Gregg Tushaus’s enterprises are on the fast track
In 1979, at the of age 15, Gregg Tushaus wrote a computer program to keep track of bowling league scores and standings. The teenager made a few dollars with it, but never tried to develop the program into a serious business.
But, the entrepreneurial seed had been planted.
Today, at age 34, Tushaus owns two successful Wauwatosa-based computer services businesses with 88 employees and combined yearly revenues of $12 million.
Before going into business for himself, Tushaus worked for M&I Data Services in software development and programing. Five years ago, he developed an idea for his own business.
“I always wanted to start my own company, and I felt the need for another computer services business in this market,” Tushaus says. “I’d been thinking about owning my own computer business since I was 15.”
Thanks, in part, to the fact that his wife Laura had a good job and was supportive of his ideas, Tushaus Computer Services officially opened its doors on Dec. 6, 1993, with Tushaus serving as the business’s founder, owner, and only staffer. Two months later, Tushaus hired his first employee. The business has grown steadily ever since, and currently has approximately 55 employees.
“We’ve been very fortunate to hire good people,” Tushaus says. “We have no bad eggs as far as I’m concerned.”
Laura Tushaus formally joined the company 2-1/2 years ago and is now its general manager. Tushaus credits her with being an instrumental part of the company’s success, describing their working relationship almost in terms of a yin and yang coexistence.
“We complement each other with our different skills,” Tushaus says. “We each bring something different, yet equally necessary, to the business. She has strong management abilities while I’m strong in the technical areas. You can’t have one and not the other and still expect your business to be successful.”
Tushaus Computer Services claimed $300,000 in revenue at the end of its first full year. Five years after its inception, Tushaus Computer Services is at about $10 million in annual revenue.
Not long after the company was founded, another opportunity arose when a cabling firm Tushaus had been working with closed its Milwaukee office. Working with a few people who had lost their jobs when the office closed, Tushaus formed Advance Cabling Solutions in April of 1995. The business handles data and voice cabling for networking.
That business, which started out with four employees and reached $200,000 in revenue in 1995, now employees 33 people and will surpass last year’s earnings of $2 million, Tushaus says.
Tushaus Computer Services was selected as a “Future 50” company by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce in 1996, ’97 and ’98 – an award which recognizes fast-growth, up-and-coming companies in the area. Advance Cabling is a first-time winner of the honor this year.
So it isn’t all that surprising that Tushaus, who also is the membership chair for the Milwaukee chapter of Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization, was selected to participate in the Birthing of Giants program. The Birthing of Giants program is sponsored by the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Inc. magazine, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Forum.
Tushaus was one of only 60 people selected to participate in the program from around the world and the only person from Wisconsin chosen.
According to Richard Bright, marketing and communications director for the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Tushaus fit the Birthing of Giants profile well.
“Gregg owns businesses of substantial size, and there seems to be a great possibility that those businesses will continue to grow at a continued quick pace,” Bright says.
Tushaus is flattered by the selection, but retains the down-to-business attitude that got him where he is today.
“Some people might look at a guy like me and say I’ve had it easy or been lucky,” Tushaus says, “but it takes hard work, commitment, and persistence to make it as an entrepreneur.”
Having experienced the first session of Birthing of Giants, which seemed a cross between a college course and a grueling business seminar – the days on the MIT campus in Boston lasted from 7:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. with breaks only for lunch and dinner – Tushaus found it an effective learning experience.
Entrepreneurs in attendance ranged from a printing company owner to the head of a supermarket chain to a coffee bean distributor from Guatemala. The list of speakers included George Naddaff, the founder of Boston Chicken (now Boston Market); Audrey Daniels, author of Bringing Out the Best in People; and Jim Wood of Inc. magazine, and an in-depth case study on Kevin Harrington, a.k.a. the Ginsu Knife man.
Tushaus says he gained some valuable knowledge that he hopes to apply to his business.
“This year’s focus was on leadership, and as our company grows I have to move myself to the next level as a leader,” Tushaus says. “I have to start acting more as a CEO and less as just an owner. As your business moves to each new level, a whole new set of problems appear and the business dynamics change. Leadership skills also need to change. That’s what I hope to apply from the program.”
Tushaus wants to grow both companies and open other branches throughout Wisconsin. He won’t say whether national or even international expansion is on the horizon for Tushaus Computer Services and Advance Cabling Solutions, but he will say that the future looks bright.
July 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee
Gregg Tushaus’s enterprises are on the fast track