Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world. When he is not hosting two daily radio broadcasts (“The Crown Money Minute” and “My MoneyLife”), he is overseeing Crown’s events operations.
Connect Faith asked Bentley to discuss Crown’s strategies for going forward with its operations while making smart business decisions.
Obviously, we are all eager for the country to reopen. However, there is a question of whether people are ready to travel again. How do you balance bringing people back to work with the worry your revenue may not return to past levels anytime soon?
First, Crown is an event planning/hosting organization. We are typically involved in more than 20 events per year. For an event which we expect to host in the fall of 2020, we are surveying our guests and asking if they prefer to attend in person or are interested in a virtual event. Depending on how the percentages split, we may offer an option that is doing both a live and virtual event simultaneously.
Second, we have to be careful not to lose money on our events. To achieve this, we create three budget scenarios: optimistic, pessimistic and realistic. We launch based on our realistic budget, strive to hit the optimistic forecast and are ready to make adjustments to costs if we begin to slip into the pessimistic forecast.
The best approach with your staff, employees and vendors is being honest and transparent. Everyone understands how challenging it is to look into the future right now.
Many organizations, including faith-based groups, rely on their events to sustain them financially. While there is no easy answer, what is the best course of action for these organizations?
Take a calculated risk. If the foundational factors exist to make the event possible, announce a scaled-back version first and ramp up only as attendance shows improvement. For instance, we are having a two-day event in the fall instead of our typical three-day event. This reduces everyone’s costs as well as risks, while still enabling us to host a smaller group if fewer people show up. We also changed our pricing model to move more of the financial risk to our guests, which demands a greater commitment of them to follow through when the event happens in five months.
Is this the new now or the new normal?
In my opinion, the idea that virtual meetings/conferences/events will remain the “new normal” is greatly exaggerated. People are social beings. There is no substitute for the impact that is derived from being together, from hallway chatter to discussions across the table or an impromptu coffee before the event starts. We had to cancel one of our annual international events this year that was scheduled to be hosted in Israel. Nothing compares to being there in person. Our guests continue to remind us how much they lament the loss of being together there.
There is split about how people should act even if their state is open, be it wearing masks, interacting with people, going out to eat, etc. How do organizations reconcile the differences with events?
This is a corporate decision that should not be a problem as long as everyone knows in advance the policy you chose to adopt. Does everyone wear a mask in the common areas? Are people free to wear or not wear a mask? How many people can gather in your restaurants or meeting areas? Do you provide any additional personal protective equipment for those attending corporate functions? Are you taking extra precautions with housekeeping service, guest screening, etc.? Setting expectations will eliminate confusion and put your guests at ease, as well as keep you in compliance with local laws.