We have talked a lot about the company, Danny Beckett, and the filmmakers. But what we haven’t focused on too much was Spearia’s employees. Spearia being a web development company (though others may argue that they were event organizers) most of the employees were designers and web developers. At the company’s peak, 25 people were employed. I was able to talk at length with one of these former employees who worked as a web developer. But I also had many former employees comment on my first Spearia post who provided some great insight such as Pat Perry who left these comments:
“When this article speaks of too much focus on big splashy events, and not enough focus on the product, this is the truth. However, most designers and developers (The people who actually built the websites) were very talented and focused workers. While Danny went and promoted his community events, many just rolled their eyes, and kept on working on the website project they had been assigned to. During Free Lunch Fridays, many of us would escape to the private meeting rooms and close the door where we could keep working. Several of the employees at Spearia became annoyed with the “stunts” that their higher ups were pulling, which eventually led some of Spearia’s most talented and important designers and developers to find work elsewhere. One by one, the whole design team that I had worked with quit and found work elsewhere. Many developers left also. Its funny to read the critiques that this article points out, because they are echos of things many people on the team had been stressing for months. More work, more focus, less goofy stuff.
Unfortunately, the members of the Spearia team that were the most focused and passionate about the web, were not the ones in charge. So they left, and not to my surprise, they easily found new jobs designing, developing, and getting excited about the websites in other more productive environments.
Its going great, and I am thankful that Spearia gave me the chance to come watch, and work with some really talented designers. I often see many of the designers and developers that I worked under at Spearia, and it delights me to see their successes in other companies around Grand Rapids.”
I also received comments from Someone From Spearia who provided much more details on the cost of some of the events and also stated the following “What killed spearia was just bad business practices. Not willing to invest in the clients, bad estimates, bad contracts, etc.”
I also received an email from a former employee who said “While I loved what I did there, I’m getting tired of us designers getting the blame for what happened.”
As I mentioned before I was able to interview a former web designer and developer from Spearia and below is a transcript of our conversation:
“All of these events came from the top down. I never quite understood the rationale (if there was one) behind the many events that we put on. I don’t like to think that it was all merely an ego trip, but sometimes I wonder.”
Of course you can always speculate what is going on behind closed doors but actually hearing first hand from former employees is pretty telling. They paint a very interesting picture. I find it fascinating that although a majority of the employees were designers and developers, it seems that not much input was solicited out of them (maybe they did but based on the comments above it doesn’t look that way). Like would a Free Lunch Friday event with a live band affect your work environment or your deliverables. Also admirable is the approach that my interviewee had that he doesn’t blame Danny for everything, because they all had a role in it. All the employees seemed to echo that they enjoyed working for Spearia but just wish somethings were different (which is true for almost any job).
But I do have a request and a question for my readers.
My Request: Please watch these Spearia videos below:
My Question: What is your impression of these videos? What were the employees thinking? I will share mine in the comments.
For more insight into Spearia check out their YouTube and Vimeo channels. Here is another video from Grand Rapids Business Journal , of Beckett giving a tour of building before Spearia moved in. I find it fascinating that Free Lunch Friday idea as already developed.
Lastly, a special thanks for my interviewee (a former Spearia employee), and to all other former employees who commented as well.