The Smartest Person in the Room

A small house of worship in Nova Scotia.

Image via Dennis Jarvis

If you are working in the house of worship (HOW) market providing advice, guidance and expertise, you should be offering a clearly defined set of options and services to any customer or congregation.

Given the enormous number of small HOWs in North America (well over 250,000 locations across all denominations), the need for clarity, flexibility and, most importantly, a service-oriented mindset is growing ever larger and is not likely to diminish any time soon.

But, how do you provide this service, guidance and expertise without appearing to be arrogant or, worse, assuming that the lack of knowledge at the HOW volunteer level is equivalent to a lack of skill or ability?

Reality is often a hard taskmaster, and in this case, making any assumptions about skill or ability without definitive information or assessment is a very dangerous position to take. In our multiple decades of working with HOW clients, we have found that the reality surrounding skills, knowledge and ability with HOW volunteer and AV teams is considerably different than the assumptions frequently made by industry leadership and sales/marketing staff. Let me make this unequivocally clear: Assuming a “lack of” anything is simply wrong. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem isn’t a lack of anything. Instead, the problem is quite clearly, from our perspective, the inability of the marketplace to deliver the knowledge and expertise needed to the right people, in the right format with the right level of support.

If you’re an AV/IT professional, you’re probably way ahead (or you think you are) on the knowledge curve as compared to the average HOW volunteer, but being more knowledgeable or “smarter” does not always translate into the most viable presentation or solution.

This is the most prevalent issue we see across the board in HOW AV system implementation. Here’s a typical scenario. The HOW contacts a regional integrator or equivalent looking for a proposal or perhaps just some guidance or information on either upgrading or replacing some portion of their current system(s). The industry professionals quickly make two flawed judgments or assumptions:

  1. The HOW is small and therefore does not have a large or flexible budget, worth our time.
  2. The HOW staff does not have the skill set to properly use or deploy the technologies we are offering so they must be a poor risk for us to engage with.

The industry professionals either do not respond with a valid or useful proposal or, worse, don’t respond at all, deeming the job to small to be worth their time. This is the core of the problem. Yes, the project may be small on its own, but as we have discovered over time, the “Wal-Mart” concept of selling a lot of lower-cost goods or services to a lot of people adds up to a significant revenue stream.

Attention industry leadership: The customers (and they are customers) are going to find a pathway to the goods or services they need whether or not it is through you.

Let’s look at the reality here — 250K small HOW congregations in North America. If 20% of them are willing to spend $10,000 in any given calendar year on AV systems and related goods and services, that represents $250 million in potential business. I can’t speak for anyone but myself here, but that certainly sounds like a viable, and potentially significant, revenue stream to me.

So here’s the question: Do we reach out and find a workable solution to providing the hardware, software and related stuff the small HOW community wants? Or do we let them find someone else to do it?

We have developed a fairly substantial network of providers, professionals, engineering experts and other related skills to support the DIY-focused small HOW customer base with our regional small HOW community, and I am sure there are other pockets just like ours across the continent.

But from the small HOW perspective, this is at best a catch-as-catch-can situation, with no national or even denominational structure in place to help them locate the right people, with the right skills, and most importantly the right attitude and perspective.

So, here’s a modest and I believe logical proposal: 
As an industry, we need to develop, formulate and implement a viable national point of contact for the small HOW customers to both find and validate the right skills from the right professionals, at the right cost and operational level.

These HOW customers are asking for help. If we offer them a safe, clean and unburdened pathway to get to the right place, they will take it. I don’t have the best solution to this issue, but as an industry we should and frankly must come up with one. So, what’s your idea? How do we solve this? How do we service these customers?

Perhaps some combination of rAVe and a focused group of AV pros can find a solution. Email me with your ideas or send them to rAVe and we will collect them and follow up in a few months with what came in. Now’s your chance to make a difference. TAKE IT.