Lisa Virtue-2012

10/28/12

So, where do I start with my extraordinary adventure over to Austin, Texas?

It has been a whirlwind first week and I can quite honestly say my feet have not touched the ground!  It is with great pleasure that I write this blog from 4740 miles away from home in the fantastic Lone Star state of Texas, home to the Longhorns. "Hook em Horns"

I have been made extremely welcome and my host store, Premiere Party Central has ensured I have been nothing less than comfortable every single day. It's amazing how much adrenaline flows through your body and my busy schedule makes every second even more enjoyable.  I have had the pleasure of meeting many people and visiting various companies.  It is amazing to observe the differences in the rental industry.  My time at Red Velvet Events in Austin, Texas, with Cindy was particularly interesting and allowed me to learn invaluable techniques which make client's experiences extra special and memorable for all the right reasons.

My first week has also allowed me to visit:

Embassy Suites in San Marcos

Illusions Rentals & Designs-The RK Group in San Antonio

Aztec Events & Tents in San Antonio

It is especially interesting to observe how much collaboration takes place between rental companies over in the US and there is a real sense of understanding and networking in Austin. I was fortunate enough to attend an ISES (International Special Events Society) meeting which provided me with hands on experience and one which was very memorable. The event was based around "Luxury 2 Die 4" and whilst enjoying a Candy Floss martini, I was able to be part of something unique and extraordinary.

I know the forthcoming week is going to be just as hectic as my first but I wouldn't have my stay here in Austin any other way. It is a tremendous privilege to meet so many people in such a short space of time and shadow the employees at Premiere Party Central.  I am looking forward to taking all my Texan experiences back to London, England and of course, Furniture Hire.

One week in and I have enjoyed every second of my visit.  I am eager to embark on the next part of my journey so watch this space...

11/4/12

I can't honestly believe I have already reached the half way stage of my visit to Austin, Texas. If it's possible, my second week here has been even busier than my first!

Monday allowed me to learn about HR policies and procedures and one very important piece of information that will guarantee to assist in any company is to plan for the worst but hope for the best.  My afternoon gave me the opportunity to accompany Carrie on a site visit to Westlake and it's not every day you drive past the home of Michael Dell, Founder and CEO of Dell Computers.  Our site visit allowed us to connect with the client and ensure the space available was suitable to set a tent/marquee.  Part of my job role in England is based around producing CAD plans so this excursion was particularly interesting as many more factors had to be taken into consideration, not just furniture.

It was a pleasure to meet the Creative Director at Premiere Party Central and it was fascinating to shadow Ken for the day. It makes a significant difference to both clients and event design when a creative individual visualises the space and final appearance before any elements have been added to an order.  To foresee how a venue could look and transform is a unique quality and certainly adds another dimension to furniture rental.

My time with the VP of Operations and Linen Specialist was particularly fascinating as both are areas I was hoping to learn more about.  Transport is an area which should never be overlooked and it is extremely important to eliminate any mistakes which may arise. Forward plan in every instance and ensure the best possible service is always given to the client. Don't promise if you can't deliver.

The information I learned regarding linen was vast and appealing to see how all the elements come together from being picked, packed, delivered and set. It is easy to underestimate the effectiveness of linen in the furniture rental market but I can confirm the huge impact and significant transformation this leads to.

Halloween in Texas will certainly be an unforgettable experience and whilst I made sure I was dressed for the occasion, my visit to Sixth Street during the evening was both a surreal and unique moment.  I saw the streets close and the whole area transform in seconds.

During my time in Texas I have also had the pleasure of visiting a number of venues including:

  • The Winfield Inn
  • Whole Foods
  • Dunvegan Keep
  • Kali Kate
  • Wild Onion Ranch
  • Thurman's Mansion

The venues in Austin have left me lost for words and it is also worth mentioning at this stage just how close all the venues appear to be.  The proximity between sites and businesses will most certainly be advantageous.

The first two weeks in Austin have flown by but I am eager to embark on the second half of my journey so watch this space....

11/11/12

I honestly can't believe this is my penultimate blog post from Austin, Texas!  It only seems like yesterday that I was meticulously planning my suitcase to ensure I was fully prepared for a whole month in the U.S.  Yet here I am, still in denial that I only have one more week before I return to the UK.  This has been an experience of a lifetime and it doesn't matter how many times I have written this particular statement, my time in Texas will stay with me forever!

My third week began with marketing and learning just how important it is to ensure your advertising is directed to the correct audience. You could have the best marketing plan in the world, but unless you understand your demographic, don't allow hard work to be instantly dismissed.  It is crucial to capture clients at the earliest opportunity and impress from the outset.

Whilst I have visted a wide variety of rental companies, each is certainly different from the one before.  I have found it particularly interesting having taken several trips to catering firms within Austin and learned how their business operates as well as understanding the collaboration with rental organizations such as Premiere Party Central.  The owners of Dagar's Catering and Pappa's Catering were a real privilege to meet and lunch at Pappacitos was exceptionally tasty!

Week three has also allowed me to attend a NEAWP meeting which translates for many as Nuptial Essentials Association of Wedding Professionals.  In comparison to other social gatherings, this particular event was very unique and memorable.  The whole networking opportunity allowed members to broaden their horizons and knowledge about the Jewish event market.  An expert panel was present for the whole luncheon and answered any questions members of NEAWP may have had.  The function personally provided me with a real insight into Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and it was a great pleasure attending.

It is clear over in Austin right now that everyone is rapidly preparing for the arrival of the Formula 1 US Grand Prix. I was lucky enough to take a trip to the F1 track on Tuesday afternoon as in a matter of days the whole area will be jam-packed with international delegates as well as thousands of F1 enthusiasts. What an amazing time to be in Austin!

While I still can't believe I am approaching my final week in Austin, I am very keen to embark on the final leg of my journey as well as make the most of every minute. 

Watch this space....

11/18/12

It's still hard to believe I have been in Austin, Texas for 4 weeks! I can honestly say I have enjoyed every single minute over here and whilst eager to return safely to the UK, I will be extremely sad to leave Austin.

I don't really know where to start to summarise my journey and experience over here in Austin, Texas. The whole adventure will stay with me for years to come and I can honestly say I have enjoyed every second in Texas since stepping foot off the plane.  Every single person has made me extremely welcome and the whole team at Premiere Party Central have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable.

At times I have felt like a burden relying on individuals to transport me from one location to another but nothing has been too much trouble and I know it will be very hard to say goodbye to such kind, enthusiastic and welcoming people.  October and November have been two of their busiest months and yet everyone has made time for me and allowed me to learn as much as possible.  My time in Austin has also allowed me to visit a number of rental organisations, large and small as well as impressive and breathtaking venues.

My final week at Premiere Party Central has been as busy as ever and just when I thought there was no possibility of being "wowed" by yet another event; the NACE function was outstanding and extremely tasty. The National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) held an event on Tuesday 13th November which provided me with a real education and a greater understanding of pairing wine with food.  The theme of the evening was aptly named "You Had Me at Merlot" and the whole evening was a great success from start to finish.

I was particularly privileged to design my own table within the Premiere Party Central showroom and my Graphic Design abilities allowed me to place complimentary colours together as well as choose festive chargers, china and flatware.

During my final week I also had the opportunity to visit Marquee and Hill Country Event Rentals which were both very unique in their facility and the product range.  My visit has allowed me to learn so much about the rental industry and the differences between markets and demand over here in Austin and back home in the UK.  I can honestly say, every minute has been thoroughly enjoyable and I have met some amazing people.

With the F1 taking shape and trials having already started, this weekend will be a major learning experience for many as well as an exceptional moment within the year.  What a time to be in Austin!  I'm sure there are many F1 enthusiasts who will be very envious.

Lastly, I would like to thank Delores, Mary, Emily and the team at Premiere Party Central for hosting my extraordinary visit to Texas.  Thank you to the Global Rental Alliance, Hire Association Europe, American Rental Association and the ARA Foundation for this memorable experience. I simply cannot express my gratitude and appreciation!

Last but by no means least: I would like to extend extra special thanks to Dan, Nick and Steve at Furniture Hire UK for allowing me to venture out to Austin, Texas for a whole month. Without their support and encouragement, this would never have been possible. Thank you So much!