Can We Help Houses of Worship Find and Vet AV Technology Vendors?

business reviews 0120Help me! How do I ? Where do I? These and a lot of similar questions were the core of the responses we gathered during and after the seminar session on “How to Source and Purchase Equipment for a HOW AV System,” presented during the WFX Conference & Expo in September 2019, held in Orlando, Florida.

Of course, there were the usual requests for free design help and free designs, but realistically the foundational issues were centered on how and where a house of worship could obtain quality professional support and assistance, especially if they wanted to use a DIY approach for some or all of the work involved.

In last month’s column, I briefly outlined this problem and suggested that we work as a group to come up with some viable approaches to creating workable solutions that would provide that needed capability on a national basis.

In the time since then, it has rapidly become more obvious that despite a large number of integration firms and design service providers present in the U.S. and Canadian markets, the ability of any specific house of worship to find those folks and, more importantly, get valid and reasonably cost-effective help for their specific needs is a much more complex problem than it would initially appear.

Despite all that potentially negative input and the obvious issues surrounding this quandary, I am still of the firm belief that this is a resolvable problem.

A Reliable Working Model

Unless you’ve been hibernating somewhere, you probably have been exposed to the almost incessant drumbeat of promotional advertising from the two largest homeowner connection services currently operating on a national basis in North America. I’m referring to Home Advisor and Angie’s List. While there are non-trivial differences between the two companies, the basic premise and business model is essentially the same.

They are collators of reviews and connections for professional services operating in the middle between the homeowner (buyer) and the services (sellers). The model is that the services provide “unbiased” actual end-user reviews for each listed or member professional and will connect the buyer to the seller (fees are charged to buyers for membership and/or to sellers for premium .

The exact fee and membership cost structure is not relevant here, except for the fact that there is one. Because these are privately held entities, their internal operating rules and practices are proprietary and we respect that privacy.

Nevertheless, the model they deploy would make a really good basic shell for a solution to our own industry-wide problem.

Now we must be upfront here and note that the “reviews” portion of both companies business model/operating structure is fraught with potential problems, reliability, accuracy and, frankly, truthfulness. But, if we eliminate that element of the model initially and let it develop organically under a strict set of guidelines, verification procedures and vetting requirements, the overall structure they use would work well for this problem.

So let’s try this idea out:

Both of the “home” services companies provide a fairly broad range of specific skills and professionals from handyman to full-scale remodeling contractors. They also screen the providers when they sign up to be listed against some internal set of guidelines and requirements, and also offer the options for best-of category awards and more prominent listing for high rated providers (super service awards for example). All of these parameters are useful and helpful within the business category that the companies operate.

I would respectfully suggest that we could use a good chunk of this model for our own version of this idea with the AV industry servicing the small HOW market (more than 220K congregations at last verified audit) who are the ones most in need of this service.

How This Could Work

Let’s look at a possible scenario for how this might work and how it could be initiated.

Any provider of a service or skill who wants to offer to the small HOW markets nationwide would fill out a detailed questionnaire on their organization, operations, history, ownership, etc. That would be submitted to an initially volunteer (hopefully paid down the road) group that would check the facts, verify the details and statements and generally vet, to whatever degree feasible, that information.

Then if it all checks out, for a manageable fee, the applicant would be listed in up to let’s say five initial categories on a web-based database of providers open to any HOW that has applied for the free membership and been verified as a legitimate HOW organization.

Membership for consumers would be free, however, if they use the service and employ a provider they would be assessed a small scalable fee based on the size of their project and the numbers of member companies they employ. I suggest something like $100 to $500 with a $1,000 cap. Those fees go entirely to fund the costs of operating the service and maintaining the database and website.

I would hope that within a year or so, enough revenue from both sides of the equation would be generated to allow the hiring and employment of a small paid staff to run the service, do the necessary checks and all the other normal business-related functions. I suggest that we would call this idea the “National Religious Facilities Service Provider Database.”

Where and how the physical operation would be set up is wide open at this early stage and of course there are a lot of questions as yet to be answered or determined operationally to make this functional.

I ask for your input, idea, suggestions, criticism, thoughts and suggestions to move this forward and get it off the ground. We need to do this to service the thousands of HOWs pleading for help.

What do you think? Send your comments thoughts, ideas to me at FredAmpel@att.net or send them to the rAVe folks and we’ll collect them and review.