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.

C-Forward’s Todd Rohrer Promoted to Supervisor

Todd RohrerC-Forward is proud to announce the promotion of Todd Rohrer to Supervisor. He joined C-Forward in 2019 with over 13 years of technical experience. Rohrer acquired an Associate’s degree from Cincinnati State and a Liberal Arts degree from Xavier University. Rohrer has worked for both small and multi-national corporations which have provided him with the experience to work on varying complexities of networks. He will be managing a staff of three technicians. His hobbies include skiing, kayaking while he also volunteers at the Newport Aquarium as part of their Scuba Dive Crew. Check out Todd on the Aquarium’s social media site while he’s swimming with the sharks.

C-Forward is a Managed Services Provider of Information Technology services. They provide outsourced IT services for over 150 clients in both the Greater Cincinnati & NKY region as well as in Lexington. With a tagline of being proactive, reliable and responsive – they offer the knowledge of professionals who have the expertise to achieve client’s IT goals. They offer cloud & security solutions that protect and manage clients networks. As one client said “C-Forward keeps us safe, secure and running smoothly.” For 3 consecutive years, C-Forward has been honored as one of the world’s premier Managed Services Provider on the prestigious Channel Futures MSP 501 rankings.

C-Forward doesn’t just run a business, they invest in the communities that surround us. They partner with many local nonprofit organizations to sponsor and promote their events. Check out their mural painted on the back of C-Forward’s building across the street, it is an homage to all the great things in Covington.

C-Forward’s Dedication to Cyber Security Led by vCIO Bryan Cobb

Bryan CobbAt C-Forward, protecting our client’s information is our top priority. Cybersecurity is a growing need in our community as cyber crime increases and our technology gets smarter. Bryan Cobb, our virtual Chief Information Officer, (vCIO) is one of many at C-Forward who is dedicated to keeping our clients safe and happy.

Cobb oversees all of C-Forward’s vCIO services. Cobb states, “The vCIO process consists of a set of standards that our team uses to audit our clients. Once the audit is complete, I review everything and convert all of the technology deficiencies into business risks that the client can understand. It’s all about the client understanding how their business is at risk if they do or don’t do something as it relates to their technology.”

Cobb is proud of the work that he has done with C-Forward over the years and all of the accomplishments the C-Forward team has made together. One project that Cobb is currently working on is a new cyber security solution. Cobb states, “We are currently working on a really cool cyber security solution that we are close to being able to offer to our customers. I’ve been able to take this initiative from ground zero and see it through to where it is today and hopefully where it will be tomorrow. It’s very exciting! Shameless plug: If you see this and your business is worried about Cyber Security (ransomware, cyber crime), please reach out to me!”

Cobb believes that C-Forward lives up to their mission statement of being Personal, Proactive, and Reliable. Cobb states, “Our vCIO/auditing service and what our technicians do every day is very proactive and we also make sure we hire technicians and engineers who are reliable and personal. When our clients succeed, we succeed, so we definitely view it as a partnership!”

Outside of work, Cobb enjoys spending time with his family, working on construction projects around his house, and being an active participant in his community. Cobb says, “I’ve always been involved in community service and I’ve pretty much done it all. From starting a “Father Involvement program” at my kid’s school, to participating in Leadership NKY, being Cub Scout leader, coaching soccer, sitting on the Boone County Education Foundation’s board, and now sitting on the NKY Makerspace steering committee.I’ve been very active in the community, and C-Forward has been very helpful, as ‘Community success’ is part of the company’s mission.”

Bryan Cobb is an integral part of the C-Forward team and we cannot wait to see what he accomplishes next!

Silver Champions C-Forward’s Commitment to Quality Service

Dale SilverC-Forward’s tagline is “Personal, Proactive & Reliable” and has been the basis for building the company over the years. By taking the time to know our clients, we are able to build great, long lasting connections with them that helps our businesses grow together. Nobody embodies this tagline better than our Vice President Client Services, Dale Silver. Silver has been with C-Forward for around ten years, starting as a Client Services Manager and being promoted to Vice President Client Services in 2017.

Silver says that her motto is to, “make clients happy.” She states, “I love visiting and interacting with clients to ensure we are providing outstanding client service. We have quality clients who rely on C-Forward and our technicians to protect their IT environment.”

Silver does a little bit of everything at C-Forward, “My daily work schedule varies tremendously – reviewing/renewing contracts with clients, communicating about issues – especially being the go-to person that handles any difficult situations that arise with a client. I receive calls from techs needing assistance resolving non-technical issues on tickets. Managing day-to-day customer service operations ( Dispatch, Service Response Team and Billing/Accounting) as each area has their own unique challenges.”

When she is not working with clients, Silver works diligently to communicate client’s needs with the rest of the management team. She says, “I work with our President (Brian Ruschman) on new contracts to develop a strategy to handle a prospect’s particular need. Based on the interactions and feedback I have from clients, departments or supervisors, our Sr. V.P. (Mike Grout) and I work together to improve efficiencies within the company while also coordinating internal projects when instituting major changes affecting clients.”

In addition, Silver is also responsible for coordinating the marketing efforts, including the website, branding materials and philanthropic endeavors. Silver says, “C-Forward has always been generous to our community non-profits and educational organizations.

Silver speaks highly of C-Forward and believes that the company culture is what makes it such a great place to work. She says, “Brent Cooper developed a company culture of fostering a team approach when making decisions. He strove to consider all aspects of a situation and make decisions that were best for employees and best for clients. He then gave the Leadership Team the ability and freedom to continue that legacy.”

Dale Silver is an integral part of the C-Forward team and we cannot wait to see what she accomplishes in the future at C-Forward.

Grout talks proudly of the C-Forward Team

Mike GroutC-Forward takes pride in our ability to provide both our employees and customers with the quality work environment and services they need to succeed. Over this last year, C-Forward has been able to achieve a 100% employee retention rate. As difficult as this feat is, it would not have been possible without the amazing work of our Senior Vice President and COO, Mike Grout. Grout has been working for C-Forward for around 15 years and has climbed the ranks over the years. Beginning his career at C-Forward as a Network Technician in 2006, Grout was then promoted to Technical Services Manager, then Vice President of Technical Services, and now has been Senior Vice President and COO since 2017. He says that his role in the company revolves around business operations including staff and vendor management, service delivery, business strategy, process improvements, and time and cost optimization. Grout says, “Most of my days are spent leading and working directly with our team. Arguably, my most important job is hiring our new team members and making sure we continue to have a positive culture with happy employees so we can retain our talented team.”

Grout describes his time at C-Forward as an experience that brings him satisfaction on a day-to-day basis. He states, “My favorite part about working at C-Forward is being able to build and lead a team of smart and talented people who care about their work. I get great satisfaction when daily actions and coaching turn into visible improvements in our team and our business. I love watching our people grow both personally and professionally. I also love working in a small business where you can see individual efforts directly result in something being successful.”

One of Grout’s favorite experiences through his work with C-Forward is the knowledge he has gained through traveling. Grout says, “I’ve attended numerous IT conferences all over the country including the huge Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and many small group conferences which host executives from the top 250 managed IT providers in the world. Not only do I enjoy the travel, I’ve been able to gain a wide variety of knowledge from these experiences that have made me a better leader and in turn strengthened our business.”

Grout is proud to be working at C-Forward and believes in the message that they hope to send out into the world. He states, “I’m most proud of the team we’ve built. We always try to do the right thing and put people over profits. One of our most common mantras is ‘Happy Employees and Happy Customers.” You don’t have one without the other. By surrounding ourselves with a great team, we’re able to add great customers who also share in our philosophy. We believe our mission is to make local small businesses and our community a little better every day.”

Mike Grout has been a critical part of the C-Forward team for over 15 years and we cannot wait to see what he accomplishes in the future at C-Forward.

C-Forward – a Great Place to Work

Brian RuschmanOn average in the United States, an IT person stays with a company for less than five years. C-Forward boasts an over 95% retention rate every year with over half of the company being on the team for over a decade! One of those responsible for the wonderful culture is C-Forward’s President, Brian Ruschman. Ruschman has been with the company since March of 2006. First starting out as a Network Technician, he then grew into a Sales Manager, then Vice President, and now President 15 years later! Ruschman says that even though he is not a sales manager anymore, he still focuses on sales and speaking with businesses about how C-Forward can help achieve their goals through technology.

Ruschman describes C-Forward as a positive work environment for everyone stating, “C-Forward strives to bring a high level of trust and camaraderie; to be a part of the team… We foster a team atmosphere, working together to achieve a common goal which is the best support for our clients.” Ruschman also adds that one of his favorite events he attends for C-Forward is the Consumer Electronics Show. He states, “The Consumer Electronics Show is a highlight each year. Major manufacturers use the conference to debut their new solutions for that upcoming year. I was also able to take part in the Tuscany trip with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, networking with others from the region in a relaxed atmosphere. I highly recommend these yearly excursions!”

However, Ruschman says that his favorite part about working with the company is the people. He says, “I truly enjoy speaking with people about how they can improve their business and how technology can get them there. It’s a big part of my job to listen to business leaders about their pain points with productivity or a certain software package. We then discuss with them about how different IT solutions can be implemented to increase productivity and have happier employees. Achieving that piece is my favorite part about working at C-Forward.” He also specifically shouted out Mike Grout, Senior VP and Chief Operating Officer, as someone who has done “a terrific job adding stellar resources to the team!”

Brian Ruschman has been an incredibly valuable part of the C-Forward team for over 15 years and we cannot wait to see what he accomplishes in the future.