In this economy, everyone is trying to cut costs and save money, and churches are no exception. With most church budgets relying 100% on church member donations, there is a heightened sense of concern amongst church boards to spend the money wisely. So when churches hear about an AVL company that will design a new Audio, Video, and Lighting system for “FREE!” many of them jump at the chance. But what does a “free” AVL design package really get you anyway?
As in all areas of life, things that are “free” often come with a catch. In the audio-visual world, the catch is that these design-build firms offer their design services for “free”, but they hold the price gun for the gear they’re selling and the rate sheet for their installation services. Once you have a contract with them, it is in their best interest to design the biggest, best, and most expensive system your budget can afford. Since there is some play with the price of the gear, and especially with the price of installing the gear, they can set it where they want it, and no one is the wiser. The profit margins are enough to cover the costs of the design, and everyone is happy, right? But consider the process. After all, is anything really free these days?
We are not trying to slam AVL design-build firms. It’s a totally legitimate business model, and we work with many of these companies on a regular basis (they bid on the AVL systems we design). They offer a service that many churches desire: one stop shopping for everything AVL. However, there can be some potential for conflicts of interest here. For example, it may be in the best interest for the AVL design-build firm to sell the church one of their more expensive sound boards, but it may be in the church’s best interest to go with a more modest sound board, something that is a better fit for their ministry needs. In the world of AVL design-build, the real question needs to be: whose interests are ultimately being represented?
In the world of independent AVL design, however, we don’t sell anything but our professional services. It is our job to work directly with the church to help them determine their AVL needs and budget. From there, we design a fitting system and then bid it out to multiple AVL integrators, who in turn provide the church with competitive quotes.
There are several advantages here to consider. First, and most importantly, the independent consultant’s concern is to do what is in the best interest of the church. The consultant has no sales quotas to meet, so there are no conflicts of interest. Again, objectivity is the key; the independent consultant is in your corner representing you and no one else. That means we will design a system that fits with your ministry’s current and future needs. Next, the independent AVL consultant does not represent any product lines or manufacturers, so they are able to specify equipment from any manufacturer across the board, offering an objective design. Finally, the independent consultant will bid the system out to several AVL integrator companies, who will then produce competitive quotes. This is the point in the process where you will find that you actually save money. By bidding the AVL gear and the install, you will find that the total costs (design fees + gear + install) will be less than if you had taken the “free” ride.
Long term, you need to know that the money was spent wisely. And what is better than knowing that your new AVL system is installed correctly, meets your needs, and fits with your volunteers’ abilities? …knowing that you saved money in the process – money that can be used for your other ministry needs.