Scott Hansen, left, Chad Cota and Jeff Rhoden of InfoStructure of Talent. ROY MUSITELLI PHOTO/5-25-07

Three friends run a Talent phone business

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Scott Hansen: InfoStructure is a phone and Internet service provider. We originally started in 1993 as an Internet company and have evolved over the years. Our main footprint is Oregon with most of our business in Southern Oregon.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

All three of us have lived here all of our lives, grew up in Ashland, have been friends since pre-school.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

Originally, I got into telecom through a fluke encounter with a guy, Jim Redfield, out of Seattle. The general concept of telecom was appealing and he taught me the basics of the industry and then I brought Jeff in and we formed a communications company, re-selling long distance and cellular phones. Jeff and I have worked together throughout and kept going through many different paths. Chad came on board with us when we bought InfoStructure in May of 2003. At that point, InfoStructure was strictly an Internet service provider and we went through the process to become a competitive local exchange carrier — in short, a telephone company. By going through that process, we expanded InfoStructure's capabilities tenfold.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

We would've started to be a phone company earlier, because regulations have gotten tougher on small guys. Luckily, we're able to adapt and grow with those changes. We've made plenty of mistakes as we've grown, but I don't think we could've ever gained the knowledge we have if we didn't make those mistakes.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

Decisions Jeff and I have made that affect employees, their families and our lives. We've grown so much that we've had to step back and redo structures and policies of the company. All the decisions we've been making have an impact on the other people involved. Strategical, procedural changes allow us to make structural changes in response to regulatory changes.

Who are your competitors?

Phone and Internet companies are all over the place; we serve a niche market as a truly local provider. Oregon Telecom was our biggest competitor, but since Echelon bought them a year or so ago there's been a void. It has since been announced that Echelon has been bought by Integra.

What are your goals?

Jeff and I meet regularly to define our goals. We have quite a few goals; most of them are standard growth-oriented goals. You've got new technology, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), changes on Internet bandwidth and things like that. We have to stay up with technology to provide the best service for our customers. We have to see if it's worth our investment when new technology comes out. We have goals to be the best service company and keep that local feel. Our commercial growth has been by far our fastest growth, making up 60 percent of our sales. It was much more weighted toward residential when we bought the company from Internet Ventures, a Southern California company. We are trying to get involved in the community through things like the Chad Cota-Ronnie Lott Celebrity Golf Shootout.

What training or education did you need?

There is more to know in this field than I would ever desire to learn. I wish there was simply a class, but you have to go through the school of hard knocks. It's pretty easy to fool people with all the acronyms in this industry. You just throw out three or four letters and just roll with it, so you have to be careful. On the technical side of this business, there are tons of people who know their field well, how to do code and run mail-hosting and Web-hosting servers. Jeff does the majority of the regulatory side and contracts with carriers and mine is the financial procedural side for the operations.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with people who know more than you and never be afraid to ask as many questions as you come up with. Originally for me I was afraid to ask questions, to feel dumb. Later, I found out the dumb questions I asked we're the ones that helped me most. You don't want to be fearful to pick people's brains. I've grown the most using mentors.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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