BOOK YOUR FREE CONSULTATION TODAY!
COVID-19 Update: JC Davis Power is available for contactless service

Narcy Martinez – Advice to my younger self

“I found that people naturally wanted to do a good job, they were proud of their work, and they would get upset if something got in their way or bottlenecked them from producing quality work. Those were the people you wanted to keep in your organization.”

Many of us don’t often take time to reflect on our careers, what it took to get here and where we’re headed. As part of an ongoing series we’re interviewing professionals who are building Texas and sharing their stories and wisdom for younger professionals to consider as they forge their own careers. Narcy helped build Austin Rent-All before co-founding Freds Tents, an event equipment-rental company in Austin, Texas.

JCDP:

How did you get started to get where you are today?

Narcy Martinez:

I started working for a small mom and pop party rental store in 1995 by answering an ad in the newspaper

I was substitute teaching at the time at an elementary school and had the classes learning how to read a newspaper. We were learning how to read the paper with headlines and columns and we went to the want ads in the back. As the kids were reading out a job opportunity that sounded interesting to me I told them to circle it for me.

So that’s how I found the job, I interviewed and was hired on the spot.

“I loved that I could be creative, sell,and help the owners grow their business.”

JCDP:

And what was the company?

Narcy Martinez:

The name then was Austin Rent-All. It was originally a United Rent-All but when it was sold to my new boss, he changed the name and added party rental items to the small tool rental store. The couple I was working for purchased the store in 1985, he was an electrical engineer and she was a teacher.

JCDP:

How was that job? How did you like it?

Narcy Martinez:

I liked it a lot because I had a lot of autonomy and every day was different. When I found Austin Rent-All, I was still searching for what I wanted to do and I loved that I could be creative, sell and help the owners grow their business. There was always something to do and it was exciting because I was able to grow with the business. I had worked at a software company and realized the corporate culture was not for me.

JCDP:

What had you tried in the corporate world that you realized that was not for you?

Narcy Martinez:

Well, I had worked at Mag-Rabbit, they were a software duplication company. Back then, software was sold on floppy disks and had printed manuals. They would copy the software, print the manuals and package it all for re-sale. It would take several floppy disks, then we moved to CD’s and now it’s all just an easy download. The company pivoted to tech support and online sales. I enjoyed working there during the startup when I had to wear several hats and was involved in all the processes but when I started to have to work in a cubicle and report to several layers of management I was done.

So after that I worked as a waitress, did B2B sales at Dallas Market and popped around doing other short lived jobs until I found Austin Rent-All. And I found my career in the Event Rental Industry for the next 24 years.

JCDP:

So in twenty four years at Austin Rent-All how did your role develop and change?

Narcy Martinez:

Well, I was hired as an inside sales person and it was a small rental store back then with party rental and a homeowner tool supply. It is a weird combination of goods but that’s what these stores were like back then… and still are in smaller towns. Then I became the manager of the inside sales team. Then I moved to outside sales and eventually became an owner by means of starting another company. We were subcontracting tents for about 5 years and then it just came to the point where we needed to buy our own tents. By that time, we had a great relationship with the tent manager who was ready to leave his company and start his own. We all talked and worked out how we could start a tent business as partners and support Austin Rent-All’s existing clients while growing its own new clientele. It was a win-win situation for several years.

When you are fortunate enough to be with a business for a long time and develop a career, I think it’s natural to be involved in several parts of the business. Over the years, we decided to manufacture several of our own products. My focus became designing products and developing the manufacturing departments to grow the inventory in house. My career grew along with the industry. We were all learning at that time so it was exciting because our customers had these outrageous ideas and we were willing to produce them.

JCDP:

What was one of the biggest challenges you had early on?

Narcy Martinez:

Early on the biggest challenge was getting everyone to work together because in the rental business, there’s so many moving parts and everyone has to do their job. Early on, I was the one taking the calls of angry customers when we forgot their napkins. Then when I was in outside sales, I was the one taking the heat for the late delivery. I learned how to motivate people to do their part so we could all be successful. Surprisingly, I realized that most people wanted to do a good job. They just needed to be heard and involved. Oftentimes, they just needed a few supplies or more information to get their job done. It also really helped to get people out on the job sites so they could experience how they affected the success of the event. They learned why their job was important but also that other peoples jobs were not as easy as they thought. When everyone starts appreciating each other for what they do, then they become proud of their part and willing to work together.

JCDP:

You initially went to college for fashion correct?

Narcy Martinez:

I went to University of Texas here in Austin and I went through their Clothing and Textile program, which was learning how to design clothing, the chemical part of textiles, and how they’re manufactured. So the normal route after that is you move to New York or LA and try to work with the designer. Well, I did that and back then it was like, oh, a $20K a year job. It was like a sweatshop for young designers, sitting in a cubicle drawing out 50 purses in a week, for example. You can’t live alone in NY on that income, so I moved back home and was like “now what am I going to do?” But eventually, I was able to use my fashion experience.

When I was in school, I spent the Summers in New York at Parsons School of Design. We were immersed in the Fashion District. I lived in a dorm and all our classrooms were in the middle of the hustle and bustle of 7th St. and Fashion Ave. We were in the same building as the designer Marc Jacobs and surrounded by fabric and notions wholesalers. One of our decisions at Marquee, to differentiate ourselves, was to invest deeply in table linens. I had a knack for knowing what style would rent and how to choose the fabrics carefully but the pre-made tablecloths were expensive and there were very few vendors to buy from at the time. I said to our owners “We can make our own. I know where to get the fabric, I know how to buy wholesale, I know what fabrics to choose, and how to sew.” They trusted me and said, go for it. That was all I needed to hear and I began building our Linen Department. I ordered our machines, all our notions, I made the patterns, hired and trained seamstresses and started with a few fabrics. We became known for having the best linens and our growth was exponential because the linens brought people to the store and we ended up providing all their rental needs.So that’s how my education in Fashion Design came back around full circle.

“I found that people naturally wanted to do a good job, they were proud of their work, and they would get upset if something got in their way or bottlenecked them from producing quality work.”

JCDP:

You mentioned that a big thing you learned early on was getting people to work together. Is there anything in particular that you found to be most effective for doing so?

Narcy Martinez:

I found that people naturally wanted to do a good job, they were proud of their work, and they would get upset if something got in their way or bottlenecked them from producing quality work. Those were the people you wanted to keep in your organization.

So when I worked alongside them, I gained a respect for being in the field with them, and they trusted me. I made sure we made the changes they needed to be effective and then expected them to produce. We tried to be transparent about the work and the jobs we were doing and over communicate so they were involved. Then we made sure they were acknowledged and included in the progress of the company. We celebrated together on a regular basis and had a core group that grew with Marquee for over 15 years.

JCDP:

How do you see the industry changing and what are you doing to prepare for that?

Narcy Martinez:

Before the pandemic, The industry was constantly changing. We constantly had to change by year, by the season, and by the trend. There are so many things to keep up with in this industry, especially technology. So what we did in the past was figure out what would benefit us the most at the time and invest when we could. Now, with the Pandemic, technology is even more important than ever. All live events are cancelled and many are figuring out how to go virtual. Virtual events don’t really need event rentals.The event rental industry is trying to pivot and it is working in certain areas of the country or for some who were organized or in good financial standing. I do think the future is bright for those who can hold on until the recovery.

JCDP:

Do you notice any one defining criteria or characteristics for similar companies that seem to be making it and those that aren’t?

Narcy Martinez:

I can only assume that the companies that are holding on have some other form of revenue factored in or figured out a new form of revenue stream to bridge the gap.

JCDP:

What advice would you give to yourself starting out?

Narcy Martinez:

I think I could have benefited from more school, more education and technical training. Even though I was able to use my Fashion Design degree, there is a lot of math in the event rental business because everything is built modularly. It would have been nice if I had drafting and mapping skills to create CADs. Being an owner I had to learn a lot about accounting and finance so more courses in these areas would have been beneficial as well. I didn’t have much confidence going into school at The UT, but when I got there and was successful, I should have pushed myself more.

“It gives you a jumpstart in your career and in the industry, to go to meetups or join professional organizations… that’s how I met my husband.”

JCDP:

Is there any one area of training or program you think would have been particularly beneficial?

Narcy Martinez:

I think general math. There’s a lot of software or network design, and being familiar with it helps. On a project there’s a creative person and a technical person or a numbers person in big businesses now, but back then, if you could do all the stuff yourself, you would win business quickly because you didn’t have to wait on anyone else. So getting comfortable with math, helps you be comfortable with all of that technology.

Today, everything is getting better, faster, and more available and I love it.

JCDP:

Any particular technologies you see having a major impact?

Narcy Martinez:

The rental software that I grew up on is just bulky and old. Now everything’s cloud based and you can work from your phone, it’s incredible. In the rental industry, it’s the old school guys who owned these businesses and it often transferred down from one family member to the next so they have a “This is the way we do it. This is the way we’ve always done it” mentality. They’ve usually invested a lot of money in their software so it’s a big expense and a lot of training for them to switch. So you’re stuck with the same software that they’ve been using. They try to improve it, but it’s just hard to make changes. Now there’s all these new little companies competing with incumbent platforms, vying for your business, and they are awesome.

It’ll handle all your inventory and your financials. It’s a hard decision to make, to change, but that’s something we always adopted.

JCDP:

Any final thoughts or advice?

Narcy Martinez:

It gives you a jumpstart in your career and in the industry, to go to meetups or join professional organizations because you learn so much hanging around other people. When you’re in your own little company, you think you’re the only ones out there because you need to find a group of people that are doing the same thing you are that you can learn from and you won’t feel like you’re alone.

When you’re involved in those things you have to be really involved, don’t just join and never go. You’ve got to go. That’s how I met my husband.

There’s plenty of people to meet as you do your work, but also have a good time.