Crew cut

Do you have plans in place for your events in 2012? Have you worked out your creative ideas? Have you signed off your event budget? The answer for most of you reading this will probably be no. But without sounding too obvious – planning couldn’t be more crucial. There are certain pockets of industry that are urging clients to sign on the dotted line now if they wish to guarantee resource for a few weeks in the summer next year. Recent conversations suggest that industry on a whole is feeling more positive – big structures are planned for this year, corporate work is returning and queries are coming in for big jobs in three and four months time. So, if positivity is abundant and the signs indicate the market is returning, shouldn’t we be confident that 2012 will be a bumper year? In which case, planning ahead has never been of greater importance. Crewing is one such area currently being looked at – so much infrastructure will be need to be built next year, will there be enough skilled crew to go round?

According to Jeremy Berryman managing director at Crewsaders, there are timing as well as location issues that have to be dealt with in relation to 2012. Timing wise, there is the build up to the event and then the event itself. On location, there is the London sporting event and then the peripheral corporate and other events in London and elsewhere in the UK. Then there are the “business as usual” events regularly serviced. He explains: “Managing our capacity in these contexts will be crucial to maintaining our brand integrity as well as creating a stronger more reliable brand for the future. In managing our capacity it is crucial that our current client base – with events located all over the UK – are serviced beyond their expectations whether or not they have been contracted to produce an Olympic, corporate or other event type. This is our priority. Suddenly increasing our capacity to service an as yet undefined ‘Olympics market’ for a limited period through temporary inexperienced operatives would have a negative impact on our brand integrity.”

Matt Fenton, director of Event Staff, feels that industry is guilty of seeing crew as nothing more than labour – replaceable, interchangeable and identical to the next. He suggests that longer lead times would improve that perception but short-lead times reign and compromise safety.

Says Fenton: “Advance planning is a key issue, at any time – whilst I don’t expect the Olympics to have a big impact on
our workload directly, it is already a busy time of the year, and many other events will be taking place. We have no plans to increase our prices, but there could well be a situation where there simply aren’t enough staff to cover the jobs, and we may have to say that we’re ‘sold out’ during the busiest periods.”

Miles Hopkins, director at On Crew, shares Fenton’s view – the onus is on an organiser to have some idea of crew requirement and that can only be identified through advance planning. But what of price? Will organisers pay through the nose?

“There has been ‘price talk’ that demand is going to cause a rise in crewing charges,” explains Jenkins. “However, I believe that we have a responsibility to our customers to not exploit such short-sightedness. Events, which are too expensive to produce, are events, which never happen. This creates a no win situation for clients, organisers, event companies, transport and crewing companies. Collectively, we should be held accountable and price clearly for the services being requested.”

Continues Berryman: “We are not in the business of profiteering – hiring cheap and charging expensive – for short-term gain. Regular clients will be charged list price whether the job is associated with the Olympics or not.

“In order to meet our clients’ needs over the busy period, from spring 2012 we will be planning our capacity through continual client consultations. Jobs will be pre-booked but spare capacity will be left in the system for last minute client requests. It will not be company policy to increase crew numbers on a speculative basis, train them in safe working practices, health and safety and company culture plus shoulder all the costs only to let them go months later. This is not a sustainable approach in terms of our brand integrity or in a social sense where people are taught new skills only to be dumped.”

Mark Campbell, sales and marketing director, Showforce, adds: “No one knows how much crew is going to be needed. But I do know that our number one priority is to look after the clients that we know we will work with for many years to come.

“The problem we are facing is that our clients have not been awarded the contracts, so we know that crew will be needed but not how many. The earlier we know, however, than we can make plans.

“Our industry is flat out during the summer months regardless of the Olympics so therefore crew will be at a premium. I am making a price pledge to companies – book now for next year and they can have crew at this year’s prices.

“I do believe that industry is at risk. It’s not a case of someone nipping down the pub and booking a couple of heavies. Our industry is skilled. We invest time and money in training people, instilling company values and ethics but crew, unfortunately, is quite often the last thing to be booked. People must plan early.”