We talked to Mackey Kandarajah CEO at Spark, about web design and digital marketing, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mackey Kandarajah: Fortunately, we are doing well. As we are located in Sydney, the Australian Government had been quick to respond with a complete lockdown. In general, Australia has been very lucky, being far away from the rest of the world, our geographic isolation has proven to be a huge benefit. While lockdown impacted many businesses and individuals, our Government extended assistance with business grants and increased social payments to help the unemployed. In Australia we also have a culture defined by “mateship” and during tough times, this trait shines through with many heartwarming examples of people ready to lend a hand to those in need.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Spark?
Mackey Kandarajah: I graduated from university in the early ’90s, just at the beginning of the last recession. With unemployment skyrocketing I had the good fortune of landing a commission-only sales job in a small printing company. It was the dawn of the personal computer and technology in the industry was rather backward. I saw opportunities all around and was quick to seize the gap between the old ways and the new in the media and publishing industry. I set up a printing operation and was proudly one of the first in Sydney to integrate a technology orientated design department within a printing company. In 2004, change again was underway. I saw the impact of the internet and sold the printing division and quickly realigned the business towards digital marketing.
How does Spark innovate?
Mackey Kandarajah: Innovation is part of our culture. We are constantly looking for emerging technologies and how they can be integrated into our clients’ daily lives to deliver more efficient workflows and greater profitability. On a company-wide basis, we hold weekly learning sessions, led by team members with a particular focus on a topic of innovation during which time the entire team engages in a process that looks at how we can apply these learnings to incrementally improve our product and service offering. For example, our brilliant UX Developer, Matias Espinosa championed our transition to Elementor, a visual drag and drop editor for WordPress that has revolutionized the way our customers manage and maintain their sites after our build.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Mackey Kandarajah: During the yearly lockdown, apprehension and fear immobilized clients especially those in the hospitality and related industries, some of whom had requested an indefinite pause on their projects. Our CMO, Aimee Bualong, and CFO, Helen Zhou were quick to roll up their sleeves delivering invaluable advice on which we acted quickly, handing out the olive branch to our clients by extending the term of payment. As a small business, we knew that helping each other was critical, so we showed clients a new way of working remotely, automating tasks, and taking their services online.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Mackey Kandarajah: Fortunately, we didn’t have to make any difficult decisions around human resources, but what we noticed was the change in the degree of social interaction specifically for the younger team members. Challenging times pushed us to find creative ways to maintain productivity and avoid fragmentation. Motivation and connection were maintained using technology, but now we are all happy to be working together in the office again!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Mackey Kandarajah: We were one of the early adopters of SAS starting Gsuite (now known as Google Workspace) back in 2008 when it was known as Google Apps for your domain. This was when the vision for the cloud was vague, but where the opportunities lay for us was the growth of cloud-based applications that integrate around these core platforms like Google allowing remote working and collaboration. We take security very seriously and have chosen to partner with Google using Google Cloud and Google Workspace to build our client’s infrastructure. These solutions have allowed our clients to integrate seamlessly with other cloud applications like CRM, ERP, accounting, and project management. During COVID, Elizabeth Kenyon our Production Manager was pivotal in the rollout of ClickUp an enterprise project management platform with Slack a leading workplace messaging platform. Making this change during COVID was a monumental task which now we are so reliant on and our team is grateful for her leadership always. For us, it has been, and always will be about being forward-thinking, anticipating the opportunity before the need arises. This allows us to be more agile, so when the situation calls for it, we can quickly adapt.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Mackey Kandarajah: The grants were really helpful; they gave our clients peace of mind and greater purchasing power which they quickly deployed in restarting paused projects implementing new remote working solutions and getting their business more online.
Your final thoughts?
Mackey Kandarajah: Really, our success through COVID has only been possible due to a team of well-integrated staff. I am proud to have people who are personally invested in ensuring the long-term success of the company. They embrace change, challenge old ways, and are always open and eager to improve. For business owners looking for a long-term digital partner, with us, you’ll have a team you can rely on, 100%.