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Leaving Well—Good Times

By now, most of you know that I’ve recently left my position at Coast Hills. That transition was something that God had in the works for some time, and it was very clear this is the path He’s called me to. However, while it was clearly God’s call, there was still the opportunity for me to mess it up. I could have ignored it, or potentially worse, left poorly. 

Why You Leave

There are plenty of reasons to leave a job. Some are good reasons; you received another, amazing offer; you outgrew this position; you won the lottery. Other times, the circumstances are less than optimal. Perhaps the job is just not a good fit; or you really don’t get along with your boss or other superiors; or maybe there is something really wrong in the organization. Perhaps you were fired or “released to a new ministry…”

In today’s post, I’m going to focus on the good side of leaving—those times when it’s just time to move on to a new adventure. Looking back, this is not the first time I’ve left a job. I’ve actually left eight over the course of my career (not counting the three business I started and eventually shut down). So I do have a little experience here. Here are some suggestions on how to leave well under good circumstances, though I’ll give you the caveat up front that I have not always followed this advice.

Set Your Successor Up for Success

Chances are, after you leave, you will be replaced. When I left Coast, I tried to document as much as possible, to complete as many tasks as I could and leave a healthy team in place. Heck, I even designed and installed a completely new AVL system. You probably won’t always be able to do that, but make sure whoever comes after you doesn’t have to clean up your mess. 

It’s easy to spend the last few weeks coasting toward the finish line. Hey, you’re leaving anyway, what are they going to do, fire you? Don’t do it. I worked a 10 hour day on my last day because I wanted to make sure I finished what I said I would. My last weeks there were some of the busiest in the previous six months. I was cranking out documentation as fast as I could, training others to do my tasks and finishing up a few last minute projects. Some of that was noticed, most of it was not. But it doesn’t matter. I know I left as well as I could, and God sees what we do in secret. It doesn’t matter as much what humans see.

Stay In Touch

It’s easy to move on to your new adventure and forget all about the people you left behind. You get busy making new friends, working on new projects and maybe enjoying the new location you’re in. But don’t forget those you left. I have not always been good at this, and it’s to my own detriment. I have left a few jobs better than others, and the ones I feel the best about are the ones where I’ve kept in touch with my former co-workers. 

This is a pretty small industry, and I can tell you if people have good memories of you and will say good things about you, it will benefit you for a long time. But if you blow them off, leave them hanging or otherwise ignore them, it will come back to haunt you. The last impression is the one people tend to remember. Keep that in mind. 

When it Goes Badly

Like I said, leaving is not always a great new adventure. Sometimes it’s a desperate leap from a moving train headed toward a cliff. I’ve been there, too, and how we leave will either set us up for success for failure in our next position. More on that next time.

“Gear

Gear Snobs

Audio guys can be snobs when it comes to gear. But the reality is, we can’t always have our favorites. Sometimes, it’s a simple budget issue. For Coast Hills, we didn’t have the budget for Meyer, d&b or L’Acoustics. If I had held out for those brands because they have more cachet, we would not have a new PA at all. The money is just not there. But the church can afford RoomMatch. And having heard it, and after some considerable evaluation, I’m convinced we haven’t sacrificed that much. 

Is RoomMatch as good as a L’Acoustics Kara rig? Maybe not. Will the average person notice a big difference between those two? Probably not. Will the average person notice the upgrade from what we had to RoomMatch? Absolutely. I’ll take that outcome over no change at all.

Be Open

Lighting guys can be snobs, too. Some will say, “If it’s not Varilite, it’s not in my rig.” Or Martin. Or High End. Whatever. In the past, we’ve rented about 6 VL2500s for Easter. Those are great fixtures, to be sure. But this year, we rented 18 Elation Platinum Spot 5R Pros. Are they as good of a fixture as the VL2500? Not really. The panning isn’t as smooth, the color mixing isn’t as nice and we had one go flaky on us. However, we made a bigger visual impact with 18 of them than we ever did with the 6 VLs for the same money.

And you know what? If I were buying moving head fixtures for Coast Hills, I would probably go with Elation. No, they’re not as rugged as a Varilite. But, we can afford more of them, and they would be fine for what we’d need them for. 

Use What Fits

When I say “fits” I mean both budget and application. If you’re at a big church with big budgets and can afford the best gear, go for it. But if you’re at a smaller church with small budgets, don’t feel bad about going with brands with lower cool factor. Sometimes, the smaller companies innovate really well and come up with great solutions at great price points. Don’t discount them because they are not what the big church or big tour is using. 

I’ve talked with guys who are at smaller churches with all volunteer tech teams who are convinced they need a Digico at FOH and a Grand MA at lighting. Those are great pieces of kit, but they do have a steep learning curve, as well as big price tags. In a smaller setting with lower production demands, there are better options. Never feel bad about choosing the best option for your church; even if it’s not what all the cool kids are using. 

Get Good Advice

In my new role, I find myself helping churches decide what to buy. While I have my preferences on what I like, I have to set those aside and make sure I’m recommending what is best for them. I recently steered a church toward a Yamaha QL away from a Digico SD9. Personally, I would prefer the SD9 any day. But in this setting the QL makes much more sense. Not only is it considerably less money—and they were already at the top of their budget—it’s much more friendly to non-professional operators with zero digital console experience (and 20 years of analog experience). 

When purchasing equipment, make sure whoever is recommending what they are recommending knows your situation and how it will be used. Make sure they aren’t just giving you their stock solution. It would be a lot easier for me to have a “small church package” of gear that I can price and sell. But it would not likely be the best fit for everyone. So we stay custom for each church. 

I’ve always been a contrarian, so this concept is not foreign to me. But I write this to encourage those of you who are nervous about not doing what everyone else is doing. They used to say, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” That may have been true, but a lot of companies missed out on better options because someone took the safe route. 

Don’t be a gear snob. Get what works for your church. Everyone will be better off for it.

Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

When Things Don't Go As Planned

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Steinbeck wrote, "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.” Such is often the case with installations. Four weeks ago, I had a great plan of how this week would go. All the new furniture for the booth would be ready to go, we’d pull in cable, terminate, move everything down and wire it all up neatly. Then we’d fire up the new PA and spend an afternoon tweaking. Then things started going awry…

As of this writing, the furniture is still in pieces in the loading dock. Six of the eight leg assemblies are rough sanded, but they are far from complete. The new booth is a mess and the gear is on Steeldeck tables. But we are ready to do a weekend, even if everything is not quite done. OK, it’s not close to being done. How did we get there?

Be Prepared with a Critical Path

Whenever I go into a big project like this, I always have a critical path in mind. The critical path defines what must be done to meet the goal. For us, the goal was be ready for the weekend. There are many components to the system that are not critical or even necessary for normal weekend services. Those are the first to go when the project goes sideways. 

We started the week off well; most of our cables were pulled and we were ready to start terminating plates. But we got bogged down and had a few issues crop up. Trying to do an installation in an active construction zone didn’t help. Looking back, we should have pushed this off another month. 

By Wednesday, I knew we wouldn’t get it all done. So we had to decide on what needed to be done for Saturday’s service. That list included:

  • The PA up and running
  • REAC to the stage for the M-48s
  • Com had to work
  • Video from ProPresenter to Projector
  • Audio to Broadcast
  • Cameras in place and working
  • Lighting working

That was pretty much it. You’ll notice having the PA tuned up is not on the list. I was pretty confident that it would sound good enough right out of the box that I wouldn’t need to spend hours on it to do a weekend. Thankfully I was right. 

Make Hard Choices

We have some cool new technology we’re installing, and it would have been great to get them all working. One is the Dante network. We’re installing a Focusrite RedNet6 MADI to Dante converter to feed the PA and distribute audio throughout the building. By Friday, we hadn’t tested it yet, so I set a limit of 1 hour to get it working. I knew that I could pull in a few analog audio lines to drive the DSP as a fallback, and it wouldn’t take long. After an hour, I was still having trouble with Dante. 

As much as I wanted my shiny new RedNet box working, I powered it down and pulled in a few analog cables. The PA was fully operational 30 minutes later. We wanted to play with all our new cool video routing hardware, but it wasn’t critical for the weekend, so we bailed on it. I even have a nice pair of Equator Audio D5s we’re putting at FOH, but again, we don’t need them for the weekend, so they’re still in the box. 

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Do the Things You Can’t Do Later

I did spend a fair amount of time wiring the PA. I could have just thrown wiring up there and made it work, but as it’s 31’ in the air, getting back up there after the lift is gone is really hard. Since we had a lift in last week, I spent the time to wire it up very cleanly. No one will have to go up there for a long, long time to work on that. The same goes for the amp rack. I probably spent an hour more than I had to to make sure it was completely tied down and neat. Because it’s up in a catwalk and getting tools and materials up there is tough, I wanted to do that job once. Again, it’s done probably until it is removed in 10+ years. 

Like I said, this week didn’t go as planned, but we are still able to do church. The new PA doesn’t sound as good as it will sound, but it’s orders of magnitude better than the old one. We did the best we could and made it as far as we could. From this point on, it’s all refining.

Roland