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arcturus

The Rise and Fall of Spearia

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Explains why a number of '09 events didn't happen this year like the Turkey Throwdown.

http://bit.ly/fpzVbL

Thanks, this was very interesting. Really sad though. At least Danny Beckett is young enough to recover from this and hopefully learn from it.

Watching the video I kept thinking of Michael Scott in the Office, except this was real and not TV satire.

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Guess I'll take Free Lunch Friday off my calendar.

Been wondering about that motor home thing: taking it to Grand Haven with a frisbee or kite event on the beach? And the "your website sucks" tagline always troubled me.

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The Grand Rapids Press has a feature running today and for the next week called Young Entrepreneurs. Thursday's item will feature Danny Beckett of Speria. I'm not all that into schadenfreude, but I'm wondering how much of the present reality will be included. Hopefully the story will be instructive and capture some good advice on what to and not to do when you launch a start-up.

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I don't really "get" the whole thing of turning a business failure into an expose'. Businesses fail every day, a lot of them, and a lot harder than Spearia did.

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I don't really "get" the whole thing of turning a business failure into an expose'. Businesses fail every day, a lot of them, and a lot harder than Spearia did.

This is a particularly interesting case though. It's mind-boggling how a company could be so mis-managed.

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This is a particularly interesting case though. It's mind-boggling how a company could be so mis-managed.

Having purchased his first computer when he was 18, Beckett is quick to admit that he isn’t really an expert in programming or web design.

- http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/spearia062509.aspx

There's your first clue.

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What's also interesting about some of these start-up web companies is that their websites don't really seem to be all that well designed. On my screen, at least, Spearia's website has a scroll bar on the bottom of the main frame because someone made it a few pixels too wide. I can't imagine it's supposed to be like that. I suppose when you can't sell based on your product quality, you have to sell based on flash and sizzle. :dontknow:

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What's also interesting about some of these start-up web companies is that their websites don't really seem to be all that well designed. On my screen, at least, Spearia's website has a scroll bar on the bottom of the main frame because someone made it a few pixels too wide. I can't imagine it's supposed to be like that. I suppose when you can't sell based on your product quality, you have to sell based on flash and sizzle. :dontknow:

I don't think that's a fair assessment at all. It looks like their website uses a fixed width, so if your window is small of course there will be a scroll bar. As a web developer myself I can tell you their work is actually pretty good. Of course my company is better. :ph34r:

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I don't think that's a fair assessment at all. It looks like their website uses a fixed width, so if your window is small of course there will be a scroll bar. As a web developer myself I can tell you their work is actually pretty good. Of course my company is better. :ph34r:

I'm seeing a horizontal scroll-bar on my 1920x1080 monitor. It's not the whole page that scrolls, but an iframe/div within the page.

Their site may be visually appealing and technologically sound (I like the Flash-less eye candy) but it utterly fails as a business site for one reason: by looking at the front page, how can you tell what kind of company they are? Why would I care who Ed Dobson is (the most prominent text on the page to me) if I'm looking for a web site design company? Building a good web site requires knowledge of more than graphics design and coding.

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This is a particularly interesting case though. It's mind-boggling how a company could be so mis-managed.

How were they mis-managed? Most of the promotional events in the article, other than ComStock, were virtually free to put on. Much of everything was donated (food, etc.). I think even Free Lunch Fridays had a lot of that stuff donated.

I've met more than a few successful long-time business owners who don't have a firm grasp of their core business services.

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Seems clear to me ... poor business practices, be it a lack of focus or keeping/growing their customer base. That requires good management in a highly competitive field. I know a ton of business owners and it always amazes me how they stay in business, usually because they offer a unique product or service.

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How were they mis-managed? Most of the promotional events in the article, other than ComStock, were virtually free to put on. Much of everything was donated (food, etc.). I think even Free Lunch Fridays had a lot of that stuff donated.

I've met more than a few successful long-time business owners who don't have a firm grasp of their core business services.

What, the vehicles and RV with expensive custom paint jobs were free? Their $500,000 building renovation? It really does just sound like they were blowing too much money trying to be a cool place to work. Nothing wrong with that so long as you can afford it.

I have no idea how busy or not they were, or what they charged clients. As I said above, they've done some nice work, and despite their owner's lack of technical experience they seemed pretty competent. But even with a good product you still have to run the business side of things.

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I don't really "get" the whole thing of turning a business failure into an expose'. Businesses fail every day, a lot of them, and a lot harder than Spearia did.

I don't know what you mean by expose'. The student video started out trying to tell a success story and unexpectedly the business turned sour about the time the video was set to wrap up. The part two of the story in the link below explains a little more about how the video came about and what happened:

SPEARIA PART 2

EDIT: might as well post the link to today's mlive article as well;

SPEARIA MLIVE

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I don't know what you mean by expose'. The student video started out trying to tell a success story and unexpectedly the business turned sour about the time the video was set to wrap up. The part two of the story in the link below explains a little more about how the video came about and what happened:

SPERIA - PART 2

EDIT: might as well post the link to today's mlive article as well;

SPERIA MLIVE

Spearia is spelled with an "a," fyi.

I happen to know the owner, and I think the blogger tends to throw around a lot of judgment about business startups and ownership, something that he seems to have little to no understanding of. The Press article is a lot better written.

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Spearia is spelled with an "a," fyi.

Thanks, I've fixed it on the original. It just shows you how little I know about the company (or maybe how bad I am at spelling.)

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Spearia is spelled with an "a," fyi.

I happen to know the owner, and I think the blogger tends to throw around a lot of judgment about business startups and ownership, something that he seems to have little to no understanding of. The Press article is a lot better written.

Thanks for posting to my blog posts about Spearia, I am glad this forum is finding some interest in the story. GRDadof3, I would like to get a better idea of what you mean that I "throw around a lot of judgment" and that I "have little to no understanding of".

I am open to feedback and I just want to better understand your opinions.

The GR Press did a nice job on their article, but lucky for them they actually get paid for their writing.

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What, the vehicles and RV with expensive custom paint jobs were free? Their $500,000 building renovation? It really does just sound like they were blowing too much money trying to be a cool place to work. Nothing wrong with that so long as you can afford it.

I have no idea how busy or not they were, or what they charged clients. As I said above, they've done some nice work, and despite their owner's lack of technical experience they seemed pretty competent. But even with a good product you still have to run the business side of things.

Looking around on the web, it looks like VK Properties owns the building, I'm guessing they paid for the renovation. I'm not surprised that the company didn't make it. The pres who is a motorcycle racer doesn't know anything about web design but he can cheer lead the company to great success? How does he know that he's hired the brightest and best? How does he know they are productive and efficient? As I read the news releases, it struck me as too good to be true, guess it was :shok:

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Thanks for posting to my blog posts about Spearia, I am glad this forum is finding some interest in the story. GRDadof3, I would like to get a better idea of what you mean that I "throw around a lot of judgment" and that I "have little to no understanding of".

I am open to feedback and I just want to better understand your opinions.

The GR Press did a nice job on their article, but lucky for them they actually get paid for their writing.

Well for one, you question the use of resources for a whole list of events downtown. Other than Comstock, I happen to know that most of those events were virtually free, and most of the items were donated. Did you know that?

You also state: "What was the Return On Investment (ROI) with all these activities and did they bring in any new business?" In MLive's article, they note that Spearia's business basically grew tenfold in just a few years, and that they basically couldn't keep up with the volume. I'd say ROI was quite high.

My only point is that you make a lot of judgments about business decisions, anecdotal at best. Did you ask for p&l statements, balance sheets, talk to vendors who were owed money? My question is rhetorical, because it's none of your business.

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I think the concept of a charismatic CEO/"Cheer Leader" that doesn't know much about the 'product' is actually okay, and can be quite successful As long as that leader gets out of the way once rubber needs to meet the road. From the video, it seems that Danny didn't get out of the way.

Of course, this is total speculation on my part. But they did a pretty good job of getting in front of the public (the custom painted ArtPrize RV which sounded like it happened on their downward slide, may have been a bit much :). Sounds like they brought the business in, but execution (or lack of focus) may have been the problem.

Heck, I see a lot of very well managed businesses fail because they don't know how to market. I give him props for that. Sounds like he needs a partner, someone to harness the energy, but keep the focus. :)

Joe

Looking around on the web, it looks like VK Properties owns the building, I'm guessing they paid for the renovation. I'm not surprised that the company didn't make it. The pres who is a motorcycle racer doesn't know anything about web design but he can cheer lead the company to great success? How does he know that he's hired the brightest and best? How does he know they are productive and efficient? As I read the news releases, it struck me as too good to be true, guess it was :shok:

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I think the concept of a charismatic CEO/"Cheer Leader" that doesn't know much about the 'product' is actually okay, and can be quite successful As long as that leader gets out of the way once rubber needs to meet the road. From the video, it seems that Danny didn't get out of the way.

Of course, this is total speculation on my part. But they did a pretty good job of getting in front of the public (the custom painted ArtPrize RV which sounded like it happened on their downward slide, may have been a bit much :). Sounds like they brought the business in, but execution (or lack of focus) may have been the problem.

Heck, I see a lot of very well managed businesses fail because they don't know how to market. I give him props for that. Sounds like he needs a partner, someone to harness the energy, but keep the focus. :)

Joe

I think you're right Joe, he probably does need a good operations manager/partner. I too thought the ArtPrize RV was over-the-top and didn't really make sense from a marketing standpoint. He certainly gets props though for marketing and awareness. I constantly had people asking me if I'd been to Free Lunch Friday, from all over Grand Rapids and in many different industries.

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I think you're right Joe, he probably does need a good operations manager/partner. I too thought the ArtPrize RV was over-the-top and didn't really make sense from a marketing standpoint. He certainly gets props though for marketing and awareness. I constantly had people asking me if I'd been to Free Lunch Friday, from all over Grand Rapids and in many different industries.

Exactly my point, someone who's "the boss" needs to know the business. Someone who's the boss needs to know if the designs are good, and the work is being done productively. Crappy designs and taking your sweet time getting the work done is not a recipe for success. Just getting lots of publicity won't cut it.

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Thanks for the response GRDadof3

I am a blogger, I write for my blog The Ledger. I write about West Michigan business new stories that interest me. Typically, I ask questions, make suggestions, and provide opinions. So no, I am not an expert, nor do I have the press badge or business card that grants me access to business leaders or records that normal press member could obtain. But I do a lot of research (hopefully in reading my posts this is quite evident) and I make do with this information. All in all my blog is just my thoughts and opinions, and I don’t claim it as anything more.

Spearia is a well-known company that was constantly in the news. Danny Beckett in spoke quite openly about money in many of his interviews and articles. Being a privately held company, balance sheets, and PL statements for Spearia were not readily available. So I took all the information I could find on the company (which was plenty), and began writing.

In regards to the possible misallocation of resources on large community events, I did focus on money. It's certainly possible that many of these events were well-sponsored and required little monetary investment from Spearia (as you mentioned and as a former employee mentioned on my blog)...but that doesn't preclude the events from being missteps either, as they must have required considerable planning and coordinating. Employee time and effort are also limited resources that might have been spent in a more productive manner. I think this was a factor in Spearia's downfall, though certainly not the only one. In fact, my post stated "ultimately it looks like a multitude of decision may have lead the company to unravel.”

The Spearia saga inspired no shortage of questions, and I posed many of those in my post, hoping to get answers and further insight on the company and what happened in the last two months. The response on both my site and the board here has been wonderful. I'm very excited that my post has inspired comments and discussion, leading to additional details that can paint a fuller, and clearer picture.

In fact, thanks to my post, I have spoken to some former Spearia employees & vendors that provided a lot of valuable information. I hope to be able to verify some of their accounts before publishing an additional update.

Thanks again for your interest in this story, and I certainly hope that the story of Spearia and Danny Beckett becomes a valuable lesson for any current and future business. Per Danny it looks like he has some other ideas (which he is extremely good at) so it will be interesting to follow him in the upcoming year, and see what he does next.

Well for one, you question the use of resources for a whole list of events downtown. Other than Comstock, I happen to know that most of those events were virtually free, and most of the items were donated. Did you know that?

You also state: "What was the Return On Investment (ROI) with all these activities and did they bring in any new business?" In MLive's article, they note that Spearia's business basically grew tenfold in just a few years, and that they basically couldn't keep up with the volume. I'd say ROI was quite high.

My only point is that you make a lot of judgments about business decisions, anecdotal at best. Did you ask for p&l statements, balance sheets, talk to vendors who were owed money? My question is rhetorical, because it's none of your business.

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Thanks for the response GRDadof3

I am a blogger, I write for my blog The Ledger. I write about West Michigan business new stories that interest me. Typically, I ask questions, make suggestions, and provide opinions. So no, I am not an expert, nor do I have the press badge or business card that grants me access to business leaders or records that normal press member could obtain. But I do a lot of research (hopefully in reading my posts this is quite evident) and I make do with this information. All in all my blog is just my thoughts and opinions, and I don’t claim it as anything more.

Spearia is a well-known company that was constantly in the news. Danny Beckett in spoke quite openly about money in many of his interviews and articles. Being a privately held company, balance sheets, and PL statements for Spearia were not readily available. So I took all the information I could find on the company (which was plenty), and began writing.

In regards to the possible misallocation of resources on large community events, I did focus on money. It's certainly possible that many of these events were well-sponsored and required little monetary investment from Spearia (as you mentioned and as a former employee mentioned on my blog)...but that doesn't preclude the events from being missteps either, as they must have required considerable planning and coordinating. Employee time and effort are also limited resources that might have been spent in a more productive manner. I think this was a factor in Spearia's downfall, though certainly not the only one. In fact, my post stated "ultimately it looks like a multitude of decision may have lead the company to unravel.”

The Spearia saga inspired no shortage of questions, and I posed many of those in my post, hoping to get answers and further insight on the company and what happened in the last two months. The response on both my site and the board here has been wonderful. I'm very excited that my post has inspired comments and discussion, leading to additional details that can paint a fuller, and clearer picture.

In fact, thanks to my post, I have spoken to some former Spearia employees & vendors that provided a lot of valuable information. I hope to be able to verify some of their accounts before publishing an additional update.

Thanks again for your interest in this story, and I certainly hope that the story of Spearia and Danny Beckett becomes a valuable lesson for any current and future business. Per Danny it looks like he has some other ideas (which he is extremely good at) so it will be interesting to follow him in the upcoming year, and see what he does next.

Fair enough. Thanks for checking in here.

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I think you're right Joe, he probably does need a good operations manager/partner. I too thought the ArtPrize RV was over-the-top and didn't really make sense from a marketing standpoint. He certainly gets props though for marketing and awareness. I constantly had people asking me if I'd been to Free Lunch Friday, from all over Grand Rapids and in many different industries.

For the record, he had a great COO and CFO... but unfortunately didn't let them do their jobs. People were put in place to make important and professional decisions, but all too often those decisions were overridden.

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