What is Mike Up to Now?

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I’ve been teasing it out on social media for the last few weeks and today is the day I can make the official announcement. May 1, 2019 marks my first day at Velocity Pro Systems, a new partnership between me and long-time friend, Scott Carman. Scott and I worked together in 2014-2015 under the Flexstage banner as part of Visioneering. While we had tremendous success there together, various organizational challenges led first to my departure, then Scott’s.

Most of you know I landed at CCI Solutions where I spent four years (to the day) as a project lead. Scott moved on to Velocity Productions to run their integration division. In late 2018, Velocity Productions decided to leave the integration game and thus, the seed for Velocity Pro Systems began to germinate.

With the support of Velocity Productions, we are taking the Velocity Pro Systems brand and reforming it into our new venture. Scott will lead the charge as head honcho, business management and development and overall nice guy. We’ve christened him as Dreamer of Dreams. I—as you might expect—will lead the design and engineering team (which currently consists of me), lead the projects and oversee installations and commissioning. Thus, my title is Maker of Magic. Also joining our merry band is our friend Gino Beltran who will be our marketing and relationships leader. As such, he is Teller of Tales.

Our goal is to take a slightly lighter-hearted approach to integration. Scott and I have fun wherever we go and one of the key drivers for this venture is to have fun. It’s a core value, in fact. I’ve only know one other person in my life whose business strengths and weaknesses so closely mirror my own; that was my longtime business partner of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Vin Sisson. I’m a serial entrepreneur and while it’s been a good number of years, this is the sixth business I’ve been part of starting.

That itch to be a business owner is a big part of why I left the relative safety and comfort of another company that is doing—and will continue to do—great work. I enjoyed my time at CCI Solutions and have nothing but good things to say about them. My hope is that we can be partners in some sense moving forward. But, at the end of the day, working for someone else just isn’t as satisfying for someone like me who just loves the thrill of being a partner in a startup. As I told the CCI team in my exit letter, I’m not so much leaving CCI solutions as I’m going towards my own endeavor.

So, what is Velocity Pro Systems? We are a full-service design/build/integration firm. Scott and I will be taking the best of what we’ve learned over four years of working in other companies (on opposite sides of the country from where we each live, oddly) and distill it down to the most efficient and productive process we can. Both of us are all about efficiency and stewardship, and we will be heavily utilizing technology to make us more effective in what we hope will be fewer hours.

One of the advantages of starting an integration company in 2019 is that we can take full advantage of all the modern virtual office technology that has revolutionized other tech companies. We fully intend to leverage that technology to save on travel time and costs and speed our design and development process.

As a new startup, we have a ton going on. Don’t go to our website just yet; it’s still just a landing page. We hope to have a more fully developed site up within the next few weeks. That hasn’t seemed to slow us down much as we’re already booked with project kickoffs happening from now until July. We’re extremely excited to be working with both new and long-time customers and friends.

If you have a project coming up, feel free to reach out to me. After 25+ years on the church side of things and 5 years in the integration world, I have a pretty good handle on what works and what doesn’t and am very much committed to helping churches find the right technology solutions. As I’ve long written and spoken about, the right solution isn’t always the least expensive up front, but it will be the most cost-effective over the long term. Buying equipment once is always less expensive than buying twice (or three or four times). I can be most easily reached via email; mike@velocityprosystems.com.

On another note, thanks to all who have sent comments, notes and posts thanking us for getting the podcast back up and running. It’s been fun to do and you can look forward to more car talks from Mike and Van individually as well as a roughly once a month YouTube live show with both of us. Though we work for different companies now, we’re still good friends and will continue to yammer on about church production stuff as long as you’ll listen. We both appreciate your support.

Another 600 MHZ Update

Hey y'all. As we wind down summer, a little tidbit came across the desk of one of our engineers, Steve Lund. He was pursuing some info put out by James Stoffo of Radio Active Designs. James does a lot of work coordinating wireless gear for things like the Super Bowl, the CMAs, and pretty much every major award show. I actually met him at the CMAs a few years back. Great dude. 

Anyway, shared this map that came from Professional Wireless Systems. This shows the counties that T-Mobile is planning on lighting up starting November 1. Of this year. 2017. So if you happen to live in one of the little green squares, and you have a wireless mic or IEM running above 617 MHz, you're going to need to shut it down after Nov. 1.

Remember, it's not a matter of interference. By law, once the new owners of the spectrum start testing, every other operator needs to cease using it. Could you get away with it? Maybe. Should you? No. 

There's a little early Christmas gift for you. Time to order up those new wireless units, or better yet, wire everything you can. This isn't going to get easier going forward...

UPDATE: I've been asked about a larger map. Can't find a larger map, but I did find this spreadsheet of counties that presumably generated the map in question. So, there you go.

600 MHz Spectrum: A Quick Update

Somewhere out there you may not have noticed that the FCC has once again sold off a bunch of spectrum. They had such fun during the last sale, they just couldn't help themselves. We've done a few podcasts on this already, but there is a little new information I thought would be helpful to get out there. 

Being dealers, we just received this notice from Shure. This notice comes down from on high--which means it came from the FCC. This little ditty is supposed to be put at any point of sale of wireless equipment. It's instructive, strangely enough. 

This particular wireless microphone device operates in portions of the 617-652 MHz or 663-698 MHz frequencies. Beginning in 2017, these frequencies are being transitioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the 600 MHz service to meet increasing demand for wireless broadband services. Users of this device must cease operating on these frequencies no later than July 13, 2020. In addition, users of this device may be required to cease operations earlier than that date if their operations could cause harmful interference to a 600 MHz service licensee’s wireless operations on these frequencies. For more information, visit the FCC’s wireless microphone website at www.fcc.gov/wireless-microphones-guide or call the FCC at 1- 888-CALL-FCC (TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC).

The key takeaways are this: If you have any wireless equipment operating pretty much anywhere above 617 MHz, you need to begin making plans to replace it. At the very latest, you'll have to shut it down permanently on July 13, 2020. However, I've heard from multiple sources that the new owners are so excited to try out their new spectrum that they will be firing stuff up as early as this fall. 

In the past, we've had a little more time to transition, but this time, if a wireless carrier fires up something at, say, 625, and you start causing them interference, you will have to shut down. More likely, they will be causing you interference and you'll need to move or shut down anyway. 

Given that the wireless manufacturers are once again offering some decent rebates to trade in your 5-year old wireless gear that you bought when the 700 Mhz band was sold off, I wouldn't wait too long (most rebates go through year's end). 

This is likely to happen again in a few years, so I would recommend you cut down your wireless channels to the absolute bare minimum and go as low as you can go frequency-wise. Those in urban areas will probably feel this before those in the country do, but know that this is coming, and you're going to have to come up with a plan. Hopefully you've been listening to CTW over the last year as we've given you fair warning. 

So, there you go. Your friendly wireless spectrum update for August 3, 2017. Enjoy an interference-free weekend (while it lasts!). 

10 Years

Photo courtesy of  Kimberly Vardeman

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Vardeman

Even as I write that headline, it’s hard to believe. So much has happened since I penned the very first post for ChurchTechArts back in early March 2007. We’ve had three Presidents. I’ve been on staff at three churches. I’ve lived in four states. Both my girls have graduated high school and one finished college. I have met hundreds of people, reviewed dozens of products and been blessed to be a part of so many things I never could have imagined back then. This has truly been a journey. 

While there have been plenty of ups and downs over the last ten years, one thing that I’ve always appreciated is hearing your stories. I’ve bumped into you at trade shows and conferences and heard how God is using CTA to help you in your ministry. You’ve sent me emails, tweets and Facebook messages. In fact, I just received an email from someone who in the last few months has gone back and read the entire site! Wow!

I remember being at Seeds a few years ago when a TD from a church in Canada came up to talk with Van and I. He shared his story and ended with, “Your website and podcast have changed the entire tone of our church. Thank you.” I paraphrased, but I’ll never forget that moment. I have heard from readers and listeners in nearly every state and more than a dozen countries around the world. I really don’t know what to say other than it has been an honor to be on this journey with you.

Looking Back

ChurchTechArts has gone from being a labor of love, to a small business and back to a labor of love. You may not have noticed that the sponsors are gone in 2017. This was an intentional decision on my part. I actually had 4-5 sponsors lined up, but I pulled the plug at the last minute. As I neared the end of 2016, I knew I needed a break. My current job keeps me fairly busy and my mind space is less than it was when I was on staff at a church. So, I decided that come the 10 year anniversary, I would take a sabbatical. And I couldn’t do that if I had sponsors to provide value to. 

Speaking of sponsors, I can’t write this post without thanking them. I have enjoyed some wonderful sponsors over the years. So many of them have become good friends and I am truly, truly grateful for the support and encouragement they’ve given over the years. My sponsors not only provided financial support for my family and funded all the travel Van and I did so we could go hang out with you all, but they provided motivation to keep on pushing, growing and developing great content. 

As I said, we’ve had some great sponsors over the years, but I really couldn’t have done it without the original five who signed on, back when we were just getting traction in this space. So, to David Schliep at Horizon Battery; Bruce Meyers formerly of DPA; Rob Read at Roland and Duke DeJong at CCI Solutions, thank you. Thanks for believing in me and what we were trying to accomplish here. And a special thank you to my friend Greg McVeigh at Guesthouse Productions. Greg not only brought Heil on board—thanks, Bob, Sarah and Michelle—but was a huge encouragement and resource as I started putting together ad packages and pricing. I had no idea what I was doing, but Greg was a tremendous sounding board. Thanks man, I appreciate you. 

Looking Forward

So what next? As I said, I’m going to take a little time off from writing. For a while, it has felt like I’ve said all I have to say on this topic. That’s not true of course, as I have a half dozen articles in my “post ideas” folder to my right. But, I need some time off to clear my head and just breathe. The pressure to write anywhere between 7-12 posts a month for the last 6 years has been pretty intense at times, and I’m looking forward to a little time off. 

But I won’t stop writing. I’ve already been in discussions with a publisher about compiling the last ten years of writings into a book. This is something I’ve been working on in my head for 7 years, and I think it’s going to finally happen. Of course I’ll be keeping you posted on those developments. 

I’ve also started another website. I guess I really am a writer at heart… The topic of that site is completely different from this one in every way possible. But it’s something that has become more important to me as a hobby and passion, and I guess I don’t feel like I’m living if I’m not sharing my passion with others. The new site is called Mike on Gun Safety. As you might expect, it revolves around my interest in the shooting sports. However, like this site is partially about production and partially about what drives those who do production, that site will not only be product reviews and match recaps—though we’ll have some of those. I also want to delve into the topics of personal defense, mindset and probably some politics. So, you can go visit if you like. And if that topic offends you, feel free to not click the link. It’s just getting rolling, but I already have more than two dozen posts in progress so it should be a good time. 

Finally, one thing you’ll notice is that at the end of March, there will be no more emails from CTA. Right now that’s costing me about $15/month to maintain that service and as I’m not going to be writing much, it seems like a waste. So I’ll be killing that off in the next few weeks. Save this email—it might be worth something someday…

We’ll keep on doing the ChurchTechWeekly podcast, though it’s not likely to be very weekly. We do it as we can and we’ll keep trying to answer your questions. Speaking of the podcast, I could not have done that without my dear friends and partners in crime, Van and Duke. I appreciate you more than you know. And to all our guests over the years, thanks for providing amazing content that built up the Church. You rock.

I may write a post here once in a while, so check back every so often. Or just follow along on Twitter. Thanks to all of you who have been part of this journey. It’s been an honor.