kids can attend their child’s birthday party, they’re still going to want to hold one. And that means your commercial inflatables, carnival games, and party tents can and will continue to get booked.

The coronavirus outbreak happening in the spring means millions of students finishing high school and college might miss out on what is supposed to be one of life’s true milestones: graduation. A great many parents are going to want to book a party tent and host a graduation ceremony of their own.

Birthdays will still happen. Happy couples are going to tie the knot, even if their distant cousins can’t fly in from Tulsa. Life goes on. And while your rental business shouldn’t reasonably expect to see the same volume of phone calls as usual, you’re still going to land bookings. Especially if you heed this next lesson …

Lesson #2: Let Customers Know You’re Open for Business

Customer outreach is always important, but in a climate like the one presented by the coronavirus outbreak, it’s mission-critical. Make sure you’re doing everything you can, within reason of course, to let you customers know you’re open for business and ready for their events and parties.

Let customers know you're open for business

Related: Coronavirus: Safeguarding Your Party Rental Customers

You should be posting on social media platforms at least once per day. If you can do a few live videos on Facebook each week showing your products and telling people you’re open for business, that helps a lot too.

If you have regular customers with whom you’ve established a friendly relationship, now is a good time to reach out to them personally and let them know you’re still open and available for bookings. And if you can afford advertising, make sure you’re framing those ads for the current situation, so people know you’re specifically open now.

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Lesson #3: Promote Family Fun!

While telling potential customers that you’re open for business, it’s important to also remind them of the importance of family fun. Just knowing your business is open isn’t enough on its own to ensure they’ll book your services. You need to show them all the fun they could be having with your commercial bounce house set up in their yard.

Remember: your customers want their kids having fun. They want that normalcy we talked about earlier. Their kids should feel safe and get their minds off of the 24 hours cycle for a while. That’s going to go a long way toward helping them feel safe.

Lesson #4: Create Special Packages and Deals

Ours isn’t the only industry impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and all the social distancing that goes along with it. Restaurants, bars, brick and mortar retail, hotels, movie theaters, theme parks … if people gather there publicly, their business is being impacted right now. And with more than 30 million American children staying home from school indefinitely (as of this article being written), countless workers are either working from home or enduring a furlough.

Creating discounts, deals, and packages is always good for business. But while families might be tightening their purse strings, they aren’t necessarily canceling their birthday parties and other small gatherings. Those discounts and packages your company offers now might make all the difference.

Lesson #5: Donate a Little (If You Can)

Some of you reading this are going to not see much of a slowdown for your business at all. In fact, some of you may even see increased business, depending on where you live and who your specific audience tends to be. Either way, there’s a strong case to be made for donating your equipment and your time in sensible ways.

If business is slower, you’ve got big gaps in your schedule. If nobody is using the equipment anyway, it may as well go to good use, right? And if business is booming, why not put a little time aside and give back to your community?

The benefits are pretty self-explanatory. First off, you get to feel good about it, and really, that should be all the motivation you really need. But it’s also business-practical; you get a tax write-off, you get PR, and you get to put a few business cards in the palms of families who might want to book your services down the road.

Look for local organizations hosting smaller events. Schools will be setting up food drives for children. Churches will be hosting a variety of events. This is a great opportunity for those of you with sealed air frame games, UltraLite frame games, and carnival games; you can maintain good social distancing practices and entertain some children in the process.

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Lesson #6: The Business of Staying In Business

Last but not least, we’ll leave you with a few important tips about the business of staying in business; a few things you can and should do right now to ensure continuity and keep weathering the storm until the coronavirus outbreak has passed us by.

First and foremost, look into acquiring an SBA disaster loan as soon as possible. These likely won’t be available for long, and they can really save your business. We used a similar loan in the aftermath of September 11th and if we hadn’t done that, we probably wouldn’t be here today.

For those of you with existing equipment financing and small business loans, try to keep an open dialog with your banks and financial institutions. Tell them what you need, what you’re doing to hedge against changes in the business climate, and ask about resources that can help you get through this unexpected season interruption. And if you don’t have that sort of relationship with your bank, it’s a good time to add that to your “to do list” and make sure it happens soon.

Join and participate in a proactive and positive peer network. Join TNT’s Facebook page and chat with other industry professionals. Hear their strategies and share your own. 

One more tip in this vein: this is a great time to cut out unnecessary recurring expenses. Things like subscriptions to magazines or services you may not need or aren’t really utilizing are easy to cancel, and the savings do add up.

Weathering the Storm is Scary, but Entirely Possible

The coronavirus outbreak caught our entire planet by surprise. Sudden unexpected closures, rationing in stores, kids and adults home from school and work … go back to December or January and you’d be hard pressed to find many Americans anticipating anything quite like this. 

COVID-19 has been trying for all of us, but as we said before: life goes on. People need entertainment now more than ever, and that's becoming increasingly difficult to find.

How you see this situation boils down to whether our glass is half empty or half full. A pessimist might pack up early, abandon the rental season, and go find a new line of work, at least temporarily. But an optimist—a business leader willing to buckle down and hold fast—is going to batten down the hatches and weather the storm.

If you’re mindful of the coronavirus situation, and keep a sharp eye focused on business matters, and find ways of reaching customers, your business is far more likely to see greener pastures on the far side of this global event.  Our team here at Tent and Table is looking forward to seeing you there, too!

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