I am sure you have all heard the saying (which is so true) that “Behind every successful man, is a woman.” In the case of a software company, the saying could be, “Behind every great web-based software in an incredibly talented development team.” As the founder of eSPACE, I can assure you that no truer words have been spoken.
In the case of eSPACE, our IT and Development Team is led by a very creative, talented and proactive person. He is not your stereotypical “geek” with a pocket protector and tape on his glasses. Not even close!
Tim Owens is a gifted developer and Director of IT for Cool Solutions Group/eSPACE. Since joining our team over 2 years ago, he has completely transformed our applications, means and methods…and made our products the best-in-class applications available in the market…bar-none. We are now the ONLY Facility Management software on the market that combines Facility/Event Scheduling, Work Order Management, Asset Tracking, Event Registration, Inventory Control, HVAC Integration…and now…Wi-Fi thermostats (more on that in the weeks to come…but if you are interested now, give us a shout!).
This week, Tim Owens shares his heart and passion for what he does and why we do things the way we do them.
Thanks Tim for all you do!!!
Who loves to be empowered? Anyone?
I know I do.
Out of all the jobs that I’ve had, I get the most satisfaction out of the ones where I feel the most empowered.
I love working for leaders who empower those they lead. They make you feel like you matter…like you make a difference.
That’s EXACTLY the feeling we want to give you …our customers (current and future)! We want to put the power in your hands to help make eSPACE the very best Facility Management product on the web!
We want to avoid the “tunnel vision” syndrome that so many companies fall into. You know what I’m talking about…
1. You find a product from company X that you think will be a good fit.
2. You buy the product.
3. You start to use the product.
4. Then, the more you use that product you realize it could be so much better.
5. You offer suggestions to make the product better, but it seems your suggestions end up in a black hole.
6. You end up frustrated because you feel like your suggestions don’t matter.
We want you to know that we at eSPACE LISTEN to our customers!
We feel it’s what makes our software so great. It’s constantly evolving…from our customer’s ideas!
We want our customers to drive the software.. not management…not our product managers…not developers…but rather the end users (customer)…the ones that use it day in and day out.
No one knows the shortcomings of a web-based application better than the end user. NO question that the best “voice” you can have if you want to build a product that solves business problems, is the ones that are facing those issues day in and day out. YOU!
That’s why we made a decision early when we launched eSPACE to have an “Idea Board” as part of our software. A landing pad for customers to tell us what features they wanted to see next. Not only can customers let us know the feature(s) they want to see, they are empowered with votes so they can take an active role in setting our development priorities. This allows the development team at eSPACE to concentrate on the features that matter the most!
Features that users are asking for.
Features that are going to make our software better.
Features that matter!
That’s empowerment…That’s eSPACE!
Here we GROW!!!
As our company continues to grow, God has provided the right team members to join our band of dedicated Facility Specialists. He always proves the right person…for the right seat on the bus…at just the right time.
Given our growth and deep passion to serve our clients (and future clients…and you know who you are!) we knew we had to make an adjustment to our customer service efforts. To that end we have added a new “Onboarding Specialist” – Jennifer Erwin. This frees up our Customer Service team to focus on serving the needs of our current eSPACE subscribers. If you are already a subscriber, you know that we go to enormous efforts to provide you with a live person…in the USA…to help address your concerns, questions and overall support. That is why this change is so important to us…and to you.
So, I asked Jen to share a little bit with you all. Please join me in welcoming Jen to our team…and family:
A Personal Note From Jennifer Erwin, Onboarding Specialist
“Servant?” you ask. Yep.
And in that servanthood my desire is to train clients to appreciate the software that eSPACE provides – Event Scheduler and Work Order Management platforms as well as our COOL SPACE HVAC Integration and WIFI Thermostats (these are SO COOL!) – so that they are able to better manage the resources with which the Lord has entrusted them.
See, I’m a no-nonsense kind of person. Black-and-white thinker. Logical. Rational. Straight shooter.
Our software is like that, too.
And even though I think it’s pretty awesome, the staff at eSPACE doesn’t want the credit. We want the credit to go to the One who holds it all. We want to help you better manage your spaces, your resources, your locations, your events and your equipment so that you have more time to focus on the Kingdom.
We realize that church administrators/leaders wear lots of hats. How many? Lots. In fact, they probably wear more hats than there are proverbial hatboxes in which to store them! But are you – the administrator – insistent on committing to memory all the schedules, events, work orders and calendar items of your church?
Like you, I love people – but I’m not fond of chaos. In fact, here’s a simple formula to remember as you use our software:
Chaos = NOT GOOD. Order = GOOD.
I love hearing potential clients say, “Oh, now THAT’S awesome!” when their minds’ light bulbs flicker on after a demo. I love knowing the moment they’re able to envision how our product(s) can integrate into their current workflow to help better manage it.
Do I know everything there is to know about facilities management or software or training or modules or integration? Nope.
But I do know this: Our program is simple yet comprehensive. It can be as granular or as over-reaching as you want. It can handle your facility related workload – and everyone else’s, too. In addition, I’m listening. I’m documenting. I’m communicating. I’m following up. You want the very best? That’s what eSPACE wants for you, too.
So you have more time to focus on the Kingdom.
Does your church have a computer?
It is hard to believe that as recent as 1987, one of the major issues church administrators were wrestling with was the question of IF they should buy a computer. Today, however, most of us cannot image doing our jobs, leading our ministries or even functioning in everyday life without a computer. How times have changed…and in less than 30 years!!!!
Today, most churches have IT departments or outsourced IT help centers. I would venture to say that the preponderance of churches and ministries have computers and use technology nearly every day in their operations processes. So, when you have a church IT situation, concern or need a strategy…WHO YOU GONNA CALL (not Ghost-busters!!!)? I know who I would call…it would be my friend Nick Nicholaou. I have great admiration for Nick and the MBS team. Not just from a technical perspective…which they are top notch…but from a ministry and heart perspective. You will find no better.
Which leads me to a conversation Nick and I had recently about the release of his new book. I am so excited for the church world to have such a resource available to them. Yeah, it is cool that Nick wrote a book and that his name and picture are on the book…but knowing his heart…that is almost embarrassing to him as his desire is to provide the best resources to the Bride of Christ…and he has!
Here is a portion of our conversation:
Tim: Nick, you just wrote a book [Church IT: Strategies and Solutions published by Christianity Today] to help those overseeing church information technology, and it looks terrific. Why’d you write it?
Nick: Thanks, Tim! I’ve been working with churches and ministries nationwide for nearly thirty years as an IT strategist, consultant, and engineer. The working title for the project was Learning from Others: Avoiding Common Church IT Mistakes, and my hope was to help many avoid some of those mistakes that affect team productivity and cost a lot more than good strategies typically do. Having helped so many hundreds of churches and ministries over the years, I have seen patterns of mistakes that could have been easily avoided if those making decisions knew about them in advance.
Tim: We all have computers; why is it so common that churches make mistakes about computer system setup?
Nick: Computer system configuration for a corporate, or office environment is much more challenging than for a home environment. One example is WiFi. Many mistakenly think that using the same WiFi access points at the church as those they use at home should work. It never does because of a few reasons, like the connection loads and the needed filtering issues. This is just one of many issues I wrote about in the book.
Tim: Is the book written in technical terms that only IT professionals will understand?
Nick: Great question, Tim! Though there is enough technical meat in the book for an engineer to work with, the book is written so that those responsible for making IT decisions—who are usually not engineers—can benefit from it.
Tim: What was your favorite part of writing the book?
Nick: Well, knowing that it would help many churches and ministries was key, and was the driving force behind the book. But the most fun for me was writing the glossary of terms! I like communicating technical information in non-technical ways, and had fun writing the glossary so that those who are not engineers can have a quick reference on the terms that can so easily cause confusion for those not familiar with the expanse of IT terms.
Tim: Nick, as you know I am a facilities guy, and facilities are a part of church operations, just like accounting, IT, food service, etc. Given that, what correlations or similarities do you see between IT and facilities…and…how can one benefit the other?
Nick: That’s a great question! Facilities equipment needs reserves to satisfy maintenance and repair replacements. Churches can approach this proactively or in reactionary mode and there can be significant impacts. Some of this is cost related, but for sure, the stress attached to the maintenance or replacement cycle is dramatically different depending on the strategy chosen.
Computers similarly need to be replaced on a regular basis to keep staff functioning at its most efficient level possible. One of the chapters in the book is devoted to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and cloud (data that’s hosted offsite) trends, both of which impact the cost of system refresh rates in a very good way—lower cost and a more efficient/happy team. But it needs to be approached strategically, or it’s result will be no different than that of using home-class WiFi access points in a corporate setting.
Tim: WOW…you sound like a facility management professional. There really is a lot of correlation between our realms. Thanks again for the time today, Nick.
So…go on line…and get your copy of Nick’s book HERE. You will want this as part of your INTENTIONAL stewardship library!
Nick Nicholaou is President of MBS, Inc., a team of IT strategists who evaluate, engineer, and support servers, Mac & Windows computers, and mobile devices. In MBS’ private cloud data center they host Exchange email, SQL databases, VoIP phone systems, SPAM filtering, and file storage/ synchronization.
Nick and his team have served thousands of Christian churches and ministries nationally, and he speaks on a regular basis at national and regional conferences from coast to coast.
Nick’s Contact Info: email@example.com
In a recent blog by Seth Godin (my favorite blogger and author), he outlined what I would refer to as Operational Equality (my words not his…so don’t blame him). Read these 4 sentences from his blog and then sit back and ponder them. They are far more impactful and revolutionary than they may seem at first blush:
Something rare is happening, and it might not last long.
Today, right now, anyone with a $300 laptop can use the very same tools as the people at the top of just about any industry.
If you want to write, you have the same writing tools available to you as the most successful writers in the world.
If you want to join a social network, well, the software that connects the titans of your industry is the very same software you can use.
For generations, only the rich or elite or privileged or large organizations had all the “best tools” and access to the leading edge technology. Think about a few examples:
Until the time of the Gutenberg press, only religious elite had access to the Bible and scripture…now many of us carry our Bible in our pockets on our Smart devices in nearly ever translation.
Until recently, only Meteorologists had access to weather forecasts…now with an app on your phone you can get almost as much data
Used to be that only Stock Brokers could assist you with purchasing stocks and bonds…not any more!
10-15 years ago, only the largest facilities had access to building automation systems…today it is rare NOT to have one.
Think about the internet…it does not matter if your organization has 2 people or 2 thousand, we all login to the same internet which means we have the same access. This is one of the first times in society that “operational” equality has been so flat lined…which means, there are very few reasons to not be working, playing, developing, managing, leading, writing, creating, etc. using tools that are available to organizations smaller or larger than your own. How many of you still use a 3″ Yellow Pages to search phone numbers? Have you bought a car lately? Did you only rely on the word of the dealer as to the value, service history or life cycle? Probably not?
Let’s take it another step. Just because we have a tool/system that “works” (or maybe better said is, “USED” to work when we first implemented it) does not mean it is the best or most efficient tool know. My manual screw drivers still work fine and they “can” get the job done…but my battery powered screwdriver is much more efficient for most applications. My 1986 “car phone” could probably still make calls (maybe) but compared to my iPhone 6S, there is no comparison. I have faxing capability on my printer…but I cannot tell you the last time I used it. Just because faxing was the best way to send documents 10-15 years ago does not necessarily make it the most productive today. My old Excel spreadsheet used to be fine for managing our corporate books, but QuickBooks is such a better tool and application for financial accounting
Get my point? I think so.
So as an organizational leader, with responsibility for your physical facilities, are you INTENTIONAL about utilizing the best tools to get the job done? You virtually have access to the same tools, means and methods as the people managing your local mall or downtown office towers. Given the myriad of tools, resources, blogs, articles, etc, there are very few excuses to not be utilizing the most up to date systems and processes to manage your facilities.
Here is a partial list of the tools your organization should be utilizing to increase your Operational Efficiency…and they are all just a click away:
- Facility/Event Scheduling Software
- Facility Management and Work Order Management Software
- Life Cycle Projection Tools
- Some level of Building Automation…at least for your HVAC system…maybe WIFI Thermostats (call me for more details!!!)
Anything less is like living in the stone-age.
A couple weeks ago, Worship Facilities Magazine published an article about the need for churches to have a CMMS program. For those of you not involved with Facility Management on a daily basis, let me explain what CMMS is:
CMMS = Computerized Maintenance Management System
In short, this is your facility management software. How you track work orders, establish preventive maintenance, track inventory and manage your equipment. It is really that simple.
This article was written by Martin Sinderman…and while I am biased…he did a great job to explain the reason why nearly every church needs such a program. Remember, our facilities have been ENTRUSTED to us…and as such we are to steward them the best way we can.
The article started off asking some very basic question:
Are you in charge of overseeing the overall functioning of your worship facilities’ physical plant? Does your facility have multiple rooms with activities going on more than once or twice a week? Do you need to keep track of what’s going on in the maintenance-and-repairs department?
If so, chances are good that a facilities management software program would make your life a lot easier.
Later in the article he quotes Mr. Nathan Parr, Operation Manager at First Baptist Church, Belton Texas. Some of you may recognize Nathan’s name and contribution in our Church Facility Stewardship Manual (make sure you get a copy if you don’t already have one). Nathan provided this quote:
“We’ve gotten busier over the years – and have realized the more streamlined we could make the facilities management part, the easier it would be to accomplish our mission – which is doing the work of our church.” Nathan Parr, FBC Belton
I will not spoil the rest of the article. If you click on the WFX logo below you can see the rest of the article. It is worth the read!
A little over a year ago we posted a blog entitled “30 Things You Don’t Want To Hear From Your Architect.” That got a lot of laughs and smirks. That was a lot of fun…but unfortunately I have heard most if not all of them at different times. Scary!!!
Today we are going to look at the 30 things you do not want to hear from your Facility Manager. Let me know if any of these sound familiar…then let me know what you did to combat it:
- I am too busy to plan ahead.
- I am sure I can Google and figure out how to fix that.
- I haven’t been on the roof in years.
- Where did I put that knife.
- What budget?
- I am never caught up.
- I know a guy…
- Storing gasoline and paint in the same closet is fine.
- That is the way we have always done it.
- Why would we want to “Go Green?”
- Our team spends X hours each week adjusting thermostats in the building.
- I have all that information in my head.
- I don’t like to use technology…that is just who I am.
- To save cost we are changing to single ply toilet paper.
- I don’t answer my phone on the weekends.
- I am not sure how much money is needed to keep our facilities up to speed.
- I don’t know how many square feet is in our facility.
- We’ll just get volunteers to paint the steeple.
- The carpet looks fine to me…we cleaned it 10 years ago.
- I am not sure what that odor is. I am sure it will just go away.
- LED will never become mainstream.
- Life Cycle! Is that a new kind of bike?
- Hello Mr. Fire Marshal. Can you wait here while I go move somethings?
- Let me set up the ladder on this table to reach that high area.
- What is OSHA?
- We are a church so we do not have to comply to codes.
- I am sure we do not need a permit to add on that room.
- HVAC air filters should last at least a year. I only use the building once a week, how much dirt can that produce?
- The smoke detectors kept beeping so I just unplugged them.
- It’s not my job!!!
Any sound familiar?
In order to get started today, we need to step back to our 10th grade English class and make sure we understand the definition of 2 words and the tense of each:
FACILITY (noun) – space or equipment necessary for doing something
FACILITATE (verb) – make (an action or process) easy or easier.
If you are like me, you have slept since 10th grade and so the nuance of the difference of a verb and a noun may be foggy…so let’s recap:
A “noun”, in its simplest form, is a person, place or thing. “Watch SPOT run.” “That TREE is very big.” ” Our CHURCH is located on Main Street.” (Side note…I only use this for example since many of us say that…but in reality the CHURCH is not the building…it is the people)
A “verb”, on the other hand, is a word that shows action. Verbs are the main part of a sentence in the English language. They are the component of any sentence that brings life and meaning to the words.
So back to our 2 words above…
A “facility” is a noun. It is a place…a structure…a building…a location. However, without a verb, it is just a stagnant word. In fact, you can have a sentence without a noun…for example…”Go over there.” You can say those words, point and have your intent conveyed.
What does this have to do with our ministry facilities? Glad you asked.
If a Facility is a noun…then it needs a verb to provide action, meaning and relevance. By itself, a facility is merely a monument…an edifice…an architectural statement (good or bad). Sticks and bricks are inanimate objects. I still believe that our facility (the physical attributes) will tell a story. I am not bending off that premise. I believe in the concept of story and how we need to be intentional related to the storytelling of our facility…but…the reality is that facilities, in and of themselves, are not a living organism.
In order to bring life (action) to a facility, it needs a verb…and I believe the best verb for ministry facilities is that it FACILITATES.
Facilities should facilitate…
- Life change
So…what do your facilities facilitate? Does the facilitation fulfill your vision, mission and goals? If not, may need to step back and re-evaluate.
Many of you, if not most of you, are on staff at a church or are actively involved in Kingdom work. In light of that you may think that this blog has nothing to do with you or your role. Before you close this out…let me challenge you to keep reading a little further.
While we can all make a case for the inaccuracy of the title of this blog…let’s expand out thinking. Churches and ministries don’t have “sales”…right? For just a few minutes, let me share a portion of a blog from Bruce Van Horn. I have never met Bruce but have received permission to repost his blog. I am not going to quote the entire blog….you can see it HERE.
When I was leading a team for a national church builder, I used to tell our team that they were ALL sales people for the organization. Some grasped that and some never could wrap their arms around the concept…but I believed it then and am even more convinced of this fact. Let me share a portion of Bruce’s blog:
Did you know that you are self-employed? Well, whether you know it or not, you are!
You might be thinking, “No, I work for a company [church/ministry – Tim Cool added] and I’m not even a shareholder let alone the owner.”
I want you to read this next sentence, then sit still for a minute and let it seep into the crevices of your brain: It does not matter who signs your paycheck or what company you work for or what your job is at that company; everyone is self-employed and everyone is in sales.
You might not like the idea of “selling yourself,” but that really is what we do every day. If you have friends, it is because you have shown them something about yourself that makes them want to be around you. If you have a spouse or a very serious “significant other,” it is because there is something about you that makes that person want to be around and, perhaps, spend the rest of their life with you. Whether you are aware of it or did it intentionally, you convinced those people, or that person, that they should choose you out of all of the other people they know. They “bought” you!
If you think of yourself as self-employed while you are at your “job,” you will see the work you do and the company you work for differently. Your “job” is to provide a product or service that meets the needs of, and adds value to, your customer. When your company hired you, they did so because of what you could provide. During the interview process, you convinced (sold) them to use your service instead of that of other candidates. If they fire you, it is because your product or service did not meet their needs or they no longer need your product or service.
Being in “sales” doesn’t mean begging, pleading, or trying to manipulate people into buying something they don’t need. The most successful salespeople know the value of the product or service they provide and try to find a match between what they sell and those people who need, will benefit from, and are looking what they have to offer.
I know you may be thinking I am twisting words again…that is not my intent. Let’s break it down in life applications that may make more sense:
- If you work in a church or ministry, you sold someone to hire you.
- For most of us, the purpose of our organization is to help others and to further the Kingdom. This is done through a series of “sales” opportunities from inviting someone to church, to presenting the gospel, to offering discipleship to further the previous life changing “sales.”
- Anyone that walks through the doors of your organization is going to make a judgement based on their interaction with those they encounter…so are you representing the value, vision, mission and beliefs of your organization. You may be the only “salesperson” they encounter which may impact their evaluation of the value proposition…which should be a new life in Christ Jesus.
- As a “self-employed” person, you must be self-motivated…know the end goal…live and breathe the values of your personal organization…walk the walk…be positive about your “company” (remember…you are self employed so it is YOUR company).
How does those concepts adjust your mindset and overall approach to your daily life? If it has no impact…then you missed the point…so call me so we can talk more about it.
What is “slack” and why do you need it?
Here are 4 variations on how you might use the word SLACK:
- Lazy…someone who does not get things done. – “Your slack” or “Don’t slack off”
- Give me a break. – “Cut me some slack”
- Create “margin”. – “Give the rope a little slack”
- Real Time Messaging Software – #slack (The the way our team uses #slack a TON…love this product…thank you Michael Hyatt for putting us on to it a couple years ago)
I was recently reading a blog by my favorite blogger…Seth Godin…and he referenced “slack” using a variation on #3 above. I have never used it this way…but it works. Below is what he said (or you can read it on his blog HERE)
Avoiding a problem with foresight and good design is a cheap, highly leveraged way to do your work.
Extinguishing a problem before it gets expensive and difficult is almost as good, and far better than paying a premium when there’s an emergency.
Fretting about an impending problem, worrying about it, imagining the implications of it… all of this is worthless.
The magic of slack (a little extra time in the chain, a few extra dollars in the bank) is that it gives you the resources to stop and avoid a problem or fix it when it’s small. The over-optimized organization misunderstands the value of slack, so it always waits until something is a screaming emergency, because it doesn’t think it has a moment to spare. Expensive.
Action is almost always cheaper now than it is later.
This got me thinking about how most churches and other organizations do not account for slack in their facility management or facility stewardship initiates. In this context, slack = margin.
In his excellent book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin (i.e. slack) like this:
Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
Part of the above references “time” and how we need to provide margin/slack in our calendar to avoid burnout and overload. But the area highlighted is very real in facility management. What struck me is that this principle is relevant across a myriad of applications for a facility manager or other person responsible with stewarding their facilities. Here are a few applications:
- The most important slack is time…I agree with that. If your team is working 6-7 days a week with little to no down time…you need some slack.
- If your calendar is so full with activities that you do not have the time to prepare, lead, plan, forecast and the like…you need some slack.
- If your budget is so tight that any deviation will send you into a tail spin…you need some slack.
- Monetarily…if your organization does not have a Capital Reserve fund that is growing to prepare you for future known expenses (You will replace every HVAC unit…you will replace every roof…you will replace all flooring. These are FACTS of facility life cycle.)…you need a lot of SLACK.
Do you need some slack? Are you or your facilities suffering from a lack of slack?
Have you ever walk into a restaurant that you read about online or someone recommended…full of anticipation and excitement…to then be turned off by the lack of care of the facility? I have been disappointed more times than I can list when I was in a mid to upper priced establishment, to then visit their restroom and be totally repulsed by the lack of care and cleanliness…or to look up at their ceilings (that is a habit for me…so if you invite me to your facility, know I am looking at your ceilings. You have been warned.) to see stained ceiling tiles…or worse…dirty HVAC grills and cobwebs. What does that say about you and your church? What does it say that you value? Obviously you do not value the health and well being of your guests and occupants if you are “Okay” allowing dirt and dust to blow down on their heads or have them breathe dirty air.
What story is that communicating?
To me it indicates that either you do not care about your facilities…or are not intentional about their care…or are in poor financial condition, where you cannot maintain them. Now that is just me…but could that message also be the one conveyed to your guests?
Not a great witness or example in my opinion.
In his book “First Impressions: Creating WOW Experiences”, Mark Waltz, pastor of connection at Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, addresses what it may be like to be a guest in our churches and how the first impression may not always convey the story we desire. In addition, the first impression may be the only chance we have to impact their lives. He writes;
“When your guests are distracted from the real purpose of their visit to your church, you’ll have a difficult time re-engaging them. In order for people to see Jesus, potential distractions must be identified and eliminated.”
Have you ever considered that the condition of your facilities could affect your ability to engage and minister to people? In previous blogs I have focused on the physical attributes related to the built environment. We have looked at the design, way finding, weenies and other attributes of the campus and structures. But what about the condition?
Over my 30-year career of planning and building church facilities, I have witnessed firsthand the use, abuse and misuse of ministry facilities. I have seen churches spend millions of dollars on new facilities and then neglect to change the HVAC filters, repair leaks, change light bulbs, caulk annually as required and so on. In my opinion, this is similar to collecting the offering during our worship services and taking 10%-20% of the monies out of the offering plate or basket and setting it on fire. We would all agree that that kind of action would be ridiculous and obscene.
“We would never do that… that is God’s money.”
I ask, who provided the funds to build your facilities? We all know the answer: God provided the resources. It was and is His money. And they are His buildings. Yet, we too often act irresponsibly with these assets.
I find that many church members take better care of their homes, boats, cars, motorcycles and even their pets than they do their ministry facilities. Is this acceptable to you? It is not to me, and I suggest that the church (big “C”) wake up, take notice and do something about it. I believe that God will hold each of us responsible and accountable for how we steward every resource entrusted to us.