I want to relate few of my observations regarding benefits and issues with commercial events, if your club decide, at some moment, to give it a try
payment: there are two types of legal entities: profit and non profit
profit can write invoice, no problem. Check with your accountant at what moment you go from lower budget firm to higher (in Serbia, after some amount of incomes, club (or firm) must enter VAT system - and that is pain in the elbow - we avoid it by opening another firm, if we get more income then the rule say. So with invoice, do it in consult with your account, especially if the amount is bigger.
When invoicing, it is good to have a contract.
Regarding contract, read everything, and know that contract usually goes into favor of the person or entity that made it. It is good idea to have already prepared contracts, where you change only things related to the new event. Do not be afraid to add a clause to the contract. Cover EVERYTHING.
note: (few years ago we made a deal with mall for event, and contract was so long, sent by them, but all was ok. Near the end, but not the last point, it said something like this "if we do not like what is exhibited, we keep rights not to pay" We had such beautiful mocs, and my guys told "it will be ok, they will like it for sure, let's sign", but one who was layer in the making (today a full pledge lawyer) said "and if they say "we didn't like it", what will we do? It cost so much just to transport everything to there, then hotel, food, etc. No, we can't depend on such a non-specific clause. So we agreed upon all, but asked that they remove that point. We are professionals, we have pictures of creations - if they don't like what we present on them, we should cancel event. Of course they agreed to delete the clausul. But they got us on other points that could be understood on different ways, and we ended up having to pay them. My guys rioted, and from that day, that mall is under total isolation and we ignore it totally. We were young, and inexperienced - so please, go through your contract with your lawyer. Secure yourself from snowstorms, wars, disease, car crashes etc. And that leads us to another point:
Insurance - if you can, insure everything, from stealing (not one brick, but someone coming at night and taking everything), from disasters (fire, crashes, flood etc) and sick epidemics (don't include zombie apocalypse, insurance agent will not be amused and he will charge it :) trust me, we know :)
non-profit: evrything said about the contract, accountent, lawyer, insurance etc goes for non-profit also; but non-profit can get donation - simply make ajustment to a contract, with them obligating themselves to make a donation - or make a deal with them to make a donations. Many clubs that are non-profit cover their costs like this, it is legal (for them to make donation, and for you to make free of charge event), even if it was re-aranged verbally. Please note, in many coutnries (if not all) you can;t put in donation contract they are donating because you are providing that service - but thay can donate to any of your needs (they don;t have to specify). Consult with lawyer. Payment deadlines: - large scale firms make 30, 60, 90 days invoices, ie they can pay three months later, or even more, as stated in contract (that you should have). This is ok, whenever money arrives, it will help the club. It is better 50.000 EUR in 6 months then nothing now (and nothing then)
Time is the most valuable thing for partners. If you have a beautiful creation and you need three days to setup - not good. Remember, every m2 per every hour (day) cost a lot. Include this into your calculation, and make setup as fast as possible
note: in Beokocka, we were all about logistics and space needed to transport our bricks - we could pack 2000 m2 of event in just one truck - but we needed 7 days and 8 persons to set it up. Space in venue costs a lot. So, if you are evolving, involve in saving time, not space. This adds extra stress on community, as you need to have more place for storage. You should decide what makes fewer expenses (factor is how many commercial events you have during the year)
covers, tables etc - always let client provide this. Sometimes it is needed to have fire hazard cloth, etc - let them be responsible for this. A normal client will take measurements of tables and make them for such an event. Professionally, cloth is used less and less - displays are what is good for commercial events
interaction - you should not be present on event, unless as a guest who is mingling around. And your creation should do all the interaction. On how to make visitor-interactive creations, I will share this article in second weekend of May 2018. What type of buttons, why electricity, how where, what bricks, what types of mocs and other things, with pictures from our newly built logistics
note: we started using tables without cloth few months ago, they are custom built, white, easy to disassemble and transport. I recommend this, joined with displays
do not be too friendly. At the end of the day, you are employee, he is employer. It is ok to be pleasant, but remember he values time more than anything - strong business-persons will stop and listen to you every time you approach him/her, but know that too much chit-chat - and you are losing credibility
always offer to pay, at least every second time - he buys drinks, offer to pay. In 99,9% he will tell "don't worry". It shows credibility
remember, you are professional, you are AFOL. The firm you are working for usually has no clue about LEGO, more then they needed to know. You suggest how or why it must be done, but just suggest - don't push it, as decision is on them. Be sure to present your arguments, if you strongly beleive that something must be changed - you are the one with experiance
note: last year, we were invited to do some event for commercial firm. As we were doing it as a favor for a dear friend-corporation, we did it for free - at least offered. They insisted on refunding us and rewarding us, and as I was present, I suggested some changes, also made some changes from the contract - as it made event more pleasure and aesthetically appealing for visitors. During dinner, I was offered a consultant place in that firm for event things. I am not a consultant, I am an AFOL who builds and talks and smiles a lot :) But I offered my advices for free, when I have time. Next day we received three times the sum as donation more than mentioned at the beginning. The whole club bought all animals from bricklink we could get our hands on (that is why my love for that bag of animals on Kockice's convention :) So, stand your grand - you are professional, and you know more about the brick and mocs then anyone else in the room
bargaining - first time I said how much we need for covering basic costs (1400 eur) and mall said, ok, we give 1200 e. I felt insulted. I said, that's nice, but that makes 200 EUR less then we need. We can cut out one van with creations if you like. They didn't like. Later I learned people in management have only one real job - bargain - their job is to save here 10e, there 50e - and it piles up.
note: Today, I still hate when this happens, but I am prepared - and no temper shown. Sometimes we enlarge our costs for 20% because of this. So, know, little and middle firms will bargain. Big ones absolutely will not - maybe they will say "this price is too big for us", but no bargaining. So, this will happen - it is not end of the world, explain there is no room for price reduction as it is already reduced to the bare minimum.
Work hours - if you obligate yourself trough contract or spoken word, and you fell sick, bored, tired - finish setup. You only need one unsatisfied client to spread the word (and it spreads faster and further then you know. Be prepared for client to mix you with some other community, thinking their events are yours - for them, we are all the same at the beginning, so we are caring sins of all our clubs from the region when commercial events are in question.
Failure - it will happen. It is ok. That is a way you learn. First, try not to repeat it, second try to prevent everything that you think could happen
Venue space: I have made a setup tutorial for my guys , you can read it here (link); In addition for this special kind of events, you should know that 30% is organization (marketing, logistic etc), 30 % shelves, tables, glass, selling area etc and only 30 % mocs - so know that you are equally important as others, do not hog space or time. And please be careful, there could be tools lying around - do not play with them, especially electrical drill etc especially if you are not proficient in using them (and if you are, you will not touch other worker's tools for sure). If you have to move them - better call the owner. If it stops working - you will be responsible for sure. Rule of thumb - do not touch anything that is not yours. If asked to help with something - decide, but do not offer unless you are absolutely sure
note: don't allow workers to carry your boxes, or educate them first. Trust me, breakage they make takes months to sanitize, and you have only few days for setup, all tightly planned)
Drinks, food, garbage - keep mind on this. Do not make oil stains on tables or cloth, do not leave your food around. Important: keep your expensive things near you. Cell, laptop, other electrical equipment, bags, wallets etc. Even if you are working alone with your trusting team, someone else can pass by. This should be ironclad rule, and first in your book.
don't offer to client something you can't do. I did it once, thinking he will never ask for mentioned architecture sets as we have such beautiful creations - he insisted. And we didn't had them at hand - so we organized a whole club asking for architecture sets, it was emberasing, and almost didn;t work out - what you offer, you must fulfill
discuss price, costs and covering for every member involved - remember, they are not workers, they are hobby enthusiast who like to build, so approach them in that way, discuss and converse - best thing regarding everyone being satisfied
Mocs: I will get to this later in a separate post with our statistics we made during 2013-2014, but in short, this is what attracts visitors attention (and clients know it):
recognizable themes (TNMT, Sponge Bob, Angry birds, Ancient Greece, Asterix, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Loony Toons, books (Alice in Wonderland, 1000 miles under the sea, etc)
Our practice is this: one large diorama 12x6, three dioramas, but only 10-20 % smaller then large one, 4 4x4, 8 2x4, 12 1x2
Anything else we add after discussion. But this is our golden measurement, regarding setup time, space needed for transport, and diversity in themes.
At every time we have at least two of these sets so we can make events on different places. If the venue is smaller, then we just bring less. And people tend to get routine when setting up as all mocs are standardized in size. Use our rule: if it is not in the box - it does go. This will help so much with setup time
Important note: like on every event, visitor's safety is paramount. If you have tall mocs or something that can fall and hurt someone - secure it, put a fence around it - don't risk.
- more funds for your club needs - you can expand in logistic, or buy more bricks for playing or building
- you get to catch little secrets of professional event managers (there is so much that we don't know, guys:)
- like it or not, you will be forced to improve on your structure and logistics, and it will impact you moc planning process, and you will involve in more faster and setup-friendly community. So when you make events for your own soul, you will have more time to socialize and be less tired.
- all things considered, commercial events can be a lot of fun - no responsibility regarding organizing anything more than your mocs, and a place where you can meet many other AFOLS or clubs, doing the same thing - Every setup when we travel, we never start before 10 in the morning, as we stay late up with AFOLs from other countries - so many friends and good connections, including new Family have been a product of these kind of meetings
- you have a boss (this can be a good thing if the boss is leader, and competent)
- you have to handle some legal things, invoice, contract, insurance, etc
- you could be frowned by other communities (judgment) - do not worry about it. Benefits are huge, and (for now), TLG is ok that a club get their costs covered by venue (and why wouldn't they be). We have been, in a way forced to find money for events we planned, wanting bigger, more beautiful exhibits and most of all - more free time to socialize - all our events have always been with free entrance, as we didn't wanted to distinguish between kids whose parents can afford ticket and those who can't. But what to do if you have no membership fees, and you are adamant in keeping events with free entrance? You make event for a client. Malls or professional event managing firms are good examples. We use this money for joined holidays, meets, new bricks, and most important thing we invested money into - Structure and Logistic. @Jan Beyer, can I ask you, when you get a moment of free time, to just count what is considered structure and what logistic? This can give a club so much material for thinking and improvement - I haven't meet a club, us included, who couldn't use some improvement on some level of structure or logistics. Use your funds both for fun, building material and smartly, for structure and logistics evolvement. I will go into deeper details what we did as a reply to Jan's post, if he makes it.
- a client could swindle you for payment - this almost never happens, especially if you listen to advice with making a contract with lawyer. We have worked for some really not-good companies in the past, and they all made payments
- failure - you can miss, you can have members fight, come drunk, mocs can be destroyed during setup or during event, someone could put obscene scene in their diorama and you don't notice until a mother contacts event organization, mocs that you thought where work of art, in events with non-AFOLs could miss the interest group, you could be late, you could make some material damage to the venue - all of these things can happen. Let me repeat that this is how you learn and involve - road to success is not a straight line, it is broken line with every knot representing failure - this happened to me, most of team leaders from club I represent, and to many, many members :) Failure is a good thing from learning aspect (but try to avoid :) and most of all - it is not an end of the world, the worst thing that could happen is to lose money, and mistakes paid with money are the cheapest ones :)
See you in the next post, and do not forget to smile at leas once today :)
by Ivan Angeli