Tuesday, 04 August 2015 08:35

It's that time - to prepare for Christmas

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I know that you're still thinking about back-to-school and back-to-church, since it's still summer and August just started.  The Christmas music isn't playing yet, but if you have projects that need to be in place for Christmas, it's time to start thinking about it now. 

Finding time for early planning is never easy, but it's critical to having everything work out as you hope it will.  It's not unusual at all to have delays related to construction and equipment that are out of your control, and ours.  A couple of our larger installation projects this summer have been delayed by weeks and even months, and both situations have been out of our control and that of the church or facility owner. 

Audio/video/lighting integrators are what some call "last trades", meaning that we're the last ones to start to work after the room is clean from the chaos and mess of construction.  No one wants a bunch of dust from sanding and cutting on and inside their new equipment, so we wait and then often have to hurry because once the general contractor is finished, he's always in a rush to turn over the building and move on to the next project, no matter if he was two weeks late allowing us to get started. 

So if you have projects to do, it's not too early (or late - yet) to start planning for the end of the year.  We are booking projects into October and even November at this point.  We can help you with both design and equipment for self-integration or for projects where we come on site to work.  Please let us know how we can be helpful. 

Published in Dave's Blog
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While I was listening to the Small Town Big Church podcast yesterday (April 16 episode), the show's guest shared with host Jon Sanders that one of his primary life truths as a pastor is that you can't lead a person to someplace you haven't been.  

The more I thought about that, the more obvious that statement became.  Is there anyplace in life that it's not true?  

Once we've been somewhere, we're able to bring someone else along and to share our story, and until we've been there, our voice can't be an authority.  

Lots of the product information provided in our business is sales copy.  Product manufacturers provide us with talking points or sales pitches designed for 30-second or 60-second selling windows.  Those bullet points can be helpful, but we think that there's more value having thrown the pitches than only talking about that the pitches can be thrown. 

 

Published in Dave's Blog
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 16:53

Selecting an AVL firm - Can you have it all?

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After looking at a couple new buildings for office space this morning, I had lunch with an architect who does lots of design and project planning for churches.  As we talked, I realized that what his firm does and what we do are very similar; we mix up materials, ideas, products, concepts and out comes a plan, a system, or a solution of some type.  That's the value we offer. 

Many pro audio, video, and lighting (AVL) dealers in the country offer approximately the same products.  None of us sell everything, but we probably all share some subset of at least similar products within the AVL universe.  And with the Internet as close as your phone or computer, your sources for equipment are just about endless. 

As we talked over lunch, I shared that as much as we need to sell equipment at a price, the more compelling conversations start with a statement or a question from the client that says, "We're trying to get this type of end result and we need some ideas on how to get there."  Everyday, we're challenged to build a better AVL mousetrap.  This is what we do. 

On our site, we publish stories about what we've done for others, so that you might discover an idea that will work for you, too.  In person or on the phone, we hope to talk about how you do what you do and to develop a custom solution.  To us, it's way more important that you get the right equipment for the long run than simply selling something today. 

Dan asked me today, "So who do you work with and where do you work?"  The business that we seek out intentionally is houses of worship or churches.  We do an occasional restaurant or corporate meeting space, but we're lots more passionate about churches.  Our reach is national with respect to solution design and regional for installations, so we don't always get to build our designs.  Sometimes, we provide the ideas, but more often, we provide the ideas, the instructions and the equipment to make it happen.  And we've been very successful at serving churches all over the country for over 20 years with great solutions and service - most of them at arm's length. 

As you approach the selection of an AVL firm, realize that there are three factors that are common to all of us, and that you can pick any two that you want.  As hard as we try, we can't be all three in every situation.

1.  Expert, responsive service.

2.  Lowest prices.

3.  All products always in stock. 

If you've shopped around, I think that you'll agree that the places with the lowest prices (below what the industry calls MAP - Minimum Advertised Price) often can't answer your questions, let alone recommend an integrated solution.  And you can mix the other factors around in your head to understand my point. 

Of course, we think that responsive, expert service trumps all, but when you consider how to select an AVL firm, you probably can't have it all, at least by these three factors.  And if you think that you have all three, you're probably at the right place for you. We hope to be that place.

 

Published in Dave's Blog
Saturday, 19 July 2014 11:41

The low cost of higher prices.

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Well, it happened.  I got an email Friday at 12:03AM (just after Midnight) from an out-of-state customer who had been at church updating his new Midas Pro1 mixing console with firmware.  The update was chugging along until the stagebox threw an error message that said that the update couldn't be completed.  No big deal, right?!  Try it again, and again.  Then maybe you get mad at yourself for updating the firmware right before a big event, and you start sweating it.  Then you send the email - at Midnight, when your wife is wondering where in the world you are.  Can you sleep until morning?  I don't know.  I didn't ask. 

Next morning.  I pick up the email, sweat a little myself, ask what he has done, assure the customer that we'll get it taken care of, call the sales rep and I tell him what happened.  He calmly said that he'd have someone from Midas tech support call the client directly, as soon as Midas opens its west coast doors a couple hours later. 

The short story is that the Midas tech support rep called right on cue, walked through a couple tests that hadn't already been tried, determined that the stagebox was indeed about as good as a brick and would have to come in for service.  For the next couple hours, Midas was trying to locate a replacement stagebox to send.  We both knew that the client needed something, and we had a smaller stagebox in stock here. A "bird in the hand", right?! 

We placed the Next Day Air Saturday Delivery labels on it and got it ready.  Just as we were about to drive it to UPS, the Midas tech support rep called to assure me that he had a larger stagebox with updated firmware being tested, placed into a box, and that it would be there for the client on Saturday morning. 

About an hour ago, I received a text message from the customer to say that the replacement stage box was in-hand and that he was on the way to church to put it in.  About 30 minutes after that, I got the "success" meesage that it was installed, and fully tested, two hours before Saturday tech rehearsal.  Whew!

Tour-grade, professional equipment costs more, but companies that are used to supporting large tours have the ability and willingness to do things that others can't and/or won't.  When stuff breaks, even if it's not their fault, they come up big when it counts. 

A big thanks to Midas Consoles!  We all appreciate it. 

 

Published in Dave's Blog
Friday, 13 June 2014 13:43

How we think.

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When we "met" on the phone, I think that Mike Sessler and I hit it off because we both like to Think Different.  See his recent blog post about that topic here

Part of being successful is exactly that - a willingness to consider new ideas and new products - to think differently, if you will. 

For us, discovering and starting conversations about tech gear is something that we enjoy.  Who had ever used the Heil PR30 as a choir microphone before an idea from one of our clients sparked our test?  Not even Bob Heil himself.  That test was sparked by a conversation with one of our clients, and a willingness on both parts to try something new. 

And today, the PR30 is considered a top choice among the technology for worship community, and we've sold only a fraction of all that have ever been sold.  When I first asked Bob about how he thought it would work, he said something like, "You know Dave, I've never considered the PR30 as a choir microphone, but there's no reason it shouldn't work." 

Being open to new ideas is a mindset is a necessity.  If we can't help you find better ways to do things, we're just like every other dealer - selling the same products as the rest of them at a price, instead of helping you discover new solutions. 

That willingness to be creative, and to think in new ways, is one of our primary goals.  We can't be successful unless you are. 

 

Published in Dave's Blog
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 12:16

So which is the better deal?

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I get a lot of email.  We send email, too, and to some extent, I understand the power of the subject line.  Using words like "Free!" and "Save!" are the way companies get you to open the message.  "Free" is powerful; that's just the way it is. 

The message today came from another vendor offering a sub-$500 special on wireless microphones.  Coincidentally, we offered a $500 wireless microphone, too. 

If you're like me, you got both messages in your inbox.  The other dealer is offering a 4-unit receiver with transmitters for less than $500.  On the surface, that seems like a great deal because the single systems we featured today start at about $500 each. 

About the same price more for three more wireless microphones?  Wow!  Better take a look.  I'm a sucker for a good story, too. 

I can say with 100% certainty that what we're offering is better.  It'll sound better, it'll be more reliable with respect to radio performance, and it'll last longer.  Again, I say that with 100% certainty, having never heard the other system.  Actually, I've not only not heard it, but I've not heard of it.  And I've been in this business for over 22 years. 

We presume that the other dealer understands the power of headlines, because we've had people call us to ask what we think about similar offers.  When they do, we just ask them to think about it.  Would you buy a wireless system priced below $125 each?  Some would.  Would you expect it to work as well as a $500 wireless system.  Some would, but they'd be incorrect.  Would you expect it to last as long? 

In fairness, if you need a $125 wireless microphone and you need four of them, there are not many good choices.  And what they're offering might sound okay, depending on your standards for quality, where you live in the country and how much other RF traffic is present during your worship services.  But to me, there's nothing worse than a wireless microphone that doesn't work, so I try to encourage our clients to stay away from the cheap stuff. 

There's no such thing as something for nothing.  Overseas manufacturing affords us all the opportunity to spend fewer dollars than we used to for the same types of products.  Even so, outside the rare case of a closeout or a liquidation sale, people just don't sell things for less than they're worth.  Our $500 each wireless is worth every penny more than the other dealer's $125 wireless. 

When you need new equipment, call us.  We'll be glad to help you discover what you need, based on what you already have, what you're trying to do, and on your budget.  We have inexpensive wireless microphones, too, from companies you've heard of, and that will still be in business for as long as you have the equipment. 

When I choose the cheap way out, I'm almost always disappointed with myself. 

Price, quality, service - choose any two. 

Published in Dave's Blog
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 16:09

Volunteer hours are not free

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Editor's note: This is the third time I've re-written this post.  The first time, it didn't have the right feel, and last time, I thought that I was knocking it out of the park and with a mis-click of the mouse, I erased all of the new edits.  I hadn't saved.  So hopefully, with version #3, I'll find a way to say what I'd like to, in a style that works, and I'll save it. 

On the heels of Mike Sessler's article, "Why hire an integrator", I'd like to follow up. 

Some tech projects are fairly easy, if you have the right tools, the right experience, and have a good sense of where you're going. 

At the church I attend, our tech budget is pretty limited and within the next month or so, I will have to decide whether to lead a volunteer crew or to hire our crew to do the work.  In my volunteer role, I know exactly what I need to do, I know how to do it, I know the list of materials, and I have willing volunteers.  A consideration is that it'll take our group of volunteers about a month's worth of Monday nights or every evening for almost a week.  For the same project, one of our two-man crews would get that work done in about a day and a half. 

So I have to ask myself what the best use of our money and our volunteer time is. 

Here are the reasons for not hiring professionals to do the work.  "We can't afford to pay someone to do that." Or "we have plenty of volunteers who will do that and it won't cost us anything."  And "it's important for our people to serve the church, so our 'guys' will do that." 

Without debating the merit of those reasons, the projects that work out best (and that get finished more quickly so that the congregation has the benefit of the changes) are the ones that we pay for.  Volunteers may cost nothing, in terms of price, but their availability is finite and valuable.  Just ask your kids what your time is worth. 

We all want to find a place where we can contribute in a tangible way and serving is an important part of our spiritual growth, but nothing comes without a cost.

As I decide how to manage these projects, I hope to consider the value of those who serve with me.  So I ask myself these questions.  Are the time expectations reasonable?  Do the volunteers have good tools and adequate training or skills?  Is my own commitment to lead as strong as what I ask of my team?  Do they have better things that they could be doing - at church and at home? 

And then I decide whether I'm spending other people's time wisely. 

Published in Dave's Blog
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 10:45

The death of the analog mixing console

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Winter NAMM 2013 - mark it.  The era of the analog mixing console for the worship setting is over. 

With the announcement and introduction of new products, the demise of analog became apparent toward the end of 2012, and confirmation came just last month at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA. 

Before I go much further, let me state that I realize that the analog console remains a viable option if you need a very small mixer, and that analog is also very viable in a studio setting for recording.  The thrust of Geartechs is technology for worship, and in the worship setting, in sizes of 16 channels or larger, the analog console is most often not your best choice. 

Virtually every mixer manufacturer had something new to show at NAMM.  Presonus, Soundcraft, Line 6, Behringer, Roland, Allen & Heath, Midas, Digico and others showed us all the reasons that you should buy a digital console. 

Back in December of 2009, when the Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 was released, I wrote an article about the fact that buying a digital console was like getting the mixer itself free.  That statement is even more true today. 

Factor out the advantages of the consoles themselves (settings recall, per-channel parametric equalization, iPad control, virtual soundcheck, multi-track recording, and more), and you'll find that just the 22 compressors in the StudioLive are worth $112.38 each (1/8 the cost of the Presonus ACP-88). That's nearly $2500 in compressors against a mixer that costs $1999 normally and is on sale through the end of March for $1799.95.  Don't forget that every output has a 31-band graphic EQ, that you have two stereo effects processor built in, and that the features are all housed in a fully-functional digital mixer.

The story is similar for all digital console manufacturers.  The benefits of owning a digital mixing system far outweigh the costs, no matter whose mixer you select.  Mike Sessler from Church Tech Arts recently published a 4-part series comparing three of the leading small-to-mid-sized digital mixers from Roland, Presonus and Behringer.  Make sure to take a look. 


Digital Mixer Comparison: M200i, X32, StudioLive 24.4.2—Pt. 1

Digital Mixer Comparison: M200i, X32, StudioLive 24.4.2—Pt. 2

Digital Mixer Comparison: M200i, X32, StudioLive 24.4.2—Pt. 3

Digital Mixer Comparison: M200i, X32, StudioLive 24.4.2—Pt. 4

We offer a variety of digital consoles.  If you'd like to discuss the application of digital mixing in your setting, please call us. 

Published in Dave's Blog
Monday, 03 December 2012 18:59

Run to finish the race well

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I'm not going to tell you that it'll be easy, but I will tell you that it'll be worth it.  When we discuss adding technology to the worship setting, we do our best to always communicate the importance of proper planning and preparation.  Does it take time?  Is it easy to think through your needs?  Would you rather be doing something else?  Yes, no, and probably. 

The Monday after Thanksgiving the world woke up to the fact that, despite President Barack Obama's re-election and Hurricane Sandy's devastation of the expanded New York City metroplitan area, Christmas was still less than a month away.  Oddly enough, the calendar didn't stop for those events. 

For the month before Thanksgiving, we had a mix of business as usual and of the wait-and-see type.  It was the wait-ers who woke up last week in a panic, and that's not good.  At this time of year, it's not unusual to have product shortages and/or events that take place pre-Christmas for which the need is critical.  It's also not so unusual for some of the wait-ers to hold off until the very last minute for whatever reason. 

And sure enough, on Friday night at 6:30PM, I got the call on my cell phone, "Hey Dave, I'm in a bit of a sticky situation, and I need your help.  Our first service is Sunday, and I need a _______."  Our warehouse was closed.  Our suppliers were closed.  Fedex and UPS don't pick up on Saturdays. 

For a 4-5 weeks prior to that Friday evening, we tried to get that church to come to the planning table.  We literally pleaded with them to think through their self-install with us, and our advise went unheeded. 

Just to show you that it doesn't have to be this way, let me share another story.  Also on Friday night, I enjoyed the town square Christmas tree lighting in the town where my sister and her family live.  Afterwards, I ran into the pastor of a church for which we installed a sound and video system about six months ago.  Despite a couple follow-up phone calls from me, I hadn't heard from him since a couple weeks after the system was installed, and I asked him how things were going.  He said, "Great. Everything is working just as we'd expect, and we're very pleased." 

Plan ahead.  Make sure that you buy the right product.  Allow yourself enough time to get the gear installed, to learn how to use it, and to make sure that it meets your needs.

The Message of Christmas is too important to trust to chance.  We're all busy, but don't let yourself get stuck without options when a dose of advance preparation could have saved the day. 

Published in Dave's Blog
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 16:12

Fix it right!

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Our recurring autumn blog theme seems to be helping you understand the cost of making wrong decisions.  I understand that it's tough to know what to do with all of the information that's out there.  My eyes glaze over when I think about how to invest my 401k money.  Just like they didn't teach about technology in seminary, they didn't teach much about investing in business school.

Fixing things correctly and helping you make "right" decisions is our goal.  A few weeks ago, we received a call from a church here in the Columbus area to see what could be done with their sound system.  The team there had brand new speakers, installed by another dealer, and things just didn't sound right.  No one could figure it out. 

These are difficult situations because we rarely get the benefit of understanding the circumstances surrounding the purchase and installation.  We only get to see and hear the end result. 

In the end, we installed a new amplifier and a system processor, reinstalled one of their power amplifiers that had been repaired, un-did some "unconventional" wiring, and tuned up the system with SMAART. 

The system sounds fantastic, but the church didn't need new speakers.  What we found is that their 20-year-old Crown Microtech series power amplifiers were heavily corroded on the inside and were just worn out.  Had the other dealer replaced the power amplifiers (a $2000 option) instead of installing new speakers with the old amplifiers (a $5000-6000 option plus the cost for the work we just completed), the church could have saved several thousand dollars. 

Published in Dave's Blog
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