On today’s episode of the Atlanta Small Business Profile, Ted Jenkin is on site at Classic Tents and Events with Steven Eisenstein, chief event officer.
Ted Jenkin: Steven, I’m amazed at the business that you built here in Atlanta being one the of the largest tent rental companies in the city. How did you even get into the tent rental business? When did you wake up one day and said, “I want to pop up tents.”
Steven Eisenstein: So I fell into this accidentally. I was in catering for a long time, spent at least 20 years doing catering, and I was looking to do something in the hospitality community, but not with food anymore. So I was the ex-President of NACE, the National Association of Catering Executives, and I knew all the members in our chapter and one of them had a neat rental business. It was called Classic Tents. Bought it basically in 2010. Two years ago, we added Coastal Restaurant Equipment Rental.
So another opportunity that basically did similar things just a different widget. So now we rent ovens, fryers, hot boxes.
Ted Jenkin: That’s very cool.
Steven Eisenstein: Absolutely. So we have a great reputation for keeping our customers happy and basically wanted to use those same services and principles for the restaurant side.
Ted Jenkin: So you bought the business and got into that way, which is a neat way to be able to start your business, is to buy one that’s working already and this is a really highly fragmented business isn’t it? So how do you actually differentiate a business where there may be 20, 10 rental companies that are in the city?
Steven Eisenstein: We’ve listened to our customers, we’ve tried to find out what it is they’re trying to do and then we come back to them and give them our solutions to their challenges. And so we have a washing machine in the back that we clean our tents with. We come up with innovative new ideas to help our customers solve their challenges out there. So we do a lot of festivals. We do a lot of movie productions. We do a lot of corporate events.
Ted Jenkin: It’s big in Georgia now.
Steven Eisenstein: It’s huge. It’s the reason why we’ve grown like we have.
Ted Jenkin: I’ve noticed that one of the skills that you have, and I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs, is you’re an unbelievable networker. And I’m wondering how you pick up clients, but you might talk to folks today that are watching this show about how you pick up clients and how you network to expand your name, because you’ve done an unbelievable job since you’ve taken over the business.
Steven Eisenstein: So it’s really the team. It’s a reputation. Our guys really care about the jobs they do. They want to make sure that the customers are happy with what they have and afterwards, we want to leave the place just like we found it, if not cleaner. It’s really just taking good care of your customers and the rest takes care of … The repeats come back, people hear about you doing a good job.
We like to add new inventory when customers need new things. And so that’s one of the things that we’ve asked our customers, what it is they need and therefore upon their request, we’ve added inventory that works for them.
Ted Jenkin: And a lot of business owners worry about competition. But I really feel like you’re good at “co-opetition” because I know that you’ll dole out jobs to people. Is that healthy for a business? I mean, talk about how you do that. How you cooperate with other tent companies?
Steven Eisenstein The tent business is a lot different than a lot of other competitive businesses ’cause we’re here to help each other. We want everything done safe and properly and done the right way and therefore, we have a great relationship with all the other tent people out there.
Ted Jenkin: How did you build that culture where you get people excited about getting ready for all of these events?
Steven Eisenstein: When we build tents, it’s really a team effort. So when we start at a venue, we’ve got a blank slate and when we arrive, we’ve got lots of pieces to take off the truck and set up and arrange and it’s all a group effort. So again, if we leave a piece behind, we fail that day and therefore, we’ve screwed up our times and the labor costs have gone up. So we make sure that everyone understands how important it is to load everything on the truck that you need to have for the day. Otherwise, we send out an oops truck and-
Ted Jenkin: An oops truck?
Steven Eisenstein: That’s what we have to do. We send an oops truck.
Ted Jenkin: You have one of those here at Classic Tents and Events.
Steven Eisenstein: So sometimes I am the oops truck driver. But anyways, our culture, we really it’s a lot of cutting edge in the technology. We have a Tent OX back there which saves a lot of time and labor and these guys know how to drive stakes in the ground in seconds using this machine. We also have a different attachment that takes stakes out of the ground. So it’s like a Swiss army knife out in the field and it also can lift two 700 pound blocks which are cement blocks. We call ’em Block ‘N Roll-
Ted Jenkin: Block ‘N Roll.
Steven Eisenstein: Block ‘N Roll. It’s a great system that again we’ve built our blocks here. It’s a form that this company, Block ‘N Roll sold to us. It’s what all the people out in the tent world are using now. So it’s better than ever using water barrels. We don’t like using water barrels. They’re not safe and Mother Nature can’t blow away one of those big cement blocks.
Ted Jenkin: Well business is tough out there and so would you mind telling people the number one thing that you’ve learned as an owner. Because I think that everyone thinks that being an entrepreneur is easy, but it’s not that easy. What’s the one thing that you’ve learned that you could share with people and impart with them about if they want to become an entrepreneur, what they need to know?
Steven Eisenstein: You have to have thick skin in order to be an entrepreneur. It’s hundreds of little details that go into everything and it’s paying attention to all the little things. So you gotta really make sure that everybody’s doing their part to make sure the customers happy and that we’re doing everything like we should.
Ted Jenkin: Wow, it’s like in Steven’s business. You can pop up a big tent, but it’s all the small details that happen under the tent that really make your business.
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