BeoWorld - The new owners story!

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Hi - my name is Lee Marriott. I'm 38 years old and i 'took the reins' at BeoWorld a little over two years ago back in 2007. It's been a bumpy ride, but i've enjoyed every minute and wouldn't have been able to do any of it without the support of a brilliant moderating team and the technical brilliance of Keith Saunders (a fellow moderator) and Van Cameron at Firebrand - along with the rest of the team there, who built this new-look site from scratch. What a great job they all did - and i'm proud to be part of it!

People may wonder exactly how I came to be here at BeoWorld, what happened, and how. Well, for those interested.. please read on and I’ll try and give you an overview..

It was around 2003 that I first discovered BeoWorld – quite how, I’m not sure! At the time, I was in the motor trade, pretty happy dealing in Prestige and Performance cars, which I had been doing since the age of 19 (I was 32 at this time) and pretty much not thinking about doing anything else for the rest of my life. I am almost certain stumbling across this site was from an internet search where BeoWorld has always ranked highly due to the sheer volume of B&O related content.

Being a complete B&O addict since the age of 13, I found myself trawling through the pages and pages of articles which twisted and turned and to be honest was enthralling to someone who had time to spare and a keen interest in the products from 1925 onwards. I spent literally months revisiting the site to glean more and more information, and ended up settling on products from 1985 onwards as my “speciality” as they were the ones I had grown up with. (My first purchase was a pair of Form 1 Headphones from Plumbs of Altrincham, which I saved about 3 months for from my Saturday Job wages)

I did visit the forums, which back then had a gentle stream of traffic and a very ‘hard core’ of great members who were always quick to lend a hand, offer advice and welcome anyone that strayed onto the forums! I registered, but hung back from posting for fear of looking stupid and answering a question wrongly. As I read the forums more and more, I began to unravel the terminologies and feel more comfortable when reading the posts from the more technical members. When I say ‘more technical members’ I mean the members that knew how to option products and connect them together! Honestly, I knew nothing apart from some model numbers and where they were in the ‘pecking order’ – but little more. I was a total novice.

After a while of sitting on my hands, I remember making my first post.. It was something to do with changing a clamper on a BeoSound Century I think, which I had done the previous day! Tail up, I posted – and waited to be shamefully corrected, or worse – flamed..

No, nothing apart from a ‘Hey, Thanks!’ from the person that asked the question. Wow!!! I had made a post on a forum, and said something correctly and even helped someone! Oh my word – yahoo!! Now don’t get carried away.. Lee, go sit on your hands again!!

I added bits here and there, gaining confidence – and trawling the reference sections for facts whenever someone mentioned a product. I do tend to get very heavily into things when I start to get interested – and before long I was spending 2-3 hours a night on my trusty laptop learning all about B&O from the official site, Beocentral (I loved their frank and honest reviews, and still do), and of course BeoWorld.

At this time, I was starting to get rid if my Sony, Bose and Pioneer bits and pieces I’d accumulated since the time I’d had to sell most of my B&O collection in the mid 90’s when my first ever garage went out of business (bad times for me). However, things were going well now, I had spare money – and I discovered the pathway to low-cost B&O ownership… the new internet phenomenon - ebay! Around that time, it was becoming well known but had nowhere near the traffic it enjoys today. I have no shame in saying I was hooked, and trawled the world looking for B&O bargains to add to my collection.

So, ebay and BeoWorld – my two passions that complimented each other perfectly.. I bought a 28” Curved Screen Avant from a man in Derbyshire, proudly placed it in my lounge and then looked for some BeoLab 6000’s to sit by the side of it. I found some in London, and then added an Ouverture, then more 6000’s for the rear – I think you know the rest as most of you have experienced it..

After a few months, the Avant went on ebay, which I sold for the same price as the 32” Curved Screen I replaced it with!! Brilliant – a free upgrade for the cost of some petrol and a few hours carefully collecting it. I sold the 6000’s I had at the front, put two or three hundred pounds ‘in the pot’ and got some 8000’s. Anyway, on and on this went – eventually leading right up to me having a BeoVision 5 and some BeoLab 5’s in the space I had the Avant and 6000’s in.. An absolute travesty, but hey – I wanted them – it was my dream. I will never forget posting the image onsite and being very proud.. However, being honest, if I saw that now I’d think “WHAT A WASTE??!!!” LOL

Anyway – the buying and selling of B&O became a real buzz – I loved it, much more than I loved cars in fact, which had been my passion since a small boy The people that were buying it from me were all really nice too! I would end up chatting for hours about the stuff, and they would leave me their number in case I wanted to sell any more of my collection Too good to be true I thought!!

I had already made some great friends on BeoWorld, and every time I visited the site it was like walking into your favourite local pub for a pint and a chat – always someone keen to say ‘Hello’ and ask how you were doing and what you’d been up to! For me, this feeling has never changed – and although the site has grown ti has never lost that feeling of belonging and camaraderie.

Anyway – with a little notebook brimming with ‘if ever you get one of these, call me’ notes, I decided there may be a future in this.. I had grown very tired of the Motor Trade through various experiences, and the buzz didn’t outweigh the good times like it used to. Everyone in the trade was miserable, hated cars and yearned for the ‘good old days’ when it was actually fun. That was when I decided to ‘pitch the idea’ to the BeoWorld members of a new concept.. A legitimate web-based business that specialises in secondhand Bang & Olufsen.. I fired the question, and waited with baited breath to either be told I was a fool or a genius..

To be honest, I got mixed reactions.. from Peter’s ‘I can’t see how it will ever work’ to Chris (medogsfat) saying something like ‘at last!!!’ and a few ‘not sure’s’ the reactions were mixed but very supportive all the same. I’m never deterred by criticism, it’s very healthy and always welcomed. So, I sat down, came up with a plan of action, looked at premises, consulted some web designers, and closed down my car business. No going back – this is it.

However, a rather important issue to attend to - the name… what shall I call the business? Now, I need help – so I’ll ask my friends.. on BeoWorld!! I offered (I think) a bottle of Champagne to whoever came up with the best name. After a raft of suggestions, some brilliant some woeful (mostly mine), my favourite three were

Silver Advaark

LifeStyle AV

Danske Audio

We all had a vote, and it was decided that LifeStyle AV was the way forward. Our very own Chris (medogsfat) thought of the name, and I’ll forever be thankful to him for that!

I approached the bank, who wanted forecasts and such like. I did have a little bit of a disagreement with them as they didn’t understand the concept of ‘nobody has ever done this before – so how am I supposed to know how it will go??!!’.. In the end, I agreed to pull some completely random figures out of the sky – which they pored over and liked.. I think I got the first years estimated turnover from some numbers scribbled on the kitchen calendar in front of me – it really was that much of a guess.

So, now to advertise!! Well, BeoWorld had supported me – so it was time to return the favour. BeoWorld was at the time on the verge of shutting down due to lack of funds, and I contacted Steve (the former owner of the site) about paying for advertising and helping pay the costs of hosting and running the site. This is did, and agreed to secure the sites future for the next 3 years by being the main sponsor – happy days!

After providing sponsorship and as much input as I could give, I was invited to become active ‘behind the scenes’ of the site, and was asked if I’d like to become a moderator. I was absolutely delighted to be asked, and accepted immediately (although not being quite sure what I could do) and although I couldn’t add a huge amount of technical knowledge to the site (that was Peter’s domain!), I guessed I could add a bit of fun and entertainment, hopefully making things a little more interesting for members that were, like me, pretty clueless..

LifeStyle AV skyrocketed (to my great relief!) and within the first 12 months I was employing more staff and had filled my premises with piles and piles of beautiful B&O (still makes me smile thinking about that), and I’d never been happier. I had a great business, great wife, beautiful children – and I absolutely loved what I was doing.. (nothing has changed I’m delighted to say!)

Whilst all this was happening, I knew Steve, the owner of BeoWorld had bought a dilapidated house in France with a view to making it into a guest house and a B&O Museum, but I kept hearing horror stories of ceilings collapsing, dry rot, wet rot, inbetween rot and all manner of other things I don’t understand.. he was having a very hard time financing the renovation and BeoWorld always seemed to be on the edge of oblivion due to having no money. So, the time came when Steve approached me and asked me if I would be interested in buying the site..

Big decision, and a lot of money to find – but how could I say No? After plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, our solicitors exchanged contracts and I had BeoWorld to look after.. it was my baby at the end of the day! What a HUGE responsibility!! Now to look at making BeoWorld the best…

I naturally turned to Firebrand, who had done a world-class job with the LifeStyle AV website and were frankly the most professional yet easy going people I’d ever met. Over several meetings, we sat down and worked out a way to unravel the myriad of pages that were disjointed and scattered all over the place and make them all searchable and accessible – quickly. The search engine of the site was priority – those that simply needed info had to be able to get to it quickly, and easily – that’s what a reference section is all about after all..

We also needed to update the Forum – it looked plain, and frankly pretty grey, dull and amateur (however, it was free – so you couldn’t complain!). ‘Who is the worlds best at writing forum programs?’ we asked. All signs pointed at Telligent. Let’s go with them!

We looked at servers, and saw BeoWorld was being hosted alongside sites that we really didn’t need to be next to – so we moved. We also changed to from to give the site a more international feel – which it did. Now to implement these changes, build an ‘empty framework’ and add information and images for the hundreds of products from 1925 to present day. We also needed a Manual Database, News Section, Gift Shop, History of B&O and Dealer Database.

This was a huge task – and by my side, as ever, was Peter. Tireless is all I can call his workrate! Whatever I asked, he did, quickly – no matter how boring or arduous the task. Ignace too was a star, devoting plenty of hours to transferring information and correcting wrong info. The whole moderating team chipped in as much as they possibly could and I myself took 2 months off work to get everything as perfect as possible. After months of planning, testing and modifying – we were ready to launch. Fingers crossed it doesn’t crash, and after all this time ‘offline’ will people actually come back.. Who knows.. we could only sit and hope everyone hadn’t got bored and left for other pursuits..

I remember the call from Van at Firebrand, in his dulcet Scunthorpe tones (LOL) – “Yerve gone live Lee – we’re off”.. The excitement, the joy, the relief, and the £25,000 loan I took out to pay for all of this that cancelled all these out. Ah well – my mantra is ‘if you’re going to do something, you do it right…’ and BeoWorld was certainly going to be no exception for me.

Everyone came back in their droves within hours – and the we were all back like we had never left! It was like everyone going on holiday for a couple of months, then having a homecoming party! Brilliant !! The relief could be felt by the whole team, and I admit to cracking open a bottle of Champagne that night with a large smile on my face.

It was great to see everyone back, and more importantly – the majority of people liked the new layout. Although I agree you could get lost in the old site (in a nice way), the information was frequently wrong/out of date and very hard to find. The idea of a reference site was for reference – and speeding this up was the idea. Job done, and I’m glad it was well received.

Some people had a little moan that the new forum wasn’t as good as the old one, but you can’t please everyone all of the time – and besides, something new is rarely as appealing as something you know and are comfortable with. Not to worry, I was sure it would be accepted in the end, and if it was good enough for some international blue chip companies – it was just about good enough for us. LOL

The next bit of unchartered waters was the Prize Draw! I’d come up with the notion that we need to give something back to the members that supported the site, and what better way than to give them some B&O! I sourced some new prizes, photographed them – and wrote my first ever draw listing..

The first BeoWorld Prize Draw saw a record number of users online, and also a record amount of money given away! (whoops!!). By the third month, I worked out that giving that level of prizes away (BeoSound 4 as 1st, BeoSound 1 as 2nd!!) would see the site broke in about 5 months. This is where LifeStyle AV came into play and sourced/donated some really nice used products that people would be just as pleased with. Since then, we’ve had some fantastic new and used modern and classic items to give away and then everything fell into place when we were given the business card of a Prize Draw specialist who was internationally known. We all know him now as.. PrizeDrawBot.. (his real name is Charles Threepio – he has a famous brother who’s an actor – not a lot of people know that!) LOL

The traffic to BeoWorld just kept growing, as did the membership – all at unprecendented rates. The thousand member mark kept flying past, and before we knew it we were at 5,000 members after just over a year – amazing! Now, let’s not sit back on our laurels, how can we improve? This was when Keith Saunders really started to become a regular poster and problem solver on site, and before we knew it he was helping in ways we never knew were possible!! Between Van and Keith, we upgraded to the very latest version of Community Server almost seamlessly – which would have cost literally thousands of pounds and would in the end have lead to us giving up trying to upgrade. Keith has also provided more technical support than even the most involved professionals could give, and we all owe thanks to these two people for the site being as it is today. Anyway, we digress.

Again, I’m not sure how this came about, but I had contact from B&O in Struer – then contact with B&O UK, and before I knew it BeoWorld was recognised (as much as it can be) by Bang & Olufsen on an official level. This was a huge relief to me, as the reception to BeoWorld under its previous owner had always been frosty and stand-offish, and I was worried that the same feeling would be carried over to me. At the end of the day, BeoWorld is all about Bang & Olufsen, so why shouldn’t the two get along? We are an enthusiasts site and we love B&O – it’s a simple concept, and I was so glad when we started dialogue with B&O which ended up in the most amazing tour of the factory at Struer! Anyway – back to BeoWorld and the people that run it..

The Moderating Team - If ever you could form a great football team, you would have superb defenders, brilliant midfielders and skilled strikers – all good at what they do individually, and all complimenting each other perfectly. That’s the moderating team in a nutshell. Between us, we speak almost every major language on the planet, know about B&O from every era and have different skillsets in dealing with people, their problems and enquiries. For those that don’t know, we have an ‘invisible’ Moderators Forum where we discuss how the site is going, how to improve, and how to deal with various problems and issues that arise. If ever there is a decision made, it is discussed there and will only be actioned if everyone agrees. Democracy – brilliant! I once read that “the best run things are the things that don’t look like they are being run at all..” and I think this is true about BeoWorld. We have no spam issues, everyone gets on well with good natured banter, and rarely do we see any issues. Just take a look at some other forums as a measure, and you will see that BeoWorld runs like a swiss watch!

So, here we are today – 10,000 Members strong and growing. Where does it end? Well, it doesn’t.. The whole moderating team is dedicated to constantly questioning the accepted and improving continually. We are already looking at the 2009 update pack for the Forum, due to be released soon and asking how we can benefit from it and utilise the new features. We are soon to be moving servers to an even better, faster and more reliable one – and maybe next year the site can have little style facelift courtesy of Firebrand. The site has been designed beautifully with upgrades and updates in mind, and we fully intend to take advantage of this!

Finally – my own thoughts..

Well, what can I really say? This has been a real journey for me, and one that if could do all over again, I would. The learning process has been fun, sometimes pretty stressful, but without the support of the team beside me would have been impossible. One person alone could not run BeoWorld in a month of Sundays, and although I spend plenty of time behind the scenes – it’s nothing to what the collective does.

I’m very proud to represent BeoWorld whenever necessary too – especially on the product launches. It can be a little stressful dashing off with my laptop to try and give the first reviews, and I shall continue to look at ways to get these published – even faster. It’s an honour and a pleasure being amongst such brilliant people from all corners of the world, both on these launches and moreso on the forums. I have made some lifelong friends on here, as I know lots of other people have.

Bang & Olufsen. Turbulent times, lots of mistakes made that a lot of us saw coming – a lot of missed opportunities, that plenty of us urged them to take – and some real dud products, that lots of us warned against. Sure, we don’t know everything – but hopefully the people in Struer may actually take on board some of our suggestions, or better still let us know when they have! We live in hope, but for now it’s great to have a good relationship with Struer where we can talk freely.

So – there you are, that’s my ‘Story so far’… may the pleasure this site gives myself and our valuable members continue. I raise a glass to you all.

Reference: 96
Created: 11th June 2009
Modified: 23rd October 2010

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