Over the last three posts, I’ve detailed what I think is wrong with the Bid Spec process. It’s too broad, too specific, it’s bad for integrators, and it’s bad for churches. Ultimately, no one really wins in a job like that. I believe that most integrators want to develop a partnership with their clients. In a partnership, everyone does their part and everyone wins. Those are the systems we come away from saying, “Wow…that’s a great AVL installation!”
One of my pet peeves of the Church is that some inside the Church seem to feel that because it’s, “All for Jesus…” that they should get stuff for free, or at least heavily discounted. I know builders, electricians, plumbers, etc. who won’t work for churches any more because they were constantly beat up over their fees. My brothers, this should not be. Even when I was a TD on church staff I saw this, and I campaigned against it. I told our pastors, “When you stop taking a salary, then you can tell the contractors they have to cut their rate.”
All companies, even those that serve the Church, are in business to make money. They have to in order to stay in business. And believe me…you want your integrator to stay in business! We can probably all recount stories of integrators who worked for cheap or free because it was for the Church, then went out of business leaving all those churches with no support.
A good win-win partnership means the church gets a system that is designed properly for them and will accomplish their goals and the integrator gets paid fairly for, without having to work 20 hour days to get it done.
And don’t play the game of, “If you give me a killer deal on this project, there will be plenty more after this to make it up on,” all the while planning on moving on to the next integrator when this project is done.
Choose Based on Compatibility
There are a lot of good integrators our there, and each has a slightly different personality. Not every integrator is the best choice for every church. I often tell TDs that when choosing an integrator, pick someone you won’t mind hanging out with for a few months, because you’re going to spend a lot of time together. You should meet the person who will actually be running your project and make sure he gets what you’re trying to do.
If you are a more traditional church, it may not be the best idea to pick an integrator known for creating big, loud, modern concert-like systems. Sure, that company can do a simple, traditional system, but it’s not in their wheelhouse. The reverse is also true. Some companies do biggest and best. And if that’s what you need, go for it. But others excel in delivering a great system at an excellent value and that might be more in line with your church. Make sure the two philosophies align.
The best partnerships are based on transparency and trust. Neither party is holding back and secretly trying to win at the expense of the other. As a church, don’t bring in an integrator with the idea of a project being one way, then withhold information or switch it up after they’ve signed the agreement.
Make sure everyone that is going to have a say in the system is in the room when decisions are made. I’ve seen churches completely exclude the TD from an AVL renovation, and when the system is done, the TD has nothing good to say about the process or the integrator. This is inexplicable to me, though I’ve heard some pastors claim their TD “only wants to spend money.” This is a shortsighted approach.
The integrator should show you what you’re paying for things, as well. However, be careful about trying to whittle down every line item price to the lowest cost you can find on the internet. There will always be someone willing to sell any particular item for less than your integrator. But are they going to be sure it’s the right product for you, install it and support it? Probably not. Support after the sale costs money, don’t put your support system out of business.
The Better Way
Ultimately, if I were choosing an integrator for a project (something I’ve done as a TD many times), I would do it based on relationships. If you’re new to the market, get some recommendations from similar churches who had successful projects. Talk to friends and find out who they like. Then interview 2-3 of the top recommended companies for you. You may need to pay their travel expenses to come out and see you for a day or two. Choose the company that gets you and that you like talking with, then go all-in with them. After the design agreement has been signed, they can begin working up the details for your project.
A good integrator will be able to give you ballpark pricing and design ideas beforehand so you know where you’re starting, but don’t expect a fully fleshed out design document until you’ve agreed to pay for it.
Well, there you go. My thoughts on how to best choose an integrator for you project. Having been on both sides of the fence, I’m confident this is in fact, the best way. Choose wisely!