the amusement archive for startups
I was speaking with an indoor playground installer the other day over some delicious happy hour wings, when the conversation turned to children’s entertainment centers and indoor playground equipment prices. Like myself, having worked for more than one indoor play company we started talking about the many projects we have been a part of, and the differences over the years in activities, events and construction processes.
He started by relaying the experience from a job he recently completed in the western States. “Most new business owners have no clue”, he said. “I am always blown away by how little they know about the company they do business with, and sometimes cut these huge checks, sight unseen”. He went on, “for many indoor play centers, the purchase of indoor playground equipment can literally make or break the business depending on the quality of the construction, the after market service and the ability of the companies design team”.
I asked him what he meant by that, and he explained... “this last job I did is a perfect case in point. Great owners, we had a wonderful time working with them, but the guy was totally surprised to find that after the design was completed and the great price he thought he was getting, he realized there was a clause in his contract stating: 'must supply 2 on-site helpers'. This addition of having to locate two men to help with the install ended up costing him an extra $2,000 over the 9 day installtion. Too late in the game to switch to another provided, our customer just had to swallow it.”
Indoor playground pricing can vary dramatically. With all the off-shore components and suppliers trying to muscle into the market, depending on who you work with, if you factor in the ‘hidden costs' of some installation contracts that wonderful price you got - may not be the deal you thought it was. Additionally, if the business does as well as the owners hope it does, operators also need to consider the maintenance costs, which is a direct correlation between your suppliers quality of materials. After the second year and beyond, the quality of foam, pipe-padding and netting can add to those maintenance costs of your playground. High traffic areas can wear excessively and poor quality pipe-padding can stain and look tattered well before it’s time. A great area where smaller companies that lead with price can cut corners.
We have both seen new buyers lay down a hefty check for an ‘emotional’ design that they thought was super-duper cool, but in reality it was super cool for the manufacturer because it afforded them the fastest manufacturing process with off-the-shelf parts on hand... and an installation contract that provides for only one installer, while Mr. Customer has to foot the added expense for two or three onsite helpers.... another great way for the low-ball leader to save on their costs.
Your only real protection against this kind of manufacturer is to get out and see as many manufacturing facilities as you can, or ask to speak with existing customers who are well into their 3rd or 4th year of operations. Ask a lot of questions and negotiate hard on the back end - a strong warranty should not be something a quality manufacturer shy’s away from.
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