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BizCast 54: Joe Ruskey Defending Your Data with Dependable Solutions

BizCast 54: Joe Ruskey Defending Your Data with Dependable Solutions

Episode 54

Joe Ruskey Defending Your Data with Dependable Solutions

About BizCast Greater La Crosse

We bring you news from the business community. From startups to experienced problem solvers, you’ll get in-depth insight on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Greater La Crosse. Our show is a collaboration between and BizNews Greater La Crosse ( ).


Joe Ruskey, the owner of Dependable Solutions, an IT company, joins to discuss the latest protections you should have in place for your data. While you think it may not be vulnerable or valuable, imagine what you may have to pay if your photos, health information, or passwords get held hostage. Ruskey talks about how his business has grown, after moving from Chicago to Prairie du Chien, then expanding into La Crosse and now Madison — all by word of mouth. He describes the current environment as the Wild Wild West. The discussion revolves around the growth trajectory of his company, his emphasis on cybersecurity, partnerships, AI, automation, hiring, and the personal journey of realizing the need to delegate. Ruskey also shares his charity work through Rotary service and his goals for the future.

Full Transcript [generated by A.I.]

 [apologies, A.I. did not do well on this transcription]

[00:00:00] Joe Ruskey: You and I were talking about building processes and bringing all that in. As an entrepreneur, that’s not what you do. That’s not who you are normally. And so also realizing where your weaknesses are.

[00:00:10] Vicki Markussen: Welcome to BizCast, Greater La Crosse, a weekly podcast from BizNews. We bring you news from the business community. I am your host and founder, Vicki Markussen, and joining me today is Joe Ruskey. He is the owner of Dependable Solutions. Joe, explain Dependable 

[00:00:28] Joe Ruskey: Solutions. Sure. First of all, thanks for having me, Vicki.

[00:00:31] Joe Ruskey: Yeah, so Dependable Solutions, we are, and we’ll get into this a little bit, but a managed service provider with an emphasis on cybersecurity. We are, what does that mean to everybody else? Really, what that means is we are an IT support company focusing on protecting and mitigating the risk of all of our partners.

[00:00:45] Vicki Markussen: Yeah. People who have computers and systems appreciate what you do. But let’s get started with your story. It’s 2003, which is, I know, when your company started. Where were you and what caused you to say, I think I’m going to start my own 

[00:01:01] Joe Ruskey: company? Sure. Originally born and raised in Chicago.

[00:01:03] Joe Ruskey: And my parents had semi retired to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and at the time I was dating my now wife, and she lived in California, so I had a Southern California fiancé and me in Chicago, and decided to come to Prairie du Chien to take care of my dad, who unfortunately was a smoker and got sick with lung cancer.

[00:01:21] Joe Ruskey: He ended up passing away in 2002, and so my wife and I started, at the time my fiancé and I just started talking and decided, you know what? Chicago’s going down. Southern California is going down. Maybe we should stay here, help my mom out, and raise our family, start a family here in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

[00:01:37] Joe Ruskey: And so that’s what got us to Prairie du Chien in 2002. Right around 2003, wondered, What are we going to do? I did technologies my whole previous career. I owned a business in Chicago. And we thought, let’s give it a shot. Let’s see if people need IT support here, right here in Prairie du Chien and surrounding area.

[00:01:52] Joe Ruskey: And opened the doors in August of 03 and had our first customer probably within two days. Started serving in municipality out that way. What we realized is they didn’t have anybody local that had the experience I came with. And they were hiring from Milwaukee or, larger Municipuh, larger cities and paying a lot of drive time and all that versus having me local with very little overhead in Paris Des Chieses.

[00:02:12] Joe Ruskey: That’s what started us in August of 03.

[00:02:14] Vicki Markussen: Most of us think about, OK, start with home service or something very simple to get a front row first customer as a municipality. Was that intimidating? Was this in your wheelhouse? 

[00:02:25] Joe Ruskey: It was not in my wheelhouse. It was a little bit intimidating, but at the same time, when you open a business a lot of times you’re in meetings and people say, can you do that?

[00:02:32] Joe Ruskey: And you say, yes, we can. And we, a lot of times it’s you. It takes a while to get that growth. But yeah, we jumped right in and started working with businesses and municipalities. A little bit of home users, but mostly businesses and municipalities. 

[00:02:45] Vicki Markussen: What did that growth look like?

[00:02:47] Vicki Markussen: Was that word of mouth? How, what was your key to 

[00:02:50] Joe Ruskey: success? Sure. Yeah, it’s up until this point honestly, it’s all been word of mouth. So for 20 years, it’s all been word of mouth in our reputation. This is the first year that I hired a marketing person to start marketing us because we want to expand over into the Minnesota and some other areas throughout the Midwest.

[00:03:06] Joe Ruskey: But it’s all been word of mouth, and it’s been a controlled growth. And that’s also partially why we haven’t been marketing. Prepared Yet to Grow. Where now I think we are. So 

[00:03:17] Vicki Markussen: you’re humming along it’s 2003, you’re in Prairie du Chien. Word of mouth is, I’m guessing sending you out farther and farther.

[00:03:26] Vicki Markussen: What was the next 

[00:03:28] Joe Ruskey: expansion? Yeah, the next expansion was La Crosse. La Crosse was just natural. We started getting pulled 30 minutes out, 40 minutes out. Next thing you know, we’re in La Crosse. So we started working with some businesses here, right here in La Crosse, probably around 2008, 2009 and opened our first office out here.

[00:03:43] Vicki Markussen: So explain that opening of an office. Why was that critical for you? 

[00:03:47] Joe Ruskey: It was critical for two reasons. Keep in mind, this was prior to COVID, where we’re all used to working remote. So two things. One, I needed a place to stage. I also needed a place to bring in staff. And the community also wants to know that you’re not just a, a flyby.

[00:04:02] Joe Ruskey: You’re actually committed to the community. You’re investing in it. And so I had to prove that I was investing in the community as well. 

[00:04:08] Vicki Markussen: And did you hire La Crosse staff then? Like, how would you split the time? Assuming, you can’t just have someone dedicated to La Crosse at that point? 

[00:04:18] Joe Ruskey: Correct.

[00:04:18] Joe Ruskey: At that point I, it was a lot of me while because I had already hired some staff in the Prairie area so it was a lot of me which is important because as the owner, I was the face, I needed to let people know who Dependable was and who I was. But then as we started to grow, probably in around 2012 we started to bring in staff in the La Crosse office.

[00:04:36] Vicki Markussen: La Crosse is growing for you. Yes. How are you seeing, if at all, how are you seeing your services change? 

[00:04:43] Joe Ruskey: Are we talking 2012 or are we talking today? 

[00:04:46] Vicki Markussen: Let’s talk like 2009. 

[00:04:48] Joe Ruskey: Perfect. Really, what it was is we just started doing more of an emphasis on businesses. small and medium businesses how we could support them where we were, where we could help them, right?

[00:04:58] Joe Ruskey: Technology changes every six months. So the minute you set your focus in one area, it’s going to change on you. With AI, it’s going to change even faster, but right now it’s just really finding what the businesses were looking for. So we spent. Probably three to five years learning the La Crosse market.

[00:05:12] Joe Ruskey: You would think it’s very similar to the Prairie du Chien market, but let me tell you, coming from Chicago to Prairie was a shock. A little bit smaller. But going from Prairie to La Crosse was a shock too because the business community needed different services, expected different things.

[00:05:26] Joe Ruskey: Maybe it was a little more mature in some of the technology that they were using. And we had to make sure that we were adjusting our expertise as well. 

[00:05:33] Vicki Markussen: And so I’m guessing that also involves who you’re able to hire as you’re trying to grow these 

[00:05:39] Joe Ruskey: products. Yeah. Yeah. It’s two things.

[00:05:42] Joe Ruskey: Number one, we hire based on personality. I can’t have somebody that only knows how to talk to a computer. So we hire based on personality. It’s easier for me to teach you tech skills than to teach you to be a person, for lack of a better term. But yeah, so we started looking for more senior, more advanced.

[00:05:58] Joe Ruskey: We are blessed here in La Crosse with Western. Western, I think, is by far one of the best technical colleges in Wisconsin, and we’ve hired from multiple ones. And so we started working with Western, talking to Western, and we have a bunch of their graduates now working for us today. 

[00:06:13] Vicki Markussen: Fantastic. So you have that nice feeder into your business.

[00:06:16] Vicki Markussen: I’m guessing you’re starting to see over time a little bit of a sweet spot for you in terms of type of business that because I know you do what I’m getting at is I know you do a lot of education. You do government. Are you recognizing what you are really good at and what you prefer not to do? 

[00:06:32] Joe Ruskey: We really have a few legs of our stool that we call our business stool.

[00:06:35] Joe Ruskey: So obviously we have locoman which is education municipalities, we also serve rural health care. What we’re finding is there’s a lot of people not serving rural health care, and they really need it, right? They have all the HIPAA requirements and all that. But the small medium businesses really we fit well with the service companies.

[00:06:51] Joe Ruskey: Think of lawyers think of accountants, things like that. That’s really where we have found our niche. Although cybersecurity, I’ll be honest with you, is changing it. It’s really It’s changing it. It’s changing it. It’s less of what the business does now, and it’s more of how to mitigate the risk of a small and medium business, right?

[00:07:07] Joe Ruskey: While we still are experts in certain areas of industries, cyber security has made it more about everybody. It’s not one size fits all. Everybody needs to mitigate their risk. Yeah. 

[00:07:18] Vicki Markussen: Let’s pause on the cybersecurity. Because we’ll talk about that in a second. Let’s keep going with your timeline of growth.

[00:07:24] Vicki Markussen: you have Prairie du Chien, you have La Crosse. How did you determine your next 

[00:07:28] Joe Ruskey: growth market? Honestly, it was a lot of where we were getting pulled. So we had some business, a senior leader at a business, move out to a different area and was doing something over in the Sauk City area and asked if we could come out there and help him out for a little bit.

[00:07:41] Joe Ruskey: So we ended up going out to Sauk City and helping him. Next thing you know, we were in Madison then we got pulled into the Milwaukee area, Waterford area. The next growth, it was just natural. We just walked it out, and probably over the course of three years went from Sauk City over to Milwaukee and started spinning up people out of that office as well.

[00:07:59] Joe Ruskey: Wow. 

[00:08:00] Vicki Markussen: You have three offices now, or four? 

[00:08:02] Joe Ruskey: We actually only have Two physicals, La Crosse and Turitian COVID changed the world, right? So what we learned was it was more efficient to just buy company vehicles and have our team go to our clients as needed or work remotely. Because a lot of what we do is remote work anyways.

[00:08:17] Joe Ruskey: So what does it matter if they’re sitting in an office or if they’re sitting if they’re sitting at home? We have really learned how to communicate well so that we can build our culture make sure people are understanding, make sure they have a learning path, make sure they have go to techs, everything that they need all virtually.

[00:08:32] Joe Ruskey: So it’s really worked out well. That is one of the positive COVID brought this industry. 

[00:08:37] Vicki Markussen: Let’s talk about your move into managed services. So for people who don’t know what that is, explain it. 

[00:08:43] Joe Ruskey: Sure. So really what managed services is think of IT support as reactive. You call me when something breaks.

[00:08:48] Joe Ruskey: Managed services is it’s a monthly fee that you can just budget for. It takes care of everything. You’ll hear it called ACE or all you can eat. And so really what it is your monthly fee covers everything that we’re going to do. We’re going to support your systems. We’re going to keep things upgraded.

[00:09:03] Joe Ruskey: We’re going to make sure that if you need some training, we’re providing training, all of that. We, basically, what we tell people is. We’re your entire IT department from help desk on up through CTO at a fraction of the cost. And what it really allows is some of the small businesses, even if they have their own IT person, they don’t have that expertise of cost benefit analysis or, five year budgets or, what’s the best product out there for that market.

[00:09:28] Joe Ruskey: So that’s where we can come in and do that. At the same time, a senior network engineer for a small business, if their salary is, decide to go from eighty to a hundred thousand dollars, they can’t afford that. But we can spread that across, twenty different businesses, and so it allows us to give you that expertise that maybe you just couldn’t afford yourself and it’s 

[00:09:45] Vicki Markussen: just automated.

[00:09:46] Vicki Markussen: You have an owner who doesn’t have to worry about that. Enough 

[00:09:49] Joe Ruskey: focus on your business will focus on your technology, the And we’re going to meet with you minimum, depending on the size of your business, but minimum quarterly, just to really have those discussions. So we are a true part of your team.

[00:10:01] Joe Ruskey: We’re meeting with your boards. We’re meeting with your leadership team, small businesses, we’re meeting just with the owner. 

[00:10:06] Vicki Markussen: I’m sure there’s gratitude there to say, now it’s safe. So let’s talk about cybersecurity. When did you start to see cybersecurity being a need? 

[00:10:16] Joe Ruskey: everybody talked about it for a while and then probably about two years ago you really started hearing about it because you started seeing a lot of the hits that were coming local.

[00:10:25] Joe Ruskey: People think all the time what do they want from me, right? I’m not Bank of America. Bank of America has people sitting there 24-7 almost unlimited budgets protecting their network. Who do you think it’s easier to hit a small business or Bank of America? So they started targeting small businesses.

[00:10:39] Joe Ruskey: I just read an article recently that if cybersecurity crime was a country. It would be the third-largest economy in the world. That’s how much it’s grown in the past probably three years. So about two years ago, we really started jumping into it, traveling all over the country, learning so much so that we’ve even, I’ve been invited now as an expert.

[00:11:02] Joe Ruskey: I’ve spoken with the local Wisconsin FBI at conferences and stuff, just talking to people on how they can mitigate their risk because. The sad truth is, even the government’s come out. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen to you. So how do you mitigate that risk and protect yourself so if it does happen or when it does happen, you’re as protected as possible so it’s not catastrophic to your business.

[00:11:23] Vicki Markussen: From the general public’s perspective, how does cybersecurity impact them? 

[00:11:28] Joe Ruskey: It really impacts them in the sense of Financially whether you’re a consumer or you’re the business owner, financially, you’re going to be affected by it, right? If a business gets hit, chances are they may not make it if they’re not protected.

[00:11:41] Joe Ruskey: You as a consumer, if you’re not protecting your every single one of your accounts with MFA, two-factor authentication, multi factor people can get into your bank accounts. They can get into your insurance. They can get into so much. It is. Insane right now, the amount of cyber hits that we’re seeing on a daily basis.

[00:11:59] Vicki Markussen: And so obviously it’s money driven. Is there also things like we see it all the time, right? All of a sudden, a warning, your virus isn’t, or your computer is infected. Click here for your virus. Vicki Markussen, BizCast, Greater La Crosse, 

[00:12:20] Joe Ruskey: Vicki, Markussen, Vicki, Markussen, Vicki, Markussen, Vicki, Markussen.

[00:12:32] Joe Ruskey: ransom you or anything like that. They just might take your data. They might take your passwords to get into something deeper because then they can sell data, they can sell your contacts, they can sell where you’ve been, where you’re going on the internet, all that stuff. They can make a lot of money off of it.

[00:12:44] Joe Ruskey: Then on the flip side, we also have state actors. You got China, you got Russia, you got other countries. that say the only reason they’re doing this is for disruption, right? They don’t care if it costs us money or not. They’re trying to disrupt us, right? And school hits, a lot of school hits right now are happening because of, you got threat actors from other countries trying to disrupt our education system.

[00:13:04] Joe Ruskey: All they’re trying to do is cause disruption and pain to the United States. And it’s not just, it used to just be, we pictured this nerdy little boy in his mom’s basement, right? Now it’s governments. There was a special on 60 Minutes not too long ago where Russia actually has office buildings where people come to work and that’s their job trying to hack around the world.

[00:13:22] Joe Ruskey: It’s crazy out there right now. And so it’s really how can you protect yourself, and I, I’m not one of those guys that are wearing a tinfoil hat, right? We got to live. But at the same time, there are a lot of things that you can do, as a small business and as a consumer.

[00:13:37] Joe Ruskey: I’d say number one, multifactor. If you’re not using multifactor on every one of your accounts, that’s a problem. Number two, backup. If you’re not backing up your data and making sure it’s secure out in the cloud somewhere, that’s a problem. But number three, I would say training educate yourself as a consumer, but as a business owner, train your people.

[00:13:55] Joe Ruskey: I know of a specific case where all the right tools and everything were in place for this business, and they were sent an email and the email went to spam like it was supposed to because it was a bad email. The person thought it was a legit email. Released it from spam, kept clicking on a link.

[00:14:11] Joe Ruskey: Oh God, they thought nothing was happening. It was happening in the background. And they forwarded it to their friend and said, can’t get it to open. Can you open this? So they’re clicking on a link. Multiple machines were getting infected just because. All the training was in place, but that one person didn’t think.

[00:14:26] Joe Ruskey: So you, it’s constant training. It’s not a one-time training. All of our customers have monthly trainings that they get sent as well as phishings phishing emails and stuff, training, phishing emails so that they can learn this stuff. Because the minute you learn it, it’s going to change on you.

[00:14:40] Joe Ruskey: And so you have to stay, digital and keep. Keep making sure you’re educated. 

[00:14:45] Vicki Markussen: As you talk about just an average person who gets their passwords hacked and yes, we can think, what are they going to do to me. I don’t have millions of dollars. However, they just got access to. Vicki Markussen, BizCast, Greater La Crosse, Vicki, Markussen, Vicki, Markussen, That’s the common person hacking that can jeopardize my 

[00:15:14] Joe Ruskey: business?

[00:15:15] Joe Ruskey: Yes. Yeah. If you think about it, all they need is that one foot in the door, right? We heard about the whole MGM thing how did that happen? They tricked a help desk person into getting one password, pretended like they were a user the helpdesk person didn’t follow policy, reset one password, they sat in there until they got the next password, and then they watched until they got the next password.

[00:15:32] Joe Ruskey: All they need is that one foothold. You just saw the government come out and say China has been targeting our critical infrastructure for five years. They’ve been hiding on networks for over five years that they just found, waiting to go after our water and our electric and all that. Now they caught a lot of it and stopped a lot of it.

[00:15:49] Joe Ruskey: They don’t announce a lot of it until they stop it. But the average business, the average time a threat actor sits on your network is a hundred days. So think about that. They’re in there for three plus months just watching. They got in because one person gave them a password. But think about this.

[00:16:04] Joe Ruskey: If you were helpdesk, and I had been hit, and now all of a sudden you come onto my machine to see what’s going on, and you log in, now they just captured your password, right? And now, now they just escalated up one more level. And that’s the kind of stuff that they’re doing, is they’re patient.

[00:16:19] Joe Ruskey: It’s not, I’m going to come in and hit you as hard as I can. I’m going to come in. I’m going to be patient. I, when I was working with the FBI recently, they were talking about, they had they’re starting to see the average time they’re sitting on a network now is 180 days. Wow. So six months of them learning and gathering data just so they can get deeper into the system.

[00:16:37] Joe Ruskey: We’ve had some local hits here in the La Crosse area. It was one person that, made a mistake and they got in, had a foothold and, disruption and lots of money. 

[00:16:47] Vicki Markussen: Whether they’re trying to access it or the cost to repair what was done. Yep. 

[00:16:51] Joe Ruskey: I tell that to businesses all the time.

[00:16:53] Joe Ruskey: Think about what you would do even if you had the greatest backups in the world and all that stuff and we rebuilt everything. Average rebuild takes five days. So what are you doing with your staff for five days? And people say I functioned before without computers. Try it today. Yeah, it’s if you don’t have your email if you don’t have because everything gets shut down and depending on who’s hitting you might have to call in the feds and if the feds come in you’re shut down even longer and It’s crazy out there right now.

[00:17:19] Joe Ruskey: It’s the Wild West, and really it’s the good guys start winning for a while, then the bad guys figure it out. And so that’s why you’re constantly on guard. And honestly, I think that’s why we transitioned over to this is because people didn’t understand what they could even do, and having a company, focused on this and learning this daily and being able to jump and head off that risk and work with the business owners has been huge for our partners.


[00:17:42] Vicki Markussen: It just gets me thinking of, there’s so much consumer demand for access, instant access, right? Get me into my bank account, let me transfer some dollars, and all of the security that has to be happening to make that possible for us consumers to have that convenience. That’s a whole other responsibility.

[00:17:59] Vicki Markussen: Spec level for 

[00:17:59] Joe Ruskey: those companies. Yeah. Yeah. It is. And it’s sad because we are a, we’re a, we want it now society. I had a customer recently say, I hate MFA, and I said, I absolutely hate it too. But I would really hate if I let somebody in because I didn’t do have MFA on my, in my, on my equipment.

[00:18:14] And you have to change your thinking too. Me as a business owner. I’m specifically targeted. They can go out and find that I’m a business owner. And in my own company, I have to go to the help desk to have stuff done on my own machine. I’m not even an administrator on my machine.

[00:18:27] Joe Ruskey: So it’s changing the thought process. Now, is it inconvenient? Yeah, as a business owner, I work on weekends and nights, right? So if all of a sudden I get stuck at 10 o’clock at night, I got nowhere to go, right? I have to wait till my help desk gets in. So it is inconvenient, and it slows you down, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.

[00:18:45] Vicki Markussen: That’s a whole other thought process of how targeted business owners are. So I’m Never. My brain didn’t even go there. So as you’re focusing on cybersecurity, obviously, that’s pulling in a different skill set into your individuals. I’m guessing training is massive. So, how have you seen the skill sets of your people that you’re hiring changing 

[00:19:06] Joe Ruskey: over time.

[00:19:07] Joe Ruskey: Yeah. So again, back to Western, thank God they have a cybersecurity program. And it’s good. In fact, I trust it so much. My son’s going there for cybersecurity. But also we’re also partnering up I’m getting my staff trained daily, but then we also partner up with companies national that are, some of our partners, Highwire Overwatch is one of them that actually partners up with us on all of our part.

[00:19:28] Joe Ruskey: and all of our customers, and make sure that, they’re an extra level of security. They actually are watching our systems 24 7 so that my staff actually gets to sleep. So, finding those different partners like that are allowing us to actually get some sleep and bringing us that expertise, right?

[00:19:43] Joe Ruskey: I can learn a lot and my team of 30 can learn a lot, and we can educate a lot of the businesses. But Highwire’s team of 200 plus can learn a heck of a lot, too. And they can educate us so that then we can educate, right? It’s all, I tell people this all the time, we’re all in this together. And if we don’t if we don’t realize that, then we’re making a big mistake because there’s no way one company or one person can know all of this because it’s changing daily, it used to change.

[00:20:08] Joe Ruskey: Like we said, once every six months. Now we’re seeing it, then it was down to once every three months. Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence is changing that even more now, right? Who’s going to win the battle of figuring out AI? The good guys or the bad guys? And so that’s where we’re at right now. I told my, I was talking to one of my staff members the other day and I said, When I got in this industry in 94 technology was changing every three to six months, and it was massive changes.

[00:20:34] Joe Ruskey: I said, and now it’s slowed down, I said, but I think you guys are now going to experience the same thing I experienced in the 90s with artificial intelligence. That’s going to change the world we live in for good and bad. It’s going to change the expertise that’s needed in the industry.

[00:20:48] Joe Ruskey: I think some of the basic jobs are going to go away. I think, in IT, I think you’re going to lose out on some of the more basic programming jobs and things like that. Maybe some of the Lower end help desk jobs and things like that will go away because you can automate. But I think it’s also going to create a bunch of jobs too.

[00:21:04] Joe Ruskey: People that understand how to control AI, people that know how to set processes up with AI, things like that. So I think that while some jobs will go away if people continue to train, that we’re going to have a bunch of new jobs that we’re going to need skilled workers to help out with. 

[00:21:19] Vicki Markussen: It’s like automation.

[00:21:19] Vicki Markussen: I remember this from Golden Plump, actually, up in Arcadia. And they brought in an automation line and what ended up happening is they didn’t lay anyone off. They needed them on the back end in packaging because things were just coming out so much faster. Exactly. Yeah, so people adapt. 

[00:21:37] Joe Ruskey: Yeah, exactly. And I think if you adapt, not only will you have a job that will be around for a while, you’ll probably make more money.

[00:21:44] Joe Ruskey: Really it’s but this is an industry where you’ve got to continue to train yourself. And if you don’t, you’re going to fall behind. And like I said, it’s changing every couple of months now, and we might even go down to even faster than that. 

[00:21:56] Vicki Markussen: So you’ve focused, I don’t want to say that’s your only cause.

[00:22:00] Vicki Markussen: you have the managed I. T Yeah. What has that done for your staffing size? 

[00:22:05] Joe Ruskey: Yeah. So we’re up to 30 employees now. We’ve had to continue to hire. We’re also very because of automation in AI, we’ve been able to slide some tasks down to automation and then just train our some of our junior staff up. So really, I’d say for the past probably two years, we’ve hung at that 30, but we’re probably producing.

[00:22:26] Joe Ruskey: 40 percent more work. And a lot of it has to be due to the automation. Interesting. Yeah. There’s some great tools out there right now. Really quick story. We had a customer that they do a lot of hiring, and they’re growing tremendously quick, and so they’re onboarding about 15 employees a month and so on of the things that we were doing was there were so many systems, it was averaging about two hours for our team to set up one user, a new user that was coming in.

[00:22:55] Joe Ruskey: We automated that process, and we’re finalizing that. We’re just, we talked about it yesterday, just ready to roll that out. We think we’ve got that process down to less than five minutes now with automation. So, from two hours to five minutes. And so think about that. So I basically just saved two hours times 15 employees.

[00:23:13] Joe Ruskey: I just picked up 30 hours. So I think if businesses take advantage of some of the technology that’s out there right now with AI and automation and all that, we can, we’re all hurting to get good employees. And so this is a great way to find that and fill that 

[00:23:27] Vicki Markussen: hole. How are you finding those?

[00:23:29] Vicki Markussen: Vicki 

[00:23:31] Joe Ruskey: Markussen, BizCast, Greater La Crosse, Vicki, Markussen, Vicki, Markussen as a business owner that’s focused on, making Widget X, you can focus on Widget X. I’ll bring you the knowledge of some of the automation and stuff that’s out there. That’s the other thing about the partnerships with us is we do a lot of that groundwork, legwork for you.

[00:23:59] Vicki Markussen: Fantastic. What’s next? Is there something coming after cybersecurity that has you worried? 

[00:24:06] Joe Ruskey: No, I think cyber is probably going to be the big focus for the next five years. I think what we’re going to have to figure out is the AI piece, where that fits and how to make that happen.

[00:24:16] Joe Ruskey: I think AI is going to be, I was just telling somebody I do presentations all over the U. S. and on average, it takes me about four hours to make a presentation. I did a presentation with Microsoft Copilot the other day and said go write me a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation that focuses on cyber mitigation for small and medium businesses.

[00:24:37] Joe Ruskey: Within two minutes, it wrote me, had beautiful art, had everything. All I had to do was insert my logo. So I think, I think we’re going to find tremendous ways to use AI. But so are the bad guys. And so I think the next five years are going to be focused fighting that battle, finding the right tools, finding the right partnerships.

[00:24:55] Joe Ruskey: Like I said, we work with that large multi state company. Finding those partnerships I think are going to be key for the businesses that are going to be out there. And just finding the right partners, right? I tell people that all the time. We’re a customer service business that happens to focus on cybersecurity and MSP.

[00:25:12] Joe Ruskey: So find that right partner for you because everybody works different. There are some people that they don’t want that. They just want that IT company. They don’t care about the relationship. They just need to know that it’s done. So find that right partner for you. I think that businesses right now can focus on that partnership and who’s right for them.

[00:25:28] Joe Ruskey: Because everybody’s going to need help over the next five years. 

[00:25:32] Vicki Markussen: Absolutely. And how about for your business? What’s next for your business? 

[00:25:35] Joe Ruskey: For our business, I think that there’s a lot of growth. Honestly, our we call it a big BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal, right? Anybody that’s Jim Collins, yeah.

[00:25:43] Joe Ruskey: EOS and all that stuff. Our BHAG is we want to be the premier MSP in the Midwest. And I know that’s huge, but that’s our goal over the next five to ten years. And our goal is really to make sure that we find the right partners the right businesses, the right staff members and just make sure that we’re providing excellent service, protecting our customers and making sure that we’re providing Lifelong relationships and helping people with their technology needs.

[00:26:05] Vicki Markussen: We were talking before I hit record about you realizing that you can’t do it all. Like your business grew to a point where you can’t do it all. What was that realization like? And what was 

[00:26:17] Joe Ruskey: the result? So it’s obviously as an owner that’s built something that’s extremely hard, right? You always want to do it.

[00:26:21] Joe Ruskey: I think that really my staff probably about Six or seven years ago really started pushing me and saying, we need to grow too. And that really hit home with me when I realized I was probably holding them back. And I’ll tell you right now, I was just talking to my team the other day and I said, thank God for you guys, because if it wasn’t for you, The stuff that we’re doing now would never be able to be done by just me.

[00:26:46] Joe Ruskey: And realizing the expertise and the talents that your team has, that was a big thing for me. And also physical exhaustion, right? Realizing, sooner or later, you just can’t do it all. And you’re going to mess up, right? You’re going to be so tired. You’re going to make a mistake.

[00:27:00] Joe Ruskey: And then who’s suffering ultimately, but your partners, your customers. So that was a big thing as well. And then also deciding that, if I want to grow if I want the business to grow, I need to have the right people around me. Recently, in the past two years, we’ve brought on, two senior managers, right?

[00:27:14] Joe Ruskey: A chief technology officer and a service manager. Just

[00:27:17] Joe Ruskey: Because that used to be where I was at, but now I can’t be and so while I’m focusing on vision and direction, I need somebody making sure that our partners are served, our customers are taken care of things are getting done, our teams are getting trained up correctly and so that was another piece that I had to do is decide, did I want to grow?

[00:27:35] Joe Ruskey: And the answer was yes. And then the next question was, how can we make this happen? And building processes. You and I were talking about building processes and bringing all that in. That’s really hard, right? As an entrepreneur, that’s not what you do. That’s not who you are normally. And so also realizing where your weaknesses are.

[00:27:52] Joe Ruskey: I’m the last person in the world you want to build a process because I’m going to get so bored that I’m just going to end up, cutting. I can relate, yeah. But I’ve got two great guys on my team that, man, they will build a process from start to finish that. anybody can run with. And also finding where your weaknesses are and bringing in that talent.

[00:28:08] Vicki Markussen: Yeah. It’s a great realization to have because I’m guessing the free time that you have gained as a result of that is the rewards of finally being a business owner. It took this long to realize it. 

[00:28:18] Joe Ruskey: It did. Yeah. Yeah. And it, it is wonderful. It’s you always seem to find other things to fill your time.

[00:28:23] Joe Ruskey: As we were speaking about earlier, but yeah, there’s a lot of freedom as well, knowing that your team’s got you. 

[00:28:29] Vicki Markussen: That’s a good segue to how you do give your time, and how you give to the community. And of course, I know that you’ve been heavily involved in Rotary to the district level, or?

[00:28:40] Vicki Markussen: Yeah. Yeah. Talk about what to you and how it has helped you personally and your business. Sure. 

[00:28:48] Joe Ruskey: So my wife, Tina, and I feel that we’re on this earth to give back. And we just happen to be blessed with a business that allows us to give back. And one of the things that I actually got involved in Rotary in 2003 in Prairie du Chien because I didn’t know anybody in the community.

[00:29:01] Joe Ruskey: And I was told, that’s the place you need to be, that’s where the business leaders and owners and mayors and all that are a part of. At the time, I thought it was just old people that planted flowers, so I really didn’t know too much about it. I ended up becoming an old person planting flowers.

[00:29:13] Vicki Markussen: Yes, I was just, I was going to ask you that. 

[00:29:15] Joe Ruskey: Yes but yeah, so I joined Rotary in 03, just didn’t know the community. And then in 04 I actually met my superintendent of the first school that we partnered up with that got us Kind of becoming an expert in schools. Ah, but really it was more about, I joined Rotary to know the community, I stayed in Rotary to give back to the world.

[00:29:33] Joe Ruskey: And Rotary has allowed me to give back locally. Prairie du Chien, La Crosse area through many projects, we all know how strong Rotary is in La Crosse. I’m actually a member of the Downtown La Crosse Rotary now. Ah, and it also I’ve been able to use Rotary and go to places like Guatemala and help out on projects with, kids out there that are literally living in dumps and making a difference in their lives, and I am, I’ve served the district as the governor and traveled to 60 clubs around Wisconsin and was blessed enough to see all that they’re doing in their local communities and seeing how I could help them.

[00:30:03] Joe Ruskey: I now serve at the zone level covering everywhere from and on up through the border of Canada and working with them and helping train up the next leaders of Rotary and all that stuff. So that’s, that’s huge for us and we feel that, if you can make a difference in somebody’s lives.

[00:30:18] Joe Ruskey: That’s what you’re here for.

[00:30:19] Vicki Markussen: So my common closer question is very similar to that. And it’s what makes you passionate about what you do? 

[00:30:28] Joe Ruskey: The people. I think that the people make me passionate. I love helping. I love going into a place and seeing a situation where somebody is just, doesn’t know how to get out of it.

[00:30:38] Joe Ruskey: And we’re able to say, you know what, you can do this, and this, and that’ll help. When you look at my service life of Rotary, being able to go in and say, and I’ve helped out on projects where mothers have had to give babies poisoned water because that’s the only water that they had.

[00:30:50] Joe Ruskey: And being able to say, you’ll never have to do that again. That’s the stuff that drives me is going in there and making a difference and knowing that what I’m doing matters. 

[00:31:01] Vicki Markussen: Well said. You have been listening to Joe Ruskey. He’s the owner of Dependable Solutions. I am your host, Vicki Markussen. We will catch you next week.



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