To help potential clients and partners better understand our business, we thought it might be helpful to do our own “Bleacher Report” with a little Q&A interview with the CEO of Rental Bleachers, Inc., Michael Bahamonde.
You seem very passionate about your bleacher rental company, Rental Bleachers, Inc. What inspired you to start RBI?
From 2002 to 2009 I worked for a larger manufacturing company as the Sales Manager. During that time my main focus was marketing, design and construction of bleachers and grandstands ranging from 100 seats to over 10,000 seats. During this time the company also provided temporary seating for larger events. During my time at this organization I learned some great lessons in the industry both good and bad and decided that I could design a temporary bleacher that was easily installed, met all required safety features and was able to be used over and over again with minimal wear and tear. I felt that a smaller organization that only provided one service and could focus on quality and customer service would be a true asset to the rental industry.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were 25, what would it be?
Try and look at the long term affects of your choices and decisions and not just the short term results. The future is not far away.
I know RBI rents bleachers for sporting events and festivals, what other type of events do you cater to?
We have provided seating for corporate events, movie and televisions productions, team photo shoots, and so much more. You never know what type of event will need bleacher seating until the client calls. We are always excited to see what the application will be.
What is your favorite event to provide rental bleachers?
That is a tough question as we have so many great clients… But I would say the best event is one where we can get the equipment right up to the installation area.
What has been your biggest challenge in running a bleacher rental company?
The biggest challenge in the bleacher rental industry is educating our clients to the different types of bleachers available for rent in the market. We are in an economy that puts price above all other things and that can be a costly mistake. Bleachers are a huge responsibility to have at an event and the lowest price does not mean the best seating for your venue. Many companies are still providing seating that does not meet all safety requirements in each area and because of the lack of formal on site inspections most people do not know they are using bleachers that are not up to standards until something happens. Most customers think they are bidding an “apples to apples” item but this is not the case. Clients need to ask more questions that “how much” or the industry will never progress to where it should be in safety.
If you could go back and do one thing different when you started the company, what would it be?
I would not change a thing! I took a long hard road to start RBI by doing every single project myself for the first 3 years of the business. This meant many nights on the road away from family and many hard lessons. When you start a business with very little money and even less help you learn some very important lessons that can not be learned when all the roads you take are easily traveled.
Any crazy stories you can share?
More crazy stories than I can share, but I think the Presidential elections in 2012 stand out to me for a few reasons. We provided seating for both the Romney and Obama campaigns and they were really pushing hard here in Florida. We were setting up and taking down bleachers in so many locations that I can not remember sleeping in October 2012. It was at the time the busiest month we ever had because in the bleacher rental industry it is common to only have 1-3 projects in a month. We set up over 12 events in a 20 day period.
Bleachers aren’t necessarily beautiful, do you do custom wraps for the bleachers, and other addons to make them pretty?
We have the nicest aluminum angle frame bleachers available for rent in the market. We do offer custom wrapping for events that can help with getting sponsors or just make the bleachers look more appropriate for a certain type of event.
What made you pick Florida as the place to start your business?
I chose Florida for many reasons but I think the biggest factor was our weather. It is nice all year long. It gets really hot in the summer but the mild winters more than make up for that, I chose Zephyrhills because of its location to all the major highways in Florida which makes it easier for us to get anywhere we need to go.
It looks like you have been expanding quite a bit lately, what are the challenges in scaling your company and how do you overcome those?
I would not say we have overcome the challenges yet. Our strategy is simple. Each day we try to build on what we have a little at a time. Our clients are the reason we are growing. We have amazing customers that use us each year for events and tell others about us. This has been the key to our modest success so far.
How many employees do you have?
RBI is a very small company. Other than myself we have two full time employees. We also utilize many temporary labor organizations for larger projects that are out of Florida. Because our bleachers are designed to be installed easily and are made of aluminum which means they are not heavy when compared to steel bleachers, we can transport and install up to 600 seats on one small trailer with a F250 truck and two guys.
This may sound naive, but I would assume most bleacher rentals happen on the weekends. What do you do during the week?
No, bleacher rentals can be on any day of the week. Many are over weekends but events can happen any day of the week. Some of our projects are only 1 or 2 days long but many last for longer periods even up to 3 or 4 months at a time.
Is the bleacher rental industry seasonal?
Yes, the industry is seasonal to a point. Thankfully we have a few seasons… In the early months we generally provide seating for tennis events and fairs. In the summer months we usually provide for indoor projects or festivals. The fall is all about high school football.
Where do you see your business in 5 years, 10 years?
RBI has grown over the last few years and I hope to continue to grow. My main focus is customer service and quality events so I will never sacrifice that for growth however if we can add another location in a Major city (i,e Atlanta or maybe Savannah) that may help us provide seating to areas that we can not currently compete in due to travel expenses. I would love to see RBI have 3 satellite locations in the next 5 to 7 years with the ability to provide seating at a fair price to our customers.
If you could invent a feature for bleachers, what would it be? I imagine built in cooling fans or seat heaters..
Well, we definitely don’t need seat heaters…. Bleacher planks get hot! Maybe cooler planks in the summer? But I think a real feature that would be helpful would be an easily removable shade or canopy system that could retract when it is nice and fold or roll out when it was not to help on the longer term rentals where a tent just won’t work. Another item we are currently working on is a portable press box system that will go up right behind our temporary bleachers to make a complete event system for football or sporting events.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, when I finally grow up I will let you know.