Employee Spotlight: Austin Bland

C-Forward’s motto of being personal, proactive, and reliable has been the center focus of our company since its inception. Being personal, proactive, and reliable in our services allows our customers to feel assured their networks, cybersecurity needs, disaster recovery needs, etc., are taken care of by people who care about their business. Austin Bland, our Centralized Services Engineer, is one of the key figures making sure the company lives up to that motto. 

Coming all the way from Chicago, Bland moved to Cincinnati and went to school at Northern Kentucky University where he pursued his love for computer information technology. After graduating, Bland states that finding C-Forward in 2019 was a perfect fit for him, “C-Forward was a well-established MSP in the Greater Cincinnati area and had a full-time position for Centralized Services which is exactly what I was looking for.” 

On the day to day, Bland’s job is to monitor and troubleshoot any issues with our disaster recovery solutions, as well as help support our technicians with any ‘day-to-day’ challenges they run into with our internal support software. He also works on automating our systems so, as Bland says, “C-Forward can focus more on being proactive, just as in our motto.” Since working here, Bland was nominated for an internal “You’re Awesome” Award in March of 2022 and has continued to live up to the award title. Brent Cooper, owner and founder of C-Forward, states, “Austin is a pleasure to work with! He’s become a critical part of our C-Forward team.”

Austin has been working at C-Forward for almost four years now and enjoys coming to work every day. Bland states, “Everyone is always willing to help each other out and we all joke around with each other. I also enjoy all of the social events that C-Forward has held over the past few years. It’s nice to get together with everyone and get to know them better.” 

In addition to the people, Bland is proud to work at C-Forward because of the office culture that has been cultivated around living up to our motto. He states, “I really enjoy the work culture. I’m proud to feel that my opinions and ideas are taken into consideration when I have input on technical or business decisions. I think it’s important that everyone feels they have a voice and I feel that is the case at C-Forward.” Bland also noted that the positive work culture translates to how we interact with our clients, stating, “I think we leave a good impression through our personal focused customer service and our philanthropic efforts to help the community.”

Bland states he has also been able to grow his skillset since starting at C-Forward, “I have gotten to touch a lot of technology that I did not have the opportunity to previously. Some examples are getting more familiar with backup technology, learning how to configure and troubleshoot Storage Area Network (SAN) devices, and working with automation tools to make tasks easier for our technicians and customers.” These opportunities have allowed Bland to not only help more clients, but to also grow as a technician.

Outside of C-Forward, you can find Bland spending the majority of his time with his wife, Amy, and their daughter, Nora, practicing his bass guitar for his future band, or playing video games with his friends. Austin Bland has a bright future at C-Forward and we are grateful for all his hard work!

Employee Spotlight: Ben Virost

As an IT company, C-Forward prides itself on our employee’s abilities to do quality and reliable work for our clients. Ben Virost, one of our Technical Services Supervisors, embodies our mission to do just that every day in the office through his team management, knowledge of cybersecurity, and overall quality work ethic. As C-Forward’s longest tenured employee, Virost began his 17 year old journey at the company after graduating from Northern Kentucky University. Virost said, “I was extremely fortunate to happen upon the job listing at NKU as I was approaching my final semester. Brent decided to take a chance on me.” 

Virost started as a network technician in 2006 before working his way up to Technical Services Supervisor in 2014. On the day to day, Virost plans, directs, and supervises our operations at C-Forward, helping with technical repairs clients might be facing and operational support. Virost also manages his own team of technicians at C-Forward that work to support our clients. He and his team make it possible for our clients to have the best quality service. Virost says, “I think C-Forward leaves a great impression through our personal service.” 

Virost has enjoyed working at C-Forward over the years, stating that he likes the challenges of solving issues for clients and being able to respond in a timely manner to problems with their networks. He says, “I like that we’re an MSP [managed service provider] as you get to see something new every day.” Virost also adds that he likes the culture of the company and our willingness to give back to our community through donations, sponsorships, and fundraising saying, “It makes me proud that we make so many philanthropic efforts with numerous non-profits around the community.”

Brent Cooper, C-Forward’s owner and founder, said of Virost, “It has been a wonderful experience to watch Ben go from a co-op just starting out his career, to now one of our Supervisors. He is a hard working, dedicated, and caring person who always strives to leave things better than he found them. We are so lucky to have him at C-Forward. ”

Outside of C-Forward, Virost likes to stay active by being out in the sun playing ultimate frisbee or in the cold playing broomball, a sport similar to ice hockey. The C-Forward team admires Virost and his ability to be a team player both at work and at play. Ben Virost has been an incredible addition to the C-Forward team since he started almost two decades ago and we are excited to see what amazing things he accomplishes in the future.

Employee Spotlight: Hannah Francis

At C-Forward, we make a promise to our clients that we will always be on call to help them with their I.T./cybersecurity needs. We believe that our clients deserve clear, fast, and empathetic communication from our team, especially when there is an “urgent issue.” Hannah Francis, our Client Services Administrator, is a big factor in our success. On an average day, Francis’s day consists of resolving client issues and juggling the billing, collections, deposits, accounts receivables and payables. Francis began at C-Forward over 8 years ago and has continually provided valuable services to all the clients she has worked with. Brent Cooper, C-Forward’s owner and founder, said of Francis, “Hannah has been a critical part of our overall success.  She is fun, friendly, thoughtful and caring, and she always makes sure our customers and her co-workers are taken care of. Through her work, both internally and externally, Hannah helps to make sure our I.T. Services are “Personal, Proactive and Reliable.”

Another part of Francis’s job is coordinating community outreach opportunities for employees. This has included company parties/gatherings, as well as community service efforts. Francis acknowledges how proud she was of C-Forward’s community involvement throughout the region stating, “It’s great to work for an employer who helps and cares about what is going on in the community.” Francis expresses that she enjoys working at C-Forward because of the flexible, positive work environment that has been maintained over the years.  She says that her favorite events she has been a part of over the years was the 20th Anniversary Party and Mardi Gras at the Convention Center. She states, “C-Forward just really cares about their employees,” and, “I think that is reflected in the work that we do.”  

Hannah has two wonderful kids and spends a lot of her free time watching them play sporting events. Francis is a pretty good softball player, when she does not find herself lost in a book. The C-Forward team admires Francis for being so committed to the things that she loves and continues to be a positive force in the office. Hannah Francis has been an incredible addition to the C-Forward team since she started almost a decade ago and we are excited to see what amazing things she does in the future.

Bryan Cobb Newest VP at I.T. Services Firm C-Forward

Covington, KY — January 19, 2023 — C-Forward, an Information Technology (I.T.) service provider headquartered in Covington, has announced a new Vice President.

Bryan Cobb has been promoted to the management team as Vice President vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer). Bryan joined C-Forward in 2016 as Project Supervisor. Prior to C-Forward, he spent 15 years as the IT/Facilities Director at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD) where he helped position it as one of the most technologically advanced ADDs in the state of KY.

“Bryan possesses the enthusiasm and skill for this next step. His drive and ability to secure our clients’ networks is unparalleled” said Brian Ruschman, President. “He has unfailingly shown that he has the right mix of foresight, knowledge, and passion for our company, our customers and our community. He will excel in this new role.”

“Our management team has taken our company to new heights the past five years, with double-digit revenue growth each year” said Brent Cooper, C-Forward’s Founder and Owner. “Last year, we had 98% customer retention and 95% employee retention.  Those kinds of results are unheard of in our industry and give us tremendous confidence as we continue to grow the business.  With Bryan now joining the management team, we are definitely looking forward to the future!”  

“Bryan exemplifies what we always try to cultivate among our team and in our culture.  He performs at a high level, lifting people up around him” said Mike Grout, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “He provides exceptional and thoughtful customer service and has fun while doing it.  I’ve had the privilege of hiring Bryan and watching him grow over the last 7 years.  He’s been a huge part of our recent success and I’m excited for him to join our Leadership Team as we continue our growth.”

Bryan will oversee C-Forward’s vCIO and auditing services’ department which enables C-Forward to identify customer problems before they happen. He also oversees Cybersecurity services and enjoys the human element involved in protecting customer networks.

“I’m excited to be able to continue to strengthen our customers cybersecurity posture with C-Forward’s proactive Cybersecurity, vCIO and auditing services. With the rise in cybercrime over the last decade, companies need to be agile and proactive with their cybersecurity initiatives. C-Forward helps business owners sleep better at night because of the work we do. It will certainly be a challenging, yet rewarding, role for me to be in.”

Bryan is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University with a BS in Computer Science. He is also a graduate of Leadership Northern Kentucky (Class of 2013)  and served on the Leadership Education Day Committee.  In 2012, Bryan started New Haven’s first father engagement program at New Haven Elementary called “Tiger Dads,” which enlisted over 300 father figures. Bryan also serves on the NKY MakerSpace Steering Committee, the Boone County Education Foundation Board and was a Cub Scout leader for 4 years.

Employee Spotlight: Matt Rayburn

Seven years ago, C-Forward opened its central Kentucky office right across from Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington. Since then, we have been able to expand our network and help more people with their information technology needs throughout the Commonwealth. There’s no question we would not have been able to accomplish as much as we have […]

Jamie Liles: Keeping C-Forward Moving Forward

When dealing with cybersecurity issues for our clients, one of the most crucial components is time. Clients want to be ensured that their threat is taken seriously in a timely and efficient manner in order to minimize the damage. Jamie Liles, our Scheduling Coordinator/Administrative Assistant, is the reason that we are able to fulfill that […]

Walker – our “home-grown” C-Forward tech

As an IT company, C-Forward staff prides ourselves on our employee’s abilities to do quality and reliable work for our clients. Susan Walker, one of our Network Engineers, has been doing just that. Walker began at C-Forward almost 15 years ago as a Network Technician and has now grown into a Network Engineer. Over the years, Walker has achieved her A+ as well as other manufacturer certifications. She is a Microsoft Certified Professional, a Small Business Specialist, an expert in Windows Servers, and pretty much anything that touches a small business network!

On the day to day, Walker focuses on providing creative solutions to make a client’s job easier in a secure manner. She provides day to day support for any requests related to servers, workstations, network devices, mobile devices and applications/software. However, she says her favorite part about the job is her team. She states, “We have an amazing team. We have just about every skill set available amongst our team and we work with one another as a team very well. All for one and one for all. We also have the best clients and it is my pleasure to help them succeed every day.”

Walker is very proud and thankful to work at C-Forward for as long as she has. She says, “I am so proud to say that I work for C-Forward because I know what an impact our company has on our community. We are very involved in helping those that are in need in our surrounding areas. I am also thankful that Brent Cooper and Scott Johnson took a chance on me.  I had very little experience outside of deskside support when I started working for C-Forward but they hired me anyway.  The management team encouraged me to get certifications and they helped me to set goals based on that.  I am not sure that I would have had the same opportunities that I have been blessed with if C-Forward did not hire me anyway and teach me most of what I know.”

Outside of C-Forward, Walker is what she calls a, “crafter.” She says, “I love all crafts and try my hand at most of them. Art was my favorite and most memorable class in school. The first time that I took a laptop apart and put it back together again and it worked, it gave me that same feeling of when I finish a painting or create a book or sew a dress and that was when I knew that IT was a pretty good fit for me. I could knit 100 scarves or take apart a lamp and polish the pieces and put it back together again and not blink an eye. These are hours well spent in my book.”

Susan Walker has been an incredible addition to the C-Forward team since she started and we are excited to see what amazing things she does in the future.

Ruschman rolls from Technician to President

Brian Ruschman is something of an anomaly in the tech world. In an industry well-known for high turnover, he’s celebrating his 15th year working at the same company. Since 2006, he’s worked many positions at C-Forward, from network technician to sales manager, and now, President.

Brian has done a great deal of work over the years to guide C-Forward’s business strategy as a trusted IT Advisor for companies all over Ohio and Kentucky, and it didn’t happen overnight. Thanks to a keen eye for what customers actually need and a commitment to slow, steady growth, Brian has helped C-Forward become the success it is today.

Finding a career with a greater impact

Brian started his career at big companies like Kroger, Procter & Gamble, and Cincinnati Financial. As he describes it, “I was the nerd with the headphones on for eight hours a day.”

While he enjoyed the technical nature of his job, two things were starting to get to him. First, he was tired of sitting behind a computer all day. Second, he wasn’t sure that working for such big businesses was the right path for him. What if he could interact with customers more? What if he had the opportunity to contribute to a company where his input would be more valuable?

That’s where C-Forward came in, rather serendipitously, when Brent Cooper, the company’s owner, approached him asking if he was interested in a job. Here was a chance to join a small (but growing) company in a role that would allow him to interact with customers every day. Plus, he wouldn’t have to commute an hour each way to work. The decision was a no-brainer, and in 2006, Brian joined C-Forward as a network technician.

While the business model at C-Forward looked quite different 15 years ago, their mission was remarkably similar to what it is today. At the time, they supported a handful of non-profit clients with an overall goal of focusing on philanthropy. Already, this felt more aligned to what Brian envisioned himself doing in his career. And with only seven employees, it was all hands on deck—everyone was on the hook to take turns supporting the emergency helpline, for example, and Brian felt like an important part of the team from day one.

Changing up the business model

In 2011, after four years of helping customers navigate and troubleshoot their IT systems, Brian was asked to move to the sales side of the business. Brent was heading up the sales efforts at the time and thought that Brian’s technical knowledge would be an asset to the team—and he was right.

During his five years as a sales manager, Brian gained an invaluable perspective that would later help transform C-Forward’s business model. Being in a sales role allowed him to see what other companies in the market were doing. Up until that point, C-Forward had been charging their customers an hourly rate and were waiting on phone calls to get work. But across the industry, Brian was seeing a trend of other companies moving towards subscription-based models of service.

Additionally, it was becoming obvious that C-Forward’s technicians weren’t happy. With the way the business was structured, they had to know every solution on the market. In other words, if a new customer already had a backup solution in place, that’s the solution they stuck to. This was not a sustainable way to grow, and led to technicians having to support multiple software solutions—some of which didn’t even function that well.

The biggest pain point for the business was trying to work out billing discrepancies. “We were constantly running into billing disputes,” says Brian. “It was always, ‘Why did it take somebody so long to do this? I don’t want to pay this amount of money. I could have done it myself for less money.’”

It was clear that something had to change. The turning point came when Brian went to a conference with C-Forward’s Vice President. While at the conference, Brian had the opportunity to talk to people from other MSPs and ask them how they ran things. “I knew from that point forward that we had to change our mindset and start positioning C-Forward as a trusted advisor. We’re the IT experts. We should be the ones picking products and deploying them.”

Committing to this shift in perspective would require a number of big changes. “Being a trusted advisor meant that we’d tell our customers which tools and backups to use, rather than adapting to what they already had in place.” It also meant they would have to move away from the hourly rate model they’d been employing so far.

“This was a challenge,” says Brian. There were some really tough conversations for a two to three-year period. We had to go to each of our 150 clients and tell them we wanted to change our model to bill them per user, per month. Overall, it amounted to less monthly and yearly expenses, but only about half of our customers at the time were willing to do that.”

“We knew we were rolling the dice,” says Brian. “A lot of these people had been with the company for a long time.”

Taking a risk that paid off

Today, C-Forward runs the way Brian envisioned it all those years ago. “These days, I am very open with people when I go and meet with them about what will work and what won’t. If I see that the way they want to work or how they want to pay is not conducive to how we want to support them, I’ll give them the names of some other companies that will.”

By focusing on slow and steady growth, C-Forward is back up to having 150 clients, with each of them providing about three times the revenue as when they stuck to a per-hour service model.

Having a consistent, streamlined approach to service has made a world of difference. Now, technicians can be the experts and support clients better. “Our best customers are still our non-profit customers,” says Brian. “It’s a tight knit community, and people in these organizations will talk to their friends in the other industry and tell them how happy they are with our service. Most of our growth comes from word of mouth.”

Growing the company this way has also allowed C-Forward to succeed in times of adversity. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. “Everyone woke up one morning and said, ‘We need to be mobile. We need to be more secure. We need our employees to be able to access data from different devices.’” Suddenly, these things were no longer a nice-to-have—they were necessary in order to keep businesses running.

Having the foresight to pivot C-Forward to a consultancy put the company in a great position. Here was a company that people could trust in a time of great need, who would give them all the tools they needed to be able to withstand the sudden need to work remotely and securely.

That’s the kind of business C-Forward is today: an industry expert that customers know they can trust. When Brian meets with prospects now, his approach is much different than it would have been years ago. “Now I can come to a meeting and say, ‘This is how we want to support you. Does that sound like something that will work?’” and if it doesn’t, we don’t move forward. In other words, their business model is much more proactive than it used to be.

Running a business this way comes down to one key factor: trust. “Having a relationship with us is different from other vendor relationships. People need to know they can trust us with their passwords and sensitive information,” says Brian.

Looking to the future

Brian is quick to praise the vision that Brent Cooper and the management team of Mike Grout, Kevin Stiverson, and Dale Silver have had for C-Forward. “Brent created something 22 years ago that allowed his employees, clients, and community to thrive,” he says. “He’s consistently focused on finding employees and leaders that are passionate about the community in which we live.” He credits that team with driving an impressive client retention rate of over 95%, which “doesn’t happen without incredible talent.”

For Brian, the best part of his career at C-Forward has been helping clients see what they can actually do with their technology. “Being able to show clients where their technology is lacking and how much better off their business will be with the right technology—there’s nothing like that,” says Brian.

So what does the future look like for C-Forward? Not much different than what it looks like now. “There’s no reason for us to change the slow and steady growth approach,” says Brian. “I can see us expanding to offices that are closer to some of our newer clients, but I’d imagine we’d keep the same process we have now.”

The bottom line for Brian is keeping both his customers and employees happy, and he’s been able to ensure this with the deliberate changes he’s made to the business over time. Fitting to his company’s name, he secured their future by being able to see forward.

If you’d like to learn more about C-Forward or work with them as your new managed service provider, you can contact them here.

C-Forward Invests in downtown Covington with new Headquarters

C-Forward Announces Headquarters Expansion in Covington

Renovation and expansion will include state-of-the-art technology and amenities

Covington, Ky. (August 26, 2021) – C-Forward, a managed services provider of IT solutions with clients throughout the Cincinnati region and Kentucky, announced it is investing $2.3M in its corporate offices at Fifth and Madison in downtown Covington. Solar energy, technology infrastructure, an open office environment and amenities for clients and employees will enhance service to customers and make C-Forward a destination employer for tech talent in Northern Kentucky.

“We’ve grown tremendously since moving our offices to Fifth and Madison in Covington in 2003,” said Brent Cooper, founder and Chairman of the Board. “We’ve achieved double digit growth nearly every year and this expansion will make our offices Class A space by incorporating technology and amazing amenities to provide best-in-class service to our clients and make C-Forward an attractive place to work for tech talent.”

Working with PCA Architects and Manning Construction, C-Forward has spent the past few months designing a new space that will not only improve productivity and employee retention, but will also be a good example for other small businesses in the region.

In addition to C-Forward’s solar panel array, there will be a number of energy efficiencies, including new windows, more efficient HVAC, improved lighting and other strategies to lower its carbon footprint. It will also feature an open-office environment to foster collaboration and state of the art technology for their technicians. An elevator is being added to access the roof and lower level to better use space throughout the three-story building.

“We want our 31 employees to feel like our headquarters is their ‘second home’ and a place we can entertain clients,” said Brian Ruschman, C-Forward’s President. “We offer our employees a flexible environment and as our client base continues to grow, we want to bring customers to Covington to see to see the latest technology solutions. This new 7,500 square foot headquarters will be fantastic!”

Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann celebrated C-Forward’s expansion in Kenton County.

“Congratulations to Brent Cooper and the C-Forward team on their growth and continued investment in Kenton County,” said Judge Knochelmann. “It’s encouraging to see a home-grown technology company succeed and continue to have a positive impact on our Northern Kentucky economy.”

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer also celebrated this project as yet another example of great things happening in Covington.

“Seeing companies like C-Forward willing to re-invest in their properties in Covington to keep them state-of-the-art tells us that they recognize the value our quirky, authentic city has when it comes to attracting the talent which keeps growing and thriving here,” Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said. “Covington has a lot of momentum, and this project adds to a flurry of activity at that one intersection alone.”

Northern Kentucky Tri-ED CEO Lee Crume congratulated C-Forward on its growth and success.

“NKY Tri-ED is proud to have worked with C-Forward and helped them access the KEIA program as they expand and grow high-paying jobs in Northern Kentucky,” said Lee Crume, President and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. “C-Forward serves companies throughout the Cincinnati region from its headquarters in Covington.”

“We are extremely grateful to Tri-ED, the City of Covington and Kenton County for their help and support helping to make this project a reality,” said Cooper. “The Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati region is our home, and we are thrilled to solidify our commitment to this community.”

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in August approved the company for up to $50,000 refund of Kentucky sales and use tax through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA).

About C-Forward
C-Forward, Inc. provides Information Technology consulting services to small and mid-size businesses throughout Cincinnati and the Commonwealth of Kentucky from its headquarters in Covington and downtown Lexington office. Services include network administration – installation, configuration, and support of computers, software and equipment. C-Forward helps companies “look forward” to the future. Visit www.cforward.com for more information.

About Northern Kentucky Tri-ED
Northern Kentucky Tri-ED serves as the primary economic development company for Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, providing marketing, business retention and expansion services for the region. More information is available at www.northernkentuckyusa.com

Tri-ED’s vision is opportunity and prosperity for all Northern Kentuckians.