Crespi Deciphers Webs Role

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Not that he ever wished anyone ill, but Chris Crespi — partner in a local Web software development company — says he’s glad a wave of extinctions has washed through the dot com industry.

“It weeded out a lot of people that were trying to do things the wrong way,” he says.

And in his book, the wrong way is to send a computer whiz knowing nothing about business out to do a project for a firm.

Crespi said the last decade’s sudden scurry to develop Web sites caused many companies to want to develop their own Web sites. But most businesses, he said, had only vague ideas about the technology’s capabilities, and had difficulty knowing how to fit such a device into the corporate strategy.

Meanwhile, he said that however brilliant Web geniuses of the ‘90s might have been, most of them spoke a language clients could not comprehend and, worse, often knew little either about the clients’ business operations or, indeed, about business — period.

“So you got this kind of thing, where somebody would come in to do a project and just tell the company not to worry about it. ‘Everything’s fine.’

“Sometimes he’d be a kid only two years out of college. And afterwards he’d go away and the clients would have lots of problems or find they couldn’t do with the site what they’d hoped.”

ROI Technologies works completely differently, he said.

First, the Microsoft-certified company sends a businessman, not a computer wizard, to confer with the client firm.

“First we must understand the business,” Crespi said.

“Then the challenge is working with the client to determine how a Web site would fit with its strategy. We custom develop technology which adds value to the client; we make the technology an asset.”

He’s the business end of the ROI partnership and Bruce Carlson is the Web development specialist.

Carlson and Crespi and the staff at ROI figuratively have been polishing their nails on their lapels this summer. That’s because, in May, the Publishers Marketing Association conferred its 2001 Benjamin Franklin Award for the best-designed and effective home page for Willam B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

ROI created the site, which includes a catalog of the publisher’s books. Its address is www.eerdmans.com

“The other thing we do in dealing with clients,” Crespi said, “is that we speak in laymen’s language. We don’t use acronyms, buzzwords or flavor-of-the-month terms. And we use people who know business,” he added, “people with 10 years-plus of experience.

“And,” he added, “we don’t use the cookie-cutter approach. Every client is different and we custom develop their sites.”

Finally, he said, “We don’t come in to do a project and then leave. We’re interested in long-term relationships and strategic partnerships.”

He stressed that ROI has none of the patronizing attitude that characterized former dot com companies, some of which tended to treat clients as if they were dunces.

“We are in constant contact orally and in writing with our clients,” Crespi said.

He told the Business Journal that during the life of a project, ROI probably spends 30 percent of its time in contact with the client, and 70 percent of the time doing development work based on those communications.

“What we want to do is create a simple product that’s easy to use. And that means a lot of hard work back here at the office,” he chuckled.

In most cases, Crespi is the businessman who meets initially with clients and gets to know their culture.

He’s suited for the work because he formerly worked in business consulting with Arthur Anderson. In fact, it was work with the firm that brought him to Grand Rapids.

“I was part of the team which Arthur Anderson brought to Grand Rapids in 1991 to start up its consulting practice here.”

And, though a native of Flint, Crespi isn’t at all homesick for the east side of the state.

“Grand Rapids is a great place to do business,” he said.

“People’s word is their bond,” he said. “People here are honest and hard-working. You can almost do business on a handshake.

“It’s also a great place to raise a family.”

He and his wife, Karen — whom he met here — have two sons.

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