Kelly J. Rose of Panda Rose tells us about its full spectrum digital solutions for businesses.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kelly J. Rose: We are making it through reasonably well. Thankfully, we are blessed enough to have a large backyard and live in a region where the schools haven’t shut down for longer-term periods. Our children have been able to go to school since September, and while some of the new rules are awkward, they have adapted. The biggest thing we are disappointed with them is the fact that the kids haven’t been able to do swimming lessons at all this year. Hopefully, when the summer comes, we will be able to take them out to one of the many beautiful lakes in Alberta to go swimming.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Panda Rose.
Kelly J. Rose: I have a pretty diverse history. I went to the University of Waterloo for the co-operative program and got my BMath in Combinatorics and Optimization. When I finished, I worked with the Institute for Quantum Computing, developing one of the first “compilers” for a quantum computer, and also worked at the Perimeter Institute. From there, I was invited to do a Master’s degree in Mathematical Biology at the University of Calgary with the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics. When I finished that degree, I moved to Toronto and started Panda Rose, software development and technical consultancy. We have been around ever since, pivoting and adjusting to the myriad changes in the global economy over the past decade.
How does Panda Rose innovate?
Kelly J. Rose: Our team does not believe there is one way to do things, and this has done well for us for the many projects we’ve been involved in. For example, many SEO firms find a method that works and then stick to it like glue. This affects that these firms are usually quite successful with their Search Engine Optimization for about a year until Google starts to shift their algorithms. By having our team constantly following trends and adjusting our methodology, we can ensure that we aren’t stuck in a local optimum and thus can provide better and better services to our clients.
This also means, however, that we have an unbelievably diverse team with experience. Our team has done almost everything from legacy software development on AS400 systems to modern React mobile applications, from helping local individuals and small businesses clean up and repair their computers to set up full IT infrastructures for large corporations. In the end, this works out well because we usually have access to the resources necessary to provide the correct solution to any client that comes in our door.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Kelly J. Rose: With a lot of Small and Medium Businesses taking a severe hit, this led to a significant revenue drop during the early period of 2020. Combined with the stock market decline at that time, we ended up having to cut some staff and adjust accordingly. However, as the year has progressed, we have been doing well and have grown our client base noticeably. 2021, while still a rocky year, has been a relatively good one thus far.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Kelly J. Rose: Running a business always requires difficult choices around human resources. For anyone who cares about their employees and their livelihoods, hiring and dismissing people for any reason is always difficult and painful. However, a big lesson over the last ten years has been realizing that sometimes it is better for everyone to accept that an individual is not working in a certain role and allow them to be able to move onto other organizations where their talents and personality will better work. It is very difficult, but in the end, it is the right thing.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Kelly J. Rose: We have a variety of tools. Due to the diversity of the work our team does, we have not found anyone tool to work perfectly. So instead of trying to shoehorn a square peg into a round hole, our different divisions work with the tools that work best for them. For SEO, that would include SEMRush and Moz. For Software Development, this involves Git and issue tracking. For Managed IT, we work primarily within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem to provide support and communication.
However, it is important to note that these change over time as the entire landscape is in rapid flux.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Kelly J. Rose: Yes, both directly and indirectly. During periods where our revenues were noticeably down, the Canadian government has provided useful grants that allowed us to make payroll and ensure that we keep our essential staff on hand. In other cases, we have had clients who were able to take advantage of grants that would allow them to digitalize their infrastructure and processes and help them afford the natural fees from both our team and the products we needed to buy to support them.
Your final thoughts?
Kelly J. Rose: Sometimes, the best opportunities for businesses come in a time of flux and uncertainty. We often find ourselves in a local maximum where things are comfortable and good, and it really does seem like there is not much we can do to make things better. However, when you have an external factor suddenly shatter that, yes, you end up for a short period in a less favorable or comfortable position, but at times it can be exactly what you need to be able to find and recognize opportunities that will bring you and your team to a better optimum than you were in before. I believe that we can all as individuals grow during this time, and if we don’t let fear overcome us, this will end with all of us stronger and better than ever before.