Blog

What is up with USER Based Software Pricing?

There have been a lot of new players enter the Facility Management Software space serving churches. Some of these products are actually really good. Some have REALLY cool features. But…most charge per user per month. I just don’t get it!

OK…I get the “business” reason why. The more users, the potential increase in bandwidth and data storage for servers. But to me, a USER BASED subscription penalizes a church for growing numerical or staffing. If a church has 50,000 SF and they double in attendance…but doesn’t add more square footage, they have to increase staff to maintain a building that now has more utilization leading to more cleaning and wear and tear.

When we launched eSPACE (MINISTReSPACE in 2008), the most popular event and facility scheduling software on the market was Event U. At that time, and even to today, they charge by “resource” which is kin to USER BASED pricing. If you added 25 more tables or 5 summer interns, etc. you pay more per month. That just feels mercenary to me.

That is why eSPACE Event Scheduler and Work Order Management has UNLIMITED users. Our pricing is based on elements such as the number of schedule-able spaces, number of fixed assets and the number of locations (think multi-site). I really wrestle why we should charge more for users. We WANT churches to have as much buy-in and utilization as they desire. We have found that organizations that have dozens or even hundreds of users are operating much more effectively and efficient by having more people with access to the software.

In the Work Order realm, there are some really good software options. I have been impressed by Akita Box, UpKeep and FMX. Dude Solutions also has some interesting features, but most of those solutions implement a USER BASED subscription price. Also, eSPACE is the ONLY facility management software that:

  1. Church centric…over 95% of our subscribers are churches
  2. Developed by church facility specialists for facility professionals…not just a cool tool for a market segment that needs serving
  3. Provides a free Life Cycle Calculator whether you subscribe to the paid subscriptions or not
  4. Offers integration with your HVAC, Door Access and Digital Signage
  5. Integrates with approximately 15 of the most utilized ChMS tools (Church Management Software)
  6. Offers a FREE online community focused on all things Church Facility Management.
  7. Offers onsite Facility Condition Assessments and deferred maintenance identification

OK…I am clearly biased.  But I am 100% convinced that the eSPACE solution is the BEST for any and every church!

Let us know if you want to explore how eSPACE and Cool Solutions Group can assist your organization to be efficient, effective and intentional with the facilities entrusted to you to steward.

*Click the image below to learn more!


What Can COOL Do For You?

At Cool Solutions Group, we made a decision 10 years ago to be “Ministry Centric”. To drill that down further, we are ministry facility and logistic focused. That is our passion. That is our skill-set. That is where we thrive from nearly 60 years of collective church facility experience.

So what does it mean to be “centric” and best-in-class in our market? This is how we would describe it:

  1. We provide top level Facility Condition Assessments to assist churches in understanding their current condition, deferred maintenance issues, as well as plan for future capital expenditures related to the Life Cycle of their facility.
  2. We provide the best coaching, training and resources related to intentional church facility management on a broad scale.
  3. We are “subject matter experts” on things related to church facility management and operations.
  4. We bring near 50 combined years of high quality facility planning, design coordination, and project management to churches considering a building or expansion initiative.
  5. Our Facility Management software (eSPACE) is the best (and ONLY) suite of church facility and operations management services available on the market with specializations in:
    • Event Management (Stay tuned for a NEW set of deeper Event and Worship Planning)
    • Work Order Management and Preventive Maintenance
    • Asset Management
    • Life Cycle Planning
  6. As part of eSPACE, we offer the ONLY platform that allows a church to integrate their facility scheduling software (like the eSPACE Event Scheduler) with their major facility systems from a single platform, such as:
    • HVAC Integration with Building Automation and WiFi Thermostats
    • Electronic Door Access Controls
    • Digital Signage, Wayfinding, and Room Door Signage
    • With future additions for security cameras, lighting, technology, and even irrigation sprinklers (WOW!)

In his book “Subscribed”, Tien Tzuo states the following relating this how more companies are becoming focused on what they do best.  He says:

…more and more companies are taking advantage of… SaaS providers that are maniacally focused on performing one core function really, really well.”

BOOM…that describes eSPACE and all of our offerings.

…and we are BEST IN CLASS!


The Church Construction Orchestra Conductor

I have been asked many times what it is that “I do.” Great question. I wear multiple hats and perform many functions in our company. My first job is as a servant to our team and to the churches we serve. My second role is to lead the company and strive to grow and stay relevant.

I am sure you would say that those 2 are the cost of admission to the game of leadership. And you are correct. But God has also given me a very unique set of skills and abilities. I have spent nearly 33 years assisting local churches plan, build and maintain the facilities God has entrusted them to steward. This is what we call Facility Stewardship. This concept is best found HERE. That blog also describes the 4 components of intentional Facility Stewardship.

I am passionate about all the stages of the Facility Stewardship continuum. They are all critical. But if you were to ask me where my strongest skill set and expertise shines through, I would say as a church development/construction project’s Owner’s Rep. For some of you, that may be a foreign concept. IT is actually fairly simple though, it is the role of the “Orchestra Conductor” for a church’s facility master planning and implementation of the master plan. Sometimes this is for a new facility. Other times it is a renovation or re-development of a campus.

Let me explain why I refer to this as the Orchestra Conductor.

Many of you know that I was a music major in college. As part of my education process, I had to take classes called “Methods” (Brass Methods, String Methods, Woodwind Methods, etc.) which were intense classes to learn to play all of the instruments in an orchestra. I really enjoyed all of these experiences, but I assure you that you do NOT want to hear me play a clarinet or Violin. I passed the class with a good grade…but the skill set of an accomplished woodwind player was far from achieved.

One of my other favorite classes was Conducting. I loved these classes and thrived at leading bands and orchestras. I was not proficient with “how to play” each instrument, but I knew what they should sound like…and not. I knew when the Oboe needed to start playing and when to hush the cymbal percussionist. I knew when we were all playing in the same beat and rhythm…and when we were not.

I also developed a knack for reading the musicians and could pick up on little nuances that would provide me a clue to some other issue. It was not uncommon for me to see a musician looking bored while they waited for their time to play. Many times these were the “prima donna” members of the ensemble that felt above the need for rehearsal (which is never really the truth). I would take the right moment, in private, to address these concerns to make sure the orchestra as a whole would not be infected by such attitudes or lack of performance.

That is how Cool Solutions Group envisions our role on church projects. We are the orchestra leader. We don’t do architecture. We are not the general contractor. We do not offer financing or capital campaigns. We do not provide audio/vision/lighting design and integration.

HOWEVER…we do know how to assemble the right “orchestra” at the right time so each performs their role in a professional manner…just like my Oboist. They are GREAT at playing the Oboe. They are best in class for this orchestra. But they are not a great tuba player.

If your church is considering an expansion, renovation or other facility related project, give us a call.  We can explore if we are the right Orchestra Conductor for your project. For additional insights on this, please click HERE.


FREE Facility Stewardship Tools for your Church


.FREE = without cost or payment

Pretty simple. Who doesn’t like FREE (assuming it is beneficial, of course).

To that end Cool Solutions Group and eSPACE have have developed a number of FREE tools to assist your church in being the best Facility Steward possible. Let me describe them further:

  1. Life Cycle Calculator – Nearly every component of your facilities will have to be replaced or significantly modified at some point during its effective life cycle. This is inevitable…these issues are not an “IF” question, but rather “WHEN” and “HOW MUCH.” Do you have an action plan to address the inevitable? INTENTIONAL organizations plan today for tomorrow’s costs. That’s why it’s critical you establish a capital reserve account now. This completely FREE tool will help set you on the right path to being the best steward of the facilities entrusted to you.
  2. Facility Evaluator – Do you know the “health” of your Facility? How often do you get a physical? Once a year? Every couple years?

    When was the last time your church facility had a “physical” or checkup? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Never?

    Are you…

    • Spending too much on utilities?
    • Investing enough to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration?
    • Properly staffing for your facility needs?

    If you can not answer these definitively, then you need more information. To that end, we have developed this FREE Church Facility Evaluator. This simple tool will provide you with a snapshot of some key indicators associated with facility operational costs.

  3. Church Facility Management Solutions – Partners in Facility Stewardship. The ONLY Free Online Community focused on Church Facility Management Solutions. Your FREE CFMS membership provides you:
    1. Weekly Information sent directly to you to help you be proactive and intentional with the care of your facility.
    2. Online Community so that you can get input and feedback from hundreds of other church and facility leaders.
    3. Monthly Webinars by industry professionals to provide relevant information and resources for your church facility management.
    4. Free Resources will be developed and made available to members including worksheets, forms, policy docs, job descriptions, etc.
    5. Availability to Consulting and Training Services.
  4. Resources, Resources, Resources – We have developed a wonderful library of free eBooks, case studies, and the like. If you have not done so lately, please take advantage of these resources.

There is not excuse for not being informed or to “go it alone”.


Facility Stewardship Can Save You Money!

.
Who doesn’t like to save money? I love it when I am able to save money by either making some changes in my behavior or implementing a new strategy. What I have also seen is that it is not just about the quantifiable savings, but the additional abstract benefits.

For example…let’s say I buy a Toyota Prius to save money on gas. I am pretty convinced that I will in fact reduce my budget allocated for gasoline. That is GREAT…but it is not all. An abstract benefit is that I do not have to stop at a gas station as frequently which provides me with additional time to do other things. And knowing that “time is money” the abstract benefits can actually manifest themselves into real dollars. So in this example, I have 3 benefits…maybe more:

  1. Save money on fuel
  2. Save time to reinvest in other activities
  3. Which can either save me money or allow me to take that time/money and invest in an activity that could produce income, or reduce the need for someone else to perform the tasks.

Let’s take that concept to Facility Stewardship…and particularly the operation, maintenance, and management of the facilities that have been entrusted to us.

Our FACILITeSPACE module which includes the following is a great way to get started.

  • COOLSPACE – HVAC integration with Building Automation and WiFi thermostats
  • SECURESPACE – Door access controls
  • INFOSPACE – Comprehensive system to integrate with your digital and room signage
  • TECHSPACE – Coming Soon! – Will provide integration and alerts with early detection sensors
  • BRIGHTSPACE – Coming Soon! – Integration to lighting throughout your facility…more on this later.

Since we released these options we have heard lots of testimonials from churches that have shared how they saved money on energy…but the abstract was that they saw a large increase in operational efficiency. Here are a couple comments from our clients:

Our church has been a client of eSPACE Event Scheduling and FACILITeSPACE for years. Using this cloud based software has allowed us to save around 25% on utilities and use those funds toward ministry and missions of the church to help grow the Kingdom. Very easy to use product and great customer service!  –Jeff McClanahan – CPA, Living Hope Baptist Church

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We have been using eSPACE with FACILITeSPACE for three years, and our church saw a 30% reduction in utility expense immediately after installation. The interface is easy to manage, easy to teach to our staff, and we can make adjustments from anywhere. FACILITeSPACE has now paid for itself several times over in return on investment as we’ve saved on electric bills and maintenance. No more lock-boxes on thermostats, and no more forgetting to “turn the air up on the way out” after a service or event. –Hank Garner, First Baptist Church

Let’s put this into context. These churches, and dozens more, started using FACILITeSPACE with the desire to save energy costs….which they did. The issue of “behavior” was the root issue with their efficiency, or lack thereof. They would turn units on when the spaces were not occupied. Not smart. But these churches and many others also are seeing the more abstract causality at play:

  1. Reduced run time of the units which can lengthen the life expectancy of their HVAC units. Units last longer if they run less (but they still need preventive maintenance). This means that a church may be able to get another 1, 2, 3 years out of their units which in turn allows them to modify the needs for capital reserves…which can not only save money, but if you have a true capital reserve account that is earning interest, you can actually “make money” by not spending it.
  2. Reduce if not completely mitigate the manual operations of adjusting thermostats and building automation systems for your events and space utilization. This can free up the staff to perform other duties (i.e. my car example).
  3. We have empirical data tied to the issues of deferred maintenance and the number of full time general maintenance workers you have. In every case of the Facility Condition Assessment that we perform, when a church has deferred maintenance (which is nearly 100% of the time) we see an under funding of the general maintenance line items in their budgets and a understaffing of facility teams. That is why they called it DEFERRED Maintenance. We should have done things that we put off…we deferred maintenance that should have been performed. Let’s look at how this can manifest itself.

Imagine having an extra 5-10 hours a week of general maintenance time for each of your maintenance team. If they are not having to turn thermostats on and off…and don’t have to run around locking and unlocking doors…how many hours could you recapture? We recently had a conversation with a church that indicated that their facility manager spent 20-25% of his time in a week double entering events in his building automation system. The event Coordinator would schedule events, meetings, etc. Then, print out the schedule and provide to the facility manager who in turn would RE-ENTER all of the same data into their BAS. That is pour utilization of a skilled person.

The other thing we have learned, or known for a long time but now have data, is that churches are not going to staff up their general maintenance team to a level of best proactive…which is 1 Full Time Employee for every 35,000 Square Feet. I get that…but what if we could assist your current staff to be more efficient? What if they could recapture even just 10% of their time…so say 4 hours per week…208 hours a year? Do you think there are tasks, preventive maintenance, general maintenance, inspections, vendor management, etc. that you could back-fill their time? I will guarantee it!

If your church is looking for a way to decrease deferred maintenance, save energy costs and increase operational efficiency, you need to strongly consider the impact of integrations and automation.


The Value of a Guest

.
Several weeks ago I was attending worship at Elevation Church, Matthews Campus. Pastor Larry Brey, campus pastor, was talking about our volunteers and the preparation they go through to get ready for the arrival of guests that weekend.

LB (as he is affectionately referred to) said something that totally rocked me.  Here is his quote:

“The value of a guest is based on the level of preparation of their arrival.”

I have written before on the topic of “guests” vs visitors.  I have a strong opinion that words mean things and we should use the word GUEST when referring to first time attendees.  Here are the definitions I have used previously:

“Visitor” – is typically somebody who comes and goes without much preparation on our part or much thought afterward.

“Guest” – is typically a person who is cared for and has been intentionally prepared to attend. Most of the time, a guest is somebody who is a participant…a person looking for a specific experience.

For me it is pretty clear that if you are a church, you really are looking to have guests and not just visitors. We want people to feel a part…to feel welcomed…to feel as if we were expecting them to come and that we cared enough to prepare for them…and to follow up with them after.

To our guests…especially those that may not be believers or be far from God…these intentional shifts can make the world of difference. For the most part, we can make this adjustment to our “language” with little or no cost. Imagine that…a transformational change for little or no cost?!?!

But it is more than just our language…it is our preparation.  What are we doing to receive, welcome and make feel a part. Many churches have a “Guest Services Team” which is great…but unless you have a sense of what a guest is expecting or how to prepare for them, we will default to just winging it.  That is not intentional!

So here are some things that I see at churches that take guest service seriously:

  1. Appealing, current and relevant website.  It is the new “Front Porch”.
  2. Grounds and facilities are clean, fresh and maintained.
  3. Parking lot ministry…this is so critical and SOOO easy.
  4. Guest Parking.
  5. Greeters…and not just at the main entrance…but throughout the facility and even in the parking lot and gathering spaces.
  6. The greeters need to have smiles, name badges and even similar color shirts…and they MUST BE FRIENDLY, but not too pushy.
  7. They pray for the guests BEFORE they arrive.
  8. Have an information area…NOT A WELCOME DESK (Note:  Coffee is an option, I see plenty of thriving ministries without it).
  9. Stable WiFi. (A church without WiFi for its guests, sends a strong signal, a negative one!)
  10. Clear and intentional wayfinding.
  11. Clean and supplied restrooms.
  12. Proper climate control.

What else would make your guest feel at home?

*Image Credit: North Point Community Church



 

Are you Lying to Yourself?

.
The surprising thing isn’t that we’re irrational about how we spend our time and money. It’s how much effort we put into lying about it. That may sound like a strong term, but if your kids told you a story that was untrue, would you call it lying?  So, if we tell ourself an untruth, are we not lying to ourselves?  Makes sense to me.

One of the best examples of this premise is when I was attending a Mega Metro XP conference with 25-30 of the largest Southern Baptist Church XP’s in attendance. The members of this group have the following criteria in order to join:

  • Serve in a Southern Baptist Church
  • Be full-time
  • Serve in the role of Executive Pastor* with primary oversight of staff, ministry, and budget
  • Report directly to the Senior Pastor
  • Church attendance averages 3,000+ in worship
  • Have $5 million+ in charitable giving

The discussion was on a roll discussing budgets, utilization of funds, allocation of funds to and the like.  The conversation quickly moved to pet projects, “game playing” by staff to get more allocation and the like. One of the XP’s told the group that they were trying to get a better grasp on the REAL use of funds, and not just what the the General Ledger line item said it was.

This led to them addressing a $100,000 + line item for the “Singing Christmas Tree.” This event was listed in their budget as OUTREACH.  The astute XP asked his team a couple very piercing questions:

  1. How many people have come to a faith decision that attended a Singing Christmas Tree?
  2. How many people attend the event that are not already attending the church?

Surprisingly (or not), the answer to both were “little to none.” Ouch…that will make you think long and hard.

The XP went on to say that he challenged his people to call it what it is.  Given the questions and responses, this event was NOT really an outreach event.  It was entertainment for the members. With that said, that does not immediately disqualify it from the budget, but let’s call it what it is…“We like choral Christmas music and we are willing to fund it.”  That is a little long for a typical journal entry, but the point is well taken.

To call such an event Outreach was lying to themselves. It was not Outreach. But calling it Outreach makes you feel good about the budget, allocation of resources, or obtaining notoriety for having a larger Outreach budget than the church down the way.

As you look at your budget, are things properly labeled and allocated?  It may shock you. We need to face the truth and stop lying to ourselves.


Polo vs. Gildan – The Tale of 2 “Boxers”


That’s right…we are going to talk underwear.  But more than comparing underwear, we are going to explore how this relates to our church facility.  Stick with me.

In my underwear drawer at home, I have a selection of boxers (I am one of those guys).  About 50% are Ralph Lauren Polo…and the others are predominantly Gildan. The other day I was struck by a recurring thought about how I (we) spend the money God has entrusted to us and the ramifications.  I know…underwear?!?!?!? Hang in there.

As I stared at the under garments in my drawer, I had the following thoughts related to their similarities:

  1. All of them do “the job” of covering my body
  2. All perform basically the same “task”
  3. Most fit me about the same…with some variations with the Gildan
  4. They all have elastic waist bands
  5. They all are about the same length

Then I started thinking about the differences:

  1. I paid nearly double for the Polo products…not quite double
  2. The polo have a more comfortable waistband…but I can live with the other
  3. The quality of the fabric of the polo is of a higher grade

But here is the kicker…I had some Polo garments that were 4-5 years old, while the Gildan were showing need for replacement in about half that time. Then the correlation to our facilities came rushing in.

CHEAPER IS NO BARGAIN

In fact…it appears that I will spend the same amount of money over the 4-5 year period.  And if I had invested in the Polo, I would have also been able to enjoy the other benefits shared above.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?


Honeywell Now Integrates With eSPACE


FINALLY…we have developed integration with one of the largest providers of HVAC controls – Honeywell.

For as long as I can remember, Honeywell has been the leader in Building Controls. Whether in the commercial or residential arenas, they have been the leader…and the 800 pound gorilla. With that “notoriety” also comes a certain level of inflexibility, bureaucracy, “king of the hill” mind set and a stigma that they do not “play well with others”.

While all of that may be true, Honeywell has started to provide 3rd party integration and API access to a limited number of their devices. This has opened the door for many companies to develop means by which to allow the end user (i.e. YOU) to integrate their controls with other systems…such as eSPACE Event Scheduler (and the 13+ ChMS systems that eSPACE integrates with).

Our team has now developed, tested and released integration with the following Honeywell controls:

LYRIC PLATFORM

  1. T1 Pro
  2. T4 Pro
  3. T6 Pro (Z Wave, Hydronic, Smart)

NOTE:  Honeywell does not have a means by which we can communicate with their API for their “Total Comfort” systems….which is most of their residential stats.

For more information on the above integration or potential other integrations, contact our team and see how eSPACE integrations can increase energy and operational efficiency!



Facility Stewardship Realities Exposed by Data

I realize that many of you know what I mean by a plumb bob. While there are new lasers and other devices available today to assist builders in getting things plumb, there is something fun about knowing how to use a more traditional device. No matter what tools I purchased to add to my toolbox, I still always kept one handy. Gravity never seemed to run out of batteries or need recalibrating. And no matter how bright it was, I could always see where the mark should be.

The same is somewhat true for evaluating how well our facilities and our programs are performing. There are lots of new and exciting programs that are being developed to help us quantify and track things. However, no matter how advanced those things get, it always starts with the same thing…data.

Creating a measurable standard means we must establish what the standard is. For walls, we like to know if they are perfectly plumb (vertical) and level (horizontal). We use the constant of gravity to figure that out. For facilities, we need to see what things cost and how we address things that happen in most facilities. For houses of worship, we also must recognize that our operational tempo can be somewhat unique. Many times, our facilities are used multiple times a week for several diverse types of activities. Taking the standard for a facility that is open two days a week and trying to apply it to a seven day a week operation does not work well, the opposite is true as well.

Why am I talking about this? Well, you may be aware that we are undertaking a church facility specific benchmarking study. For the study to be as accurate as possible we are trying to receive responses from as many houses of worship as we can, across the country. We currently use information from several types of commercial properties, and that does provide a great initial basis. We want to drill down even further and see how all our houses of worship are performing to create an even more impactful benchmark based on facilities that operate in similar manners with similar missions.

We still would like your help. There are over 350,000 houses of worship across the United States. While getting a response from everyone would be difficult, getting several hundred to 1000 responses is attainable. If you would like to participate and help us (if you haven’t already) please click on this link and take the survey. Be prepared to spend about 30 minutes and there are several questions that require knowledge of budget figures. The survey is anonymous, and we do allow for you to provide your contact information at the end if you want to receive an advance copy of the results.

Please consider helping us and sharing this with other churches you may know. The more informed we are, the better we can be the best stewards of what He has entrusted to us. Thank you for your consideration.