Teching Charge

A case study in college sparked David Rose’s approach to the world of computers

by Heleigh Bostwick

roseIn 1997, David Rose left a salaried position to found Rose Computer Technology Services, his South Burlington company that provides IT services for small businesses.

When David Rose was 12, he moved with his family to Shelburne from Westbury, N.Y. After graduating from Champlain Valley Union High School, he, like many of his classmates, went on to attend the University of Vermont, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology — a degree that ended up being useful to him in a way he would have never imagined when he first arrived on campus that fall day in 1980.

“I had a fantastic experience at UVM,” says Rose, president of Rose Computer Technology Services in South Burlington. “I was able to take advantage of so many opportunities because of the Living and Learning Center on campus.” At the time, he says, there were only two other universities in the United States with similar programs, where students with similar interests lived together in a student-designed program.

“My last two years there I focused on organizational theory and design, studying small businesses,” he says. One of them happened to be a microcomputer company.

“I encountered a bunch of guys in suits with no interpersonal skills,” says Rose. “I thought if I could gain the knowledge that they have, I could be very successful because I could help people understand the technology in terms they could understand.”

It turns out he was right.

After graduating, Rose began working in the computer field, eventually becoming one of the partners at Inacom Information Systems, which is now Summit Technologies, he says. In 1997, he decided it was time for a change and, leaving on good terms, he started Rose Computer that April.

“When I decided to start my own business and walk away from a salary and security, I had a 2-year-old and a newborn,” says Rose. “It was very scary, but within six months I had hired my first employee.” He worked out of his house for the first year and then moved to 3060 Williston Road, where he’s been ever since.

Rose lives in Williston and has been married to the “love of my life,” Cynthia Gurdak Rose, for 23 years. The two met at UVM. “She was the creator and director of the student designed program in parapsychology at the Living and Learning Center while I was there,” he recalls.

Originally from Ludlow, Cynthia has a master’s degree in counseling and has been an elementary school guidance counselor in Swanton for 26 years. The couple’s two children attend CVU. Samuel, 18, graduates this year and is waiting to hear back from colleges about admission. Isabelle, 16, is a junior.

“Rose Computer Technology Services is the perfect fit for a small company that is wondering if it is big enough to hire a full-time IT person,” says Rose. “We have more expertise and are able to provide resources for less money than they would pay a full-time person. We become the IT department for the company.”

Most of the company’s customers are small firms such as CPA and law offices and medical clinics in Chittenden County. “Moving into the health care industry was a significant move for us,” says Rose.

Deb Walton, director of operations for Little Rivers Health Care in Bradford, has been a client since September 2011. “We started doing business with David when we implemented a new computer system. We needed new servers and additional IT assistance,” she says. “I know I can count on them for 24/7 support, which is what we need as a health care center to access electronic health care records any time of the day or night.”

Six years ago, Rose says, there was what he calls a “break-fix” mentality in the business. Now it’s about managed services and being proactive. “It’s a different way to do technology,” he says.

The advantages are significant he says, explaining that the customer gets a fixed budget — customers are charged a flat fee monthly or quarterly — and top-notch service and that there’s no wasted time dealing with billing and administration. “We focus on our business and they focus on theirs,” he says. His slogan, “We make IT simple,” reflects this philosophy. “We want to make using the technology simple and doing business with us simple.”

Rose says he was one of the first in the state to use a remote monitoring platform. “Today it’s a different story,” he says. “Almost all of our competitors are doing it, too, but we differentiate ourselves by what we do with that technology.”

The ability to use these remote management tools was key for him to be able to grow the business the way it has. “Customers wanted me to work at night and on weekends, but I wanted to be with my family,” he explains.

Rose Computers employs eight people locally and is supported by more than 400 non-local network engineers. “We just hired our eighth person in the office,” says Rose, adding that until six months ago, he was the only salesperson; now there are three. Chief engineer and service delivery manager Michal Januszczyk has been with the company for more than three years. Before he joined Rose, he worked in a family business with offices in Vermont and Poland that used Rose Computer’s services to set up the infrastructure for both office locations.

“Most of what we do is manage and upgrade systems, fix problems, apply all the patches, keep their systems running at their best,” says Rose. “We meet with customers on a quarterly or monthly basis. We constantly research and test out new products so we can learn what technology can help a particular business grow.” Rose also attends conferences and meets with new vendors. “We stay on top of new technologies, and I think we do a very good job with that.”

So far his business strategy has worked. “We grew significantly last year and expect our growth to continue to accelerate over the next three years,” he says proudly. “We work very hard to use best practices and standardization.”

Rose Computers uses a specific remote management platform and was chosen as one of a select few managed service providers in the country to be flown to Chicago to discuss and plan the future direction and evolution of the remote management platform. “It wasn’t just an award, it was a huge opportunity for me to form relationships and network with similar companies at a very high level,” says Rose proudly.

Giving back to the community is another thing he is proud of. “We continue to support the Williston Food Shelf and Spectrum Youth Services, as well as various other organizations in the area like the King Street Youth Center, Champlain Valley Area Agency on Aging, and Meals on Wheels,” he says.

As for his off hours, Rose skis and plays tennis. Ten years ago he lost 30 pounds, became a body builder, and won the Vermont Masters bodybuilding championship. “I learned a lot about health and nutrition, but now I practice kempo.”

He’s beginning to think about an exit strategy, he says. “I don’t plan on retiring soon, but over the next 10 years or so I’ll be talking to other business people about how to transition into retirement.”

In the meantime he’ll keep building the business, investing in it, and making himself less important so that the company doesn’t need him around every day to run it. “Part of being a business owner is being willing to let go,” advises Rose. “Surround yourself with good people.”

Rose offers another piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to turn down an opportunity. “It’s not a coincidence that the customers who take our recommendations are the customers that are the most satisfied,” he says, adding, “I have walked away from some opportunities because they weren’t willing to let me protect their server and data in a way that I felt I needed to.

“We have made some amazing ‘saves’ and recovered data — where they could have lost everything — for new customers that were not properly protected, but contacted us in time so that we were able to save their data.”

He notes that while it’s not as expensive as it used to be to protect systems and data using state- of-the-art technology, that technology is always going to change, and with it its capabilities, and that can be frustrating to customers.

“We offer a service they can rely on and trust,” he says. “We have their best interest in mind and keep their data protected without having to bother them.”

Dan Cox, president of Coffee Enterprises in Burlington, says it best. “The less we see of Dave Rose and Rose Computers the better. This is a good thing. If we never need to see him or talk to him then he’s fixed all the problems behind the scenes without us even knowing anything was wrong.”