Learn how Alberta-based graphic communications company, Rileys, came out on top—thanks in part to Rogers for Business—after the COVID-19 crisis proved to be its greatest threat in 70 years.
“It was eerie. It snowed here in Calgary in the first two weeks of April, and mine were the only footprints on the sidewalk.” Having started in 1950 by producing blueprints, maps, oil logs, architectural drawings, and more for the construction and the oil and gas industries, Rileys has since expanded into a graphics communications company with 62 locations across North America and whose many services include digital colour printing, creative design, project management, signage, vehicle decals and wraps, wall and floor graphics, as well as interior design and décor to name just a handful. But when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown went into effect, it all slowed to a crawl, throwing the future of this long-established and successful Canadian business into palpable uncertainty—something Wade Sparks, the president and CEO never anticipated. “I remember thinking: where is this taking us?”
Traditionally, Rileys would physically deliver proofs to their clients, their clients would send those proofs back with revisions, Rileys would make those revisions and send the new versions back to their clients, and this back-and-forth would go on until the product was finalized. That changed several years ago when Rileys adopted a digital solution that allowed them to move this process online, making it far more efficient operationally and financially. “We've gone from being completely analogue to almost completely digital,” says Wade.
But then the problems with their ISP arose. “Our internet service provider was taken into a completely different direction for big-industry clients,” says Wade. “They got rid of all their customer service and sales people, so there was no longer any interface with the company.” Eventually, Rileys started getting calls from sales reps in places like California and Colorado who knew little about them or their business, and the reps' turnover rate was roughly every two months.
Of course, this lack of customer service translated into a lack of support whenever there was a technical issue—and technical issues there definitely were. “The biggest thing we started to get really worried about was security,” says Wade. After experiencing a couple of minor breaches, it became even more clear that they needed to explore new solutions from other providers—and after the lockdown was implemented, that need was amplified.
Rileys always delivered their finalized products directly to their clients’ office buildings, but with so many businesses given no choice but to have their employees work from home, the result was a logistical—and financial—challenge to say the least. “We actually had to get even more trucks,” says Wade. But it was simply maintaining contact with these clients that mattered most. "We have about 50 contracts, and we needed to communicate with those customers. That’s where having a reliable internet provider matters.”
It was when a former representative of the troublesome ISP reached out to Wade—this time as a representative of Rogers for Business—that positive changes started to happen. But with an event as unprecedented as the lockdown, Wade never could have guessed how much more significant the relationship with Rogers for Business would become.
“Our reps had to learn very quickly how to do demos online and set up conference calls,” he says, adding that the company’s projects still depended on information making its way to their on-premises IT infrastructure. “Even though the building was closed, we had to forward all our customers' requests to our main facility, so it was mission critical that we were up and running with all our internet systems,” he says. The level of internet reliability Rileys needed came with Rogers Dedicated Internet, which, because it’s delivered via Rogers’ own fibre optic network, provides symmetrical upload and download speeds as well as redundant pathways for information should one route experience any issues.
However, given their security and legal concerns, Rileys required more than just reliable, high-performing internet access; given their security issues, they also needed a private networking solution to protect sensitive corporate and customer data. So, they leveraged the Rogers fibre network again, this time for an MPLS solution fully managed by Rogers for Business. “It just makes life so much simpler,” says Wade. The MPLS solution consolidates data across all Rileys locations throughout North America, allowing every site to dynamically communicate with each other transparently and securely—and it makes Wade’s IT team very happy. “It just runs in the background,” he notes. “It’s very easy for them to manage and check on.”
And as Wade points out, this level of security is often not a matter of choice; for example, many Rileys clients stipulate as part of their contracts that project information must remain in Canada. “Rogers has been able to manage the network for us and make sure we’re in compliance with all our legal obligations,” he says.
Wade is impressed with how comfortable his employees have become with remote work. “Once you’re on so many online meetings, you adapt so quickly,” he says. “I've seen the sales activity and the sales results in what I would call the most difficult time that I've ever been through in my 35 years of working. I think they’re actually more efficient.”
But he reiterates that, as good as things are on the frontlines, what’s happening behind the scenes matters just as much. “The number one thing is that my staff is happy, and my IT department in particular is very happy,” says Wade. “Everything Rogers has done has been seamless. Great communication, and they worked well with our technical staff.” He’s also been impressed with the proactive approach Rogers for Business takes with customer service. “They’ve been incredibly proactive in reaching out to us,” he says.
Moreover, Rogers for Business consistently outshines the increasingly waning relationship Rileys has with their original ISP. “We have what we call an e-services meeting every Wednesday morning,” he says. “Almost all of the conversations are about that provider. I don’t have anything to worry about on the Rogers side.”
Lockdown or no lockdown, Wade knows there’s really no going back to the way things were—and that’s good. “Five years ago, we wanted to make sure we saw the eyes of everybody,” he says. Now, Rileys is downsizing its office space, which includes leaving the Calgary and Edmonton locations they’ve been in for longer than four decades. A major part of that decision is how well his employees have adapted to working from home, what that’s meant for their personal lives, and how that positivity can only improve the corporate culture. “That hour or two commute, people don’t have to do that,” says Wade. “They can be more productive while spending more time with their families.”