20 Aug Tushaus Computer Services aims for $100 million mark
Milwaukee, Wis. – Talking to Guy Mascari, one gets the impression that he would like to clone Tushaus Computer Services.
Over and over again.
Mascari, director of development for the Milwaukee County Research Park, has seen Tushaus grow from a start up to a $20 million annual company, and most of that growth has occurred within the confines of the research park.
“They are sort of the ideal [research park] company,” Mascari said. “They started in the business incubator and moved into their own facility in the park.”
Those humble beginnings date back to 1993, when relatively few could fully predict the impact of the Internet. Tushaus, far from being a victim of the ensuing dotcom bust, has not only grown into a $20 million company with 120 employees, it would like to make that growth seem like a drop in the bucket.
In five years, chief executive Gregg Tushaus anticipates his company generating upwards of $100 million in annual revenue, employing in the neighborhood of 250 people, and expanding beyond existing markets in Milwaukee and the Fox River Valley.
Given the company’s exhaustive suite of services and vendor relationships, there is plenty of room to grow, provided Tushaus can maintain a staff with varied technical capabilities. Developing a staff with the skills to handle products from more than 25 vendors is an on-going challenge for Tushaus – at its core, a systems integrator – because it’s not unusual for workers to craft solutions with multiple technologies and vendors, and there is concern in the technology community that labor shortages will cause the region to fall short of its potential.
A Tushaus worker may have to help a client automate a manual process one moment, and quickly transition to helping another organization improve communications for its mobile workforce. An expanse of services was more unique during the founding of the company, when the industry was shifting from a product service focus to a network solutions approach, but now it’s much more commonplace.
Finding people who can dabble in multiple technologies is a challenge, so Tushaus leverages its own staff. One of its most effective employee recruitment methods is securing referrals from its own employees to colleagues or friends in the technology industry.
Needless to say, the degree to which a company has made itself an attractive place to work will determine whether employees are willing to serve as referrals, but Tushaus has attacked this on two fronts that help it stay ahead of the IT labor curve.
First, it recruits nationwide in addition to southeastern Wisconsin, and it offers work flexibility, both in terms of time for work-life balance, and also from the standpoint of assigning work that challenges people with new technologies and new problems. Out of necessity, some Tushaus personnel specialize in more than one area, allowing the company to provide a variety of technology services.
“There is cross training that occurs,” Tushaus explained. “We may not have as much depth in certain areas, but we have enough knowledge to be effective with a given problem or project.”
Prominent organizations have enough trust in Tushaus to partner on key projects. The Medical College of Wisconsin has outsourced to Tushaus the service and support of its network – e-mail, file storage, and other common services – and Tushaus serves in a support role for the implementation of Epic Systems software at Froedtert Hospital.
The company has positioned itself as the business partner that concentrates on project-based services. It not only maintains vendor partnerships with more than 25 organizations, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec, its suite of services is broad enough to include managed services, search engine customization, web design, remote communications, and customer relationship management – to name a few.
At the moment, Tushaus’ largest revenue stream is derived from managed services, and that is likely to continue well into the future. Its commitment to this area was reinforced by its January acquisition of Bedrock Managed Services and Consulting of Green Bay. Customers like managed services because they allow for more predictability and they provide more opportunities to incorporate best practices, Tushaus said.
Best practices, moreso than technology, come into play on concerns like the government’s new e-discovery rules, which are increasingly on Tushaus’ radar screen. Unfortunately, sometimes the radar picks it up too late, an indication that companies still are too reactive to this mandate.
When it comes to e-discovery, Tushaus would prefer more than an ounce of prevention. Most organizations think about e-discovery only when they are slapped with a lawsuit, and without a sensible approach to process and practices, the results can be chaotic.
“Typically, it’s because they are involved in some litigation, and they are required to deliver some type of documents or data or e-mail,” Tushaus said. “There are a lot of things you’re trying to prioritize in business – based on the economics of any particular project.”
More like Tushaus?
Mascari would like to see more local stories like Tushaus develop within the research park, but he’s not sure economic conditions are right. When Tushaus started in the early 1990s, the nation was at the threshold of the Internet and PC economy, but those “go-go” days have been tempered.
“I do think those were sort of unique times just because of where the economy was during that period,” Mascari said. “It’s probably more of a challenge now to go from five to 75 employees, but it can be done, certainly.”
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