Do It Right the First Time

So the project upon you is a big one… the perfect storm! Super tight budget, the event is in two weeks, and of course, no budget! So you and your fellow techs gather to try to figure out how to make $2.50 out of $1.99! You pull an old spool of wire from somewhere in the darkest regions of the church basement… look at it… Is it the right stuff? Nope! “But I guess it could work.” Your buddy Dave has an old set of speakers sitting in his garage from his misspent youth playing in a band. They’re rough around the edges, not even close to what you need, but… “They could work… I guess.” You scrounge eBay and find some super cheap amplifier made in some country where they don’t have labor laws and magically you win the bid at a $59.03! You pat yourself on the back for your bidding savvy over the guy whose max bid was $59.02. So with parts and pieces pulled from who knows where, you hack together a system. It eeeks and burps in the only test time you have since that amp took forever to arrive. You’ve worked all day, all night, and now you are ready for the world to see “Super A/V guy in action doing all of this amazing stuff for next to no money!” Things start out ok, but partway into the first half of the program weird noises start coming from the bass section of those garage speakers. “Hmm, I wonder where Dave got those things, and how long they’ve been in his garage,” you wonder.  And things get worse from there. When the event is finally over you have half a speaker still working, an amp that could double as a frying pan, and you’re flat-out exhausted. Things didn’t go well.

Does this describe your projects?

Recently, I was working on one of my systems… Yes, a system I personally worked on and created. A Franken-system if you will: six years of patching things and doing what we could with never enough time or money to do it right. One would think that if anyone would do it right, it would be the president of an A/V company. Not to mention, someone with 25 years of A/V under his belt, but no. As I was preparing to hand this system over to another tech who would care for its well being, it was time to give the Franken-system a makeover. Every inch of spliced scrap wire came out, concrete was dug up, and proper conduits were put in. And then this new tech, totally green behind the ears, asked me a question: “So why wasn’t this done six years ago?” “Uhmmm, good point…” Ouch.

Yes, I had my reasons—budget constraints, time constraints, too much to do, not on the “fire list,” etc.—but we had now been working on this for several days with numerous trips to the hardware store for more conduit, more parts, more pieces… Yeah, it took time; yes, it cost some money; and yep, it had to be made a priority! But now it will never have to be redone until the useful life of the gear is up or changes are asked for. Things were finally done right.

But we don’t have the time!

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?” I’ve seen many churches where a helpful church member tried to make things work, perhaps with some success; but over time it doesn’t last. Now the time and energy that have been expended for the project have put it ever further behind where it needed to be.

But we don’t have the money!

Let’s be honest, as much as we might wish otherwise, A/V is usually not at the top of the priority list when it comes to the church budget. There are many reasons for this, but one of the major ones is that very often the leadership or those desiring particular results have very little idea of what is involved to obtain those results. Because it’s impossible for someone to know what they don’t know (think about that one for a few minutes) that means you need to take the initiative in opening up the lines of communication. You need to honestly, openly, and most importantly, humbly, explain to them what they are asking for. Here’s a scenario: You’ve asked “X” of us. We’d love to do that for you, but we’re going to need “Y.” We don’t have “Y” so either we need to change the requirements, or find a way to get “Y” so we can do this right the first time.

Work together. Most of the time it’s going to take a compromise. There is no reason for anyone to get heated or upset. You are all on the same team; you’re brothers in Christ. Remember that! Be humble and kind, and think creatively to come up with a solution that will work for everyone involved. We need to communicate. We need to help educate those above us in a loving, kind, and respectful way about what they are asking and the workload that would put on us.

Well, I checked up on the former Franken-system six months later, and the system that formerly had been a constant source of “issues” had experienced exactly zero issues, and its performance had won praise from those who used it.  I was thrilled, but had I dealt with the issues and stopped patching stuff together, we could have had these results years ago.

If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it right the first time.

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