In 1991, Kevin Moore bought a 100-year-old house for his young family. The floors needed to be refinished, which required using tools that Moore didn’t have; however, he found a rental company that needed part-time help with a dandy perk: free use of tools for employees. The tool rental company eventually became Ultimate Events in Minneapolis, Minn., and that’s the short version of how Moore came into a specialty fabrics-related business “through the back door,” as he phrases it. The job that “gave us a little extra Christmas money,” turned into an executive position with one of the biggest event rental companies in the Midwest—a story of 20 years of acquisition and expansion.
Keeping things moving
His title now is chief operating officer, but he calls himself the master plumber. “I keep things moving,” he says—purchases, banking and day-to-day operations, primarily. This means more time in the office doing “busywork,” but for a guy with a construction background who enjoys building things with his hands, he’s not about to miss out on the creative end of the business, so he is “still very much hands-on,” he says. This goes back to the days when his partner (who was his boss at the time) said “hey, maybe there’s some money to be made in party rentals.”
“I remember the first frame tents that we bought and taking them down to the state capital for the Taste of Minnesota [an annual festival]. We literally took them out of the box. It was something new for us.” And it was their first experience with pole tents. The second time was in the parking lot of a sporting goods store. “There was a violent storm that basically took the tents out. We lost half of what we bought originally.” But they soldiered on—replacing the tents, adding more and ultimately expanding into a company that can handle almost any request for any event.
And they do. Such as erecting tents on top of a 14-story building or hauling everything needed for a wedding reception to an island by boat. “We do quite a few tents on the ice in the winter time, too,” he says.
Rewarding work and play
Choosing a special place for an important event is a big trend in the industry. One client spent years carefully landscaping and planting around his house. “It was all with the idea that his daughter was going to get married there one day,” Moore says. “His daughter and wife had no idea. It meant something to him. They had teased him for years about leaving this big open space and planting things around the edges.” From a backyard wedding to projects for the Republican National Convention, “When people are excited about what you do, it can be very rewarding,” he says.
He doesn’t take a lot of time off, but when he does, he’s a true Minnesotan. “I like to hunt—pheasants, deer, duck—just about anything,” he says, both around the cities and at his buddies’ cabins “up north,” (which means, in the local vernacular, roughly the northern third of the state). He likes to fish, too and he owns a boat, “but it doesn’t get wet very often,” he says.
But when your job is to make people happy, it’s not so bad if the boat has to wait. “Our staff really enjoys what they do,” he says. “We get to make people’s dreams come true.”