Brushfire, a provider of online ticketing and registration for churches and ministries, was built out of necessity due to a glaring problem that has existed for decades: Many of the commonplace technological solutions on the market are made for companies in the secular world, requiring churches to adapt and “fit”. The founder of Brushfire, Stan Coker, realized a need to build something for the intricate and nuanced events that churches and ministries manage on a daily basis.
Fast forward 15 years and Brushfire has become synonymous with church event registration. Brushfire is known globally for handling the largest-of-scale events for Hillsong, Gateway, Prestonwood, Joyce Meyer Ministries, and similar organizations. It serves thousands of local and start-up ministries for their small events and gatherings as well.
To get to know more about Brushfire we sat down with Stan to ask him a few questions about the company, the culture, and the future.
How did Brushfire begin?
The short version is a variety of experiences and a good deal of setbacks showed me that there was a real and specific need for better event management tools for churches and ministries. So I garnered up the knowledge I had from a few smaller entrepreneurial experiences and leaned heavily on the mentors in my life — and took a shot. Admittedly, there was a great deal of blood, sweat and tears shed, but looking backward I wouldn’t trade much of it. The journey has been amazing and I’m more excited today than ever to come into work. It really is a fun job and I treasure my team and the people we serve.
What was it like starting a business from your own home?
There’s an old joke that says when you run your own business you get to work half days…it just depends on which twelve hours of the day you want to work! Being at home gave me the opportunity to see my family more. It’s given me the flexibility to work hard in between a life of helping raise three girls. I’ve felt like I gave the proper effort to the task of starting up and growing the company and at the same time was able to witness three babies’ first steps, school awards, and other milestones. It also didn’t hurt that it saved us money we didn’t really have in the early days. Bootstrapping a company means saving everywhere you can, and not compromising on things like travel to meet with customers, infrastructure and such was definitely more important.
You continue to keep your team working remotely, is this intentional? Why or why not?
Yes, we figured out that we could attract and keep a really high standard of employee at all levels of our organization if we let them live and work where they wanted. Something we’ve benefited greatly from as a small team and it continues as we grow. Also, my wife and I are so close that it would be a really hard transition to not work from home at this stage in the game. Although I figure if we changed the structure and brought people in, she’d just come to where I am, anyway. She’s up for just about anything! She’s a Brushfire fan girl!
How do you create a team culture when your team works across the country?
Working remotely forces you to understand how each person thinks and reacts to autonomy and taking ownership with what feels like a lot higher stakes. We all want to suggest that as managers we value free-thinking self-starters, but when you’re team is spread out across time zones, you end up living (or dying) by the concept. People that are ok being the “tip of the spear” for big projects inevitably thrive in their work environment. The same is true here. We value everyone’s opinion and can’t really make it work without it. So, our culture hinges on communication. I’ve heard it said that you actually have to over-communicate when you work remotely — I get that for sure. All the (communication) tools are critical in making it work, but what is critical for me..what keeps me from feeling like I’ve lost a handle on things are heartfelt one on one talks with my team as often as possible. They know I’ll get uncomfortable if I’m not getting a sense of their collective and individual pulse.
Tell us about your relationship with Gateway Church, how is this an example of the relationships formed through Brushfire?
The relationship with Gateway has been such a personal blessing that extends to our organization, for sure. The truth is I’ve served at the Southlake campus for going on a dozen years; and it wasn’t until 2011 that the church reached out to Brushfire. The pastor that called me actually didn’t know I was part of the church. Call it lack of confidence or a good as plan as any, I had this theory that we’d ultimately forge a stronger partnership if they found us the way everyone else does. It’s really proven to be the case. We’ve worked out better practices, functionality and scale through spending a substantial amount of time on location for events and meeting with the great team at Gateway. We’re forever grateful and committed to the church for their part of our maturation process.
Over the years, we’ve tried hard to stay true to our roots. Brushfire is a company built on relationships, working hard to ensure the success of each organization we serve. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to say hello.