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?


Plant Your Tree Before You Need the Shade

Just over 20 years ago, Harvey Mackay wrote a book that shaped much of my thinking and approach to investing in people, situations, business planning and so many other aspects of my personal and professional life.  The book is entitled: “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.”

Later in my career I had a business coach that would tell stories about how we intentionally would treat his cab drivers (this was also about 20 years ago…before Uber…but the same applies), the receptionist at the hotel, the flight attendants, etc.   Why was this important?  He said that beyond human decency and respect for other humans (which should always be the basis even if there is no secondary motives) that you never know when you may need their help.  You may need them to provide a level of service that is more likely to exceed your expectations if you have already built a relationship.

In a recent blog, Seth Godin once again provides a thought provoking and yet practical example of this same tenet of human interactions, acceptable behavior and forward thinking.  See what he said here or below:

  • If you wait until you really want an avocado, the market won’t have any ripe ones. You need to buy them in advance.
  • If you eat an avocado that’s not quite ripe, you won’t enjoy it. AND, you won’t have a chance to enjoy it tomorrow, when it would have been perfect if you had only waited.
  • If you live your life based on instant gratification and little planning, you’ll either never have a good avocado or you’ll pay more than you should to someone else who planned ahead.
  • Buy more avocados than you think you need, because the hassles are always greater than the cost, so you might as well invest.
  • And since you have so many, share them when they’re ripe. What goes around comes around.

All of these truths lead to the real insight, the metaphor that’s just waiting to be lived in all ways: If you get ahead of the cycle, waiting until the first one is ripe and then always replenishing before you need one, you can live an entire life eating ripe avocados. On the other hand, if impatience and poor planning gets you behind the cycle, you’ll be just as likely to waste every one you ever eat.

Plant your tree before you need the shade.

What “trees” do you need to plant today? What kind of long term planning is needed to keep you in the “shade” of your planning (i.e. Capital Reserve planning…just saying).

-Tim


Professional vs. Amateur

For the sake simplicity…let’s use the following as definitions of these 2 words:

PROFESSIONAL: A person engaged or qualified in a profession…someone intentional about their craft that is constantly learning and improving.

 AMATEUR: One who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession.

Those are pretty broad…so allow me to add some observances.

As a college student trying to master my craft, trumpet performance, I had a very wise teacher tell me the following:

“Amateurs and professionals both make mistakes. What differentiates them is that a professional does not make the same mistake twice.”

Noted!

Since that time, as I have lead people, organizations, projects and yes, myself, I have seen another stark difference:

Professionals accept responsibility…accept “blame” and rebuke. Learn. Collaborate. Improve.

Amateurs on the other hand make excuses. Shift blame. Avoid responsibility.

It is too common in business, leadership, church, etc. that someone is being “paid” for their profession…which automatically qualifies them to be classified a “professional.” HOWEVER…their actions, deliverables, mindset, etc. is more akin to that of an amateur.

As a final observation, I have found that this differentiation is more  of a mindset in lieu of a compensation or “title” issued (I could go on for days on how titles are meaningless if the role performed is not congruent with the title).

I have seen professionally minded people that were volunteers at church…the difference is not about what you get paid. In fact the more a person is compensated monetarily, there is a likelihood of entitlement and complacency…with is not professional.

As you look at your team, are you filling seats with professionals…or something less?

Be INTENTIONAL. Be PROFESSIONAL.


Is Sunday School Making a Comeback in 2019? Part-2

.
In our post last week we left you hanging with questions about the trends we are seeing in Sunday AM education programs, such as:

  • Does it mean that every modern church that has worship space and only enough education for Preschool and Children up to 5th grade are going to rush out and buy Sunday School Curriculum?
  • Does it mean that all churches need to add 50% more space to accommodate what could be an insurgence of Sunday AM education offerings?

I don’t think so.

But I would suggest that we need to take note and keep watch. In talking to several church leaders on this matter, they believe that the 20-40 year old adults in their congregation are looking for more connected community.  They want to be in community with others, and given their time starved work and family weeks, Sunday is the best time to do that.  We have also seen more “large group” education environments suggesting a bent toward higher quality teaching and/or broader community may be desired.

I was able to get some additional input from Dr. Thom Rainer and Dr. Sam Rainer (As I type this, the 1984 song by the Thompson Twins – Doctor! Doctor!, keep playing in my mind…sorry for the rabbit trail)

What does this all mean? Where is Robert Raikes when you need him (Bet most of you don’t know who that is)? Here is some of what they shared.

THOM: Many churches are re-discovering on-campus open groups, what we once called Sunday school. Two primary factors contribute to this comeback: childcare is easily handled, and the participants can get their group and worship experience in one trip.

The challenge, of course, is space. Can a church really justify group/education space that is used only one day a week? Or how does a newer church afford to build such space?

The conundrum.

SAM: We (West Bradenton Baptist Church) will not allow off-campus groups to occur in which children are present. There are far too many stories of bad things happening to kids in off-campus groups. Child safety has always been, and will continue to be, a major problem in off-campus groups. If given the choice, I’d rather spend the money on poorly-used education space than risk something happening to a child.

The way we’ve handled our excess weekly space is to open our church to the community. We have a day school and many different groups that meet onsite during the week. We added doors in our hallways that get locked to protect the day school kids during the week.

Given the current times in our culture/society related to safety and security, the ability to have planned, organized and SAFE child care for these “group” education meetings is not to be taken lightly.  As a church, we are addressing issues that were unthinkable 10-20 years ago.  Child security and safety is clearly on the top of that list.

Here is what I believe…take it or not:

  1. God created us for community and fellowship, regardless if it is Sunday AM, Saturday AM, Thursday night or any other time and in any location.
  2. Discipleship…however you live that out…is a critical part of spiritual development and formation.
  3. Online church is great…I love it…but it cannot put its arm around me to pray with me.
  4. I can “self-learn” a lot…thank you Google.  But God has gifted some to be teachers and preachers…I need to learn from them as well.
  5. What we call it…Sunday AM education…is irrelevant.  What we DO and how it supports the WHY of your church is what really matters.
  6. Things change…it is inevitable.  So we need to always be considering the means and methods of impacting our community, our congregation, as well as those who are NOT “here yet”. This means that what once was…may be again, but for different reasons.
  7. Start with WHY – is one of my favorite books of all times by Simon Sinek. Really look deep into your systems, processes, means and the like to understand WHY you do them.  Avoid the 7 worlds of a dying church – “We have always done it this way.” The reason for doing somethings ebb and flow…come and go…are relevant, irrelevant and relevant again. I firmly believe that the Gospel NEVER CHANGES! But our means and methods MUST church.  That is a topic for another day.

Going, Going…Gone?: HVAC Replacement 101

.

In less than a second, you get over 83 Million returns. That is what happens when you type in “How do I know when I should change out my HVAC” into a search engine.

You can get some interesting results as you head past the first, second and third pages…but who does that? Results past the third page in a search engine are like the third verse in a hymn…it may be there, but no one ever looks at it.

Regarding your facility, there are some basic things you need to know about your HVAC before you can really make an informed decision regarding replacement.

To begin, what type of systems do you have?

Expected service life will vary based on the size and type of the system you are looking at. A 5-ton unit that you are accustomed to seeing in your home is vastly different (from a mechanical perspective) than a facility that has a cooling tower and chilled water pumped throughout.

Knowing what you have is the first step in being able to determine when you need to change it. It is easiest to identify the components in a life cycle calculator, CMMS, or a spreadsheet.

The next foundational element is to understand how your HVAC systems work and how the components go together.

Having a clear understanding of how the engineers originally designed the system to function is necessary when evaluating effectiveness. The mechanical engineering field is like any other field out there. There will always be certain designs and installations that are somewhat “tried and true” that you will see under specific conditions.

There are also, however, systems that get deployed that are considered cutting edge that do not make the cut long-term. Usually they do not make the cut because they are not the easiest to maintain, which means from a commercial standpoint they are not as profitable.

For churches there is a benefit for staying with more tried and true technology. If you have “cutting-edge” systems or special features that are not maintained correctly, or your service tech does not know all the components that need maintenance, you are not able to effectively evaluate everything.

Consider what subjective data you are going to use as part of the evaluation process.

As you are aware, church members are not slow to provide their opinion on how the system performs. While it is always beneficial to hear folks out and how they feel, it does not mean that it should carry the most weight in your decision. There will always be folks who think it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too loud, etc. Perceived comfort does not always match engineering specifications. A unit can be performing as designed and still not meeting current occupant needs.

Finally, know if there have been any changes to the layouts in the spaces you are evaluating the HVAC.

Many times, churches will open a wall here, close in a space there, make offices out of this large room, etc. Unfortunately, not all changes in room layout are combined with a mechanical engineering review. Your systems were designed to operate with a specific layout. Anytime you change it you can fundamentally change the effectiveness of a unit. It may be operating perfectly, but it is trying to condition a space layout that no longer exists.


In the Long Run…

We have all heard the phrase – “In the Long Run.” Leaders use it regularly to cast vision for what is potentially in the future as well as to muster up encouragement for their team to continue to being intentional with the tasks at hand. Wikipedia defines it as “over or after a long period of time; eventually.” There have been songs written with that title and lyrics.  There have been television shows and movies titles with these words.  It is common…but do we really grasp the implication and requirements to accomplish something “In the Long Run?”

In a recent blog by Seth Godin, he writes:

I hope we can all agree that the long run is made up of a bunch of short runs.
That seems obvious.
The surprising thing is that we live our short runs as if that isn’t true.

That may seem really obvious to you as you read that…but there is some very poignant realities that I fear many of us don’t grasp…especially as it relates to Facility Stewardship.

We have been the evangelists of the concept of Facility Stewardship for nearly 11 years. This is not some quip saying or marketing ploy.  This is reality (See our free eBook). We have written, spoken, and thumped the pulpit on what a church should be saving for capital reserves, and driven home the point what they should be investing in general maintenance, janitorial and utilities.

I understand that much of the things we have been trying to communicate can feel unattainable and overwhelming.  That is true….if you only look at the end of the journey.  But to accomplish any of the principles we promote…and deeply believe in, you have to start somewhere…with “small runs.”  Here are some examples of short runs:

  1. You may not have adequate Capital Reserves for the inevitable costs of capital replacement.  You are not alone.  While we recommend $1-3/square foot annually set-aside funds, you may need to start with $.25…then increase over time.
  2. Use our free Life Cycle Calculator to start to track the items in your facility that are at the greatest risk of failure or replacement.
  3. Your church may not have adequate staffing for facility operations.  We get it…but how can you assist your team to be more efficient by automating tasks that can be automated to free up your team to do what only they can do?
  4. You might need to solicit more volunteers to help until the church can sustain more staff.
  5. Adjusting your HVAC set points by 1-2 degrees can start to save energy/money.
  6. Add some occupancy sensors in rooms (i.e. restrooms) that are notorious for having lights and fans left on for days on end.
  7. Be intentional to do a complete facility walk-thru each month looking for initial signs of issues/failures, and address them before they get worse.

We could go on all day…but you get the point.  These “short run” tasks will compound over time…to the LONG RUN! And let’s be honest, as the Church…are we not in this for the long run?

To discover what COOL can do for you visit www.CoolSolutionsGroup.com


Don’t throw good money after…

.

The above title was going to be “Don’t Throw Good Money after Bad” but I am not sure money given to a church for ministry can ever be considered “bad” money.

We have all heard that adage.  Most of us have probably used it when discussing financial prudence and not wanting to waste money. So let me explain how this applies to Facility Stewardship.

As we have written about several times recently, we strongly suggest that churches have a Facility Condition Assessment performed to understand the current condition of their facility, the presence of any deferred maintenance and to develop a plan for long term budgeting and capital reserve. We feel free strongly about this.

There are times that the above is not just good information that could improve your stewardships, but let me explain a time when it is imperative…non- negotiable…must-have…don’t pass Go and collect $200.  When is that time? Glad you asked.

Most of the churches that retain us to perform Facility Condition Assessments (FCA) are generally those with aging facilities. I am not sure we have yet done an assessment with a facility that was less than 25 years old….and most are 50+ years old. These are the most obvious facilities that need an FCA. But there is a growing trend and movement of churches revitalizing aging facilities.  In many cases it is a church that is on a path of ministry, community and vision revitalization and realize that their current facility is not congruent with their revitalization plans.  Others are facilities that have been “adopted” by another congregation as a merger…re-plant…multi-site initiative.

In both cases, it is prudent to understand the condition of these soon to be revitalized facilities. But the often overlooked consideration is the potential renovation/renewal of the facility.  In these cases, it is very important to do a combination of a FCA and “master plan” of the facility.  By doing them together you can avoid potential “double spending” during the process.  If the FAC identifies that the floor covering in an area of the building is past its Remaining Useful life…and that area is also going to have significant renovations, then it would not be prudent to change the carpet now….to only replace it again in 6-12 months.

Another example would be where there are HVAC systems that are inefficient and nearing their end of life, and that section of the building is going to have major systems overhaul.  In that case…keep using chewing gum and duct tape to keep the systems operational until the renovation is ready to go.

In many cases, where we have been involved in such dual assessments, we have saved the church hundreds of thousands of “deferred maintenance” dollars by delaying them slightly longer until the renovation was initiated.

This is not being slack…this is prudent. It is INTENTIONAL.


To Build, Buy, Lease or Rent…that IS the question

.

To be or not to be…is no longer the question. For many churches, the burning question is what to do with facilities and do we even need to own a facility. This used to be a question that only church planters were asking.  When you are first starting out, the common question is how do we “house” our church?

Do we rent a school?

Do we rent a theater?

Do we find a store front?

What about using another church on an off night?

Given a number of factors, these conversations are no longer limited to church planters but are being asked in a whole host of church setting including established churches looking to get out from under a deteriorating facility that they cannot afford to churches needing to re-invent themselves. I have been involved in the planning, development and maintaining of church facilities and until recently, this topic was almost never discussed by churches that were more than 1-2 years old.

You may be saying…”Duh, Tim…we knew that.” Or this may be foreign territory for you…so let’s take a little time to explore as well as provide a very practical tool for your own evaluation.

To get started, let’s look at some trends and realities:

  1. For most churches, the cost of owning a facility is the second or third largest expenditure in their budget…usually second to personnel but ahead of dollars actually spent on ministry.
  2. In most regions of the country, as of the writing of this post, they are seeing significant increases in construction costs.
  3. In many cities and towns, there are still a large amount of empty buildings that were vacated as part of the aftermath of the Great Recession.
  4. The life cycle cost of owning a building during a typical 40 year period of time will be about 80% of the total cost of ownership…it takes a great deal to own a building.
  5. In addition, if you own a building, then you…your church…has been tasked to be a steward of the facility entrusted to you by God.  That is no small responsibility.  In fact, in order to keep up with the natural rate of physical deterioration and be prepared for the inevitable life cycle costs, you need to set aside $1-3.00/Square Foot EVERY YEAR.  Do if you have a 50,000 SF, you need to set aside $50 – $150,000 annually.
  6. Things change…if you do not believe this, please stop reading here. Here are some examples:
    • Your church goes through a period of expansive growth or decline…how does your facility flex with those trends?
    • Culture around us changes…do our facilities also morph?
    • Demographics change…not just race and language, but also age and needs associated with those changes.
    • Ministry means and methods change.  Are any of you doing “church”exactly like you did 20 years ago? I am a firm believe that the Gospel NEVER changes…but our means and methods must change.  How many of your churches use Gregorian Chant?  That was mainstream at one time.  Winston Churchill said “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” If you have a building that is more than 20 years old (maybe even less), that space may actually be telling you how to do ministry.
  7. There is an alarming number of aging church facilities across the country that have declining congregations and deteriorating facilities. Church mergers are on an increase…which I think is really smart.  But what about the old buildings? Is an old building right for your congregation? Consider THIS first.
  8. Church building are hard to sell. As a rule, if your church is not in a commercial setting or prime for re-development, it will likely take 2-3 years to sell and you are most likely going to only net about 50 cents on the dollar of the appraised value.

How do we address these issues?  How do we set up our congregation for long term impact and engagement?

I am not going to advocate one option over another…but what I do want us to do is to consider the options.  The first and only option should not be to buy land and build a building.  The other deeply ingrained paradigm has been that once you own a building, that is it…that is where your church meets.

End of story.

Again, I am not saying that is wrong…but we need to stretch our thinking. Ask WHAT IF…?

We have developed a tool to assist churches vet out some of these options.  This is not the end-all and 100% inclusive evaluation tool, but it is a tremendous resource to do some initial side-by-side comparison of the options.

If you click HERE you can download this tool.  Now, let me walk you through how to best utilizing the tool and some of the methods to our madness:

First, we make the premise that there are 4 basic options (with a multitude of subsets):

  • Rent a school
  • Lease a commercial/retail building
  • Buy a building
  • Build a building

We then break costs down into 3 sections:

  • Operational Costs
  • Sticks and Bricks
  • FFE/AVL (Furniture, fixtures, equipment and audio, video, lighting)
  • Lease Agreement Considerations

There are some formulas built in to the spreadsheet such as:

  1. Cost of TI (Tenant Improvement) for the purchase of a building – we used $100/SF
  2. Cost of new construction – we used $200/SF
  3. Operational costs
  4. Capital reserve costs

Everything else needs to be added based on information gathered in your local context.

Again, this is not the only evaluation tool you should use.  The old adage in real estate is “Location, Location, Location.” That also needs to be factored into your comparison matrix.  Is the location in the right part of the community?  Will there be visibility and signage opportunities?  Is it properly zoned? Is there ample parking, etc.

To round out this, you also need to give serious attention to any leased (not rented…there is difference…renting is usually short term and leasing is long term) facilities or purchased facilities. you need to consider:

  1. If purchasing, is there deferred maintenance you are also inheriting? Learn more HERE.
  2. If you plan on more than 300 seats in worship, does the facility have a fire sprinkler system?
  3. Is the power adequate to support your AVL systems?
  4. How old is the HVAC system and is it adequate to cool an assembly occupancy?
  5. What is the condition of the roof?
  6. Are there enough restrooms?

OK…that probably has your head spinning….which is good.  You MUST consider all of the above before you make a serious financial decision.  Do not take this lightly.  Do your due diligence. Consider all the options.  Seek wise counsel.  Pray continuously.

ONWARD!


Cool Solutions Group helps churches with the planning, development, and management of their facilities!

Maintenance Planning – PART 1

By now, you have probably abandoned many of the resolutions that you made on the first of the year. Why do we do that? The resolutions themselves are generally good ones and worthy to consider. The biggest reason that we abandon them is deceptively simple – we fail to plan accordingly.

The same is true for how we want to improve our facility. We probably have great ideas and thoughts on how to make improvements. Yet, come February or March, we are no longer making progress towards change, and we are back to “putting out fires.” Planning is the key to making lasting, positive change in your facility. The nature of church operations, however, means that we sometimes must plan a bit differently.

When beginning the process towards maintenance planning, it is helpful to consider that maintenance can be separated into the following categories: Immediate (must do), Intermediate (between now and future), and Future (greater than 6 months’ time). Looking at these categories when planning your maintenance for the year can help you be more successful as a facility steward.

Let’s look at the first category: Immediate. While this seems straight forward, there is a nuance to it. Immediate maintenance issues are those ones that need to be taken care of no matter what. This can be due to safety concerns, local, state, and federal guidelines, or as a result of use. They could be maintenance tasks required once a year or weekly. The primary consideration for Immediate maintenance planning is that it needs to happen regardless of other events. Immediate maintenance needs are not the “find it and fix it” maintenance tasks.

Examples of Immediate maintenance tasks that you need to plan for are elevator fire recall inspections (and the annual), gas line tests, fire extinguisher inspections (both monthly and annually), kitchen vent hood, and emergency light and sign inspections. This is just a sample of recurring Immediate maintenance tasks that are governed by statute. These are things that every state I have ever worked or consulted in has requirements regarding, and churches are not exempt.

In your maintenance planning, set a calendar (or use a maintenance management system) to identify the days and times these Immediate needs must occur. Treat these as non-negotiable. When you have it on the calendar, do not let another (non-life threatening) event or task supersede. Putting them on the calendar will also help you plan for the Intermediate and Future maintenance planning you will be doing as you will have a better idea of how much time you have in accomplishing other things. This is important; when you consider those recurring maintenance tasks that you need to do, you will realize that you have less time for other tasks and projects.

Next, consider the Intermediate maintenance tasks. Intermediate maintenance tasks are those that we know are a good idea and should be done. These include things like lubing and adjusting door closers, cleaning coils on our HVAC equipment, checking function of floor drains, or any other “manufacturer recommended” maintenance task. We know these are good ideas, but we have some discretion on completion. I may want to check all my door closures every 6 months, but I can usually shift that several months and not adversely affect the facility. Some tasks, such as cleaning coils on HVAC, have a secondary benefit (like energy efficiency) that needs to be considered. Waiting another 45 days to clean a coil will generally not keep the doors closed. Just like we did with Immediate maintenance, we need to put this on the schedule. We can shift them as needed, but we should not remove them. Again, this allows us to truly see what time we have available to devote to all the different maintenance that our facility needs.

That is a lot to chew on for now.  Next week we will explore FUTURE maintenance planning.


Don’t Be The First “Taper”

Most behavior patterns start with a single decision that is then never questioned or challenged.  Because it is not challenged it slowly defines your culture (This is how we do things around here) which then leads to the 7 words of any dying organization – “We have always done it that way.”

The above begs an answer to the question…Who made the first decision? Followed by…Was it INTENTIONAL?

Here is a section of a recent blog by Seth Godin that describes this process in no uncertain terms:

I’m sitting on a black couch in the lobby of a nice theater. The couch is cracked and peeling, with seven strips of black gaffer’s tape holding it together. And you don’t have to be an interior geologist to see that it has developed this patina over time, bit by bit.

The question is: Who was the first person who decided to fix the couch with tape?

The third or fifth person did a natural thing–here’s a ratty couch, let’s keep it the best we can.

But the first taper?

The first taper decided that it was okay for this theater to have a taped couch. The first taper didn’t make the effort to alert the authorities, to insist on getting the couch repaired properly.

The first taper decided, “this is good enough for now.”

This is how we find ourselves on the road to decay.

BOOM…this is an excellent example about how deferred maintenance gets started.  A “first taper” makes a conscious decision to “tape” over the problem or worse, ignore it all together.  Then the pattern of unintentional culture kicks in and deferred maintenance runs rampant. (REMINDER: Deferred Maintenance =The practice of postponing maintenance activities such as repairs on real property in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget monies.)

Don’t be the first “taper.” Set a culture of care, pride of ownership (not your ownership by of the person who actually owns it…God), stewardship and intentionality.

-Tim