Kevin Ruef co-founded 10-8 Systems after exceeding multiple companies’ sales records (both domestically and internationally). With more than a decade in sales, his experience ranges from B2B, B2G, and B2C. Since the company’s start in 2019, Kevin is responsible for business development, strategic partnerships, and business operations.
Where did the idea for 10-8 Systems come from?
We noticed the existing options for public-safety software are expensive, outdated, and unreliable. While working as an emergency medical technician, emergency dispatcher, and sheriff’s department volunteer, our cofounder (Bryan) was astonished by the outdated, error-prone systems cities heavily relied on during emergencies. After validating the concept with the video game industry, it became clear there was an opportunity for REAL public safety.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Typical days start between 7-8am with a basic phone check for important emails, texts, calls. Around 8-8:45am it’s a quick breakfast and overview of world news. After breakfast (and for the rest of the day), it’s back to meetings, scheduling meetings, or customer calls until ~6pm. Then it’s time for dinner, a quick workout, and planning for the next day. Since public safety never “sleeps” – there’s no way to know when my phone might start ringing. To improve productivity, I try to automate many of my daily tasks. For example, Calendly is used to create appointments. Additionally, we’ve recently been using Clockwise to help organize our schedule to improve efficiency.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are always evolving and finding new ways to improve our platform. Between real world experiences and feedback from across the country, we are always looking for ways to improve. Based on this feedback, we’re constantly updating our roadmap.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The prevalence of cloud solutions allow for unprecedented interoperability. Currently, most public safety solutions (and agencies) are completely siloed – meaning systems and agencies struggle in communicating with one another. Currently, we are working on multiple strategic partnerships that will allow us to do something that’s never been done before – create a complete public-safety communication platform. In the next year, our software will have the opportunity to raise the bar across the public safety industry and do things no public safety software has ever done before.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Exercise. This helps with overall physical and mental health. It also forces me to have designated “learning” times while sitting on the exercise bike (podcast, reading, etc).
What advice would you give your younger self?
Buy Bitcoin. When it was still <$1, I had friends buying like crazy, but I couldn’t understand the rationale behind cryptocurrency. Now, they’re the one’s laughing all the way to the exotic car dealership.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most “helpful” people are simply in it for themselves. Everyone, I mean everyone, wants to try to help. Now, this is sometimes helpful, but oftentimes people have no idea how to relate to the situations we’re in. This is really a double-edged sword for any founder. Although I believe many people are truly altruistic, there is still a large percentage of people who are always looking out for themselves.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always be “on.” Even with over a decade of sales experience – you never know where your next deal or opportunity might originate. Although this is difficult for non-salespeople, constantly be “on” because you never know who’s watching or who can help.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Find strategic partners. Unless you are VC backed with plenty of capital or a huge conglomerate, most companies need to stay in their lanes. For example, if you’re a milk startup, find some cookie companies that will complement your existing product.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Perhaps not a failure, but it can be difficult to be “early” with old-school industries. It’s also hard to disrupt an industry with huge lobbyist efforts. Additionally, not all customers actually WANT transparency and modern solutions. We mistakenly believed that all industries would want the “best” solutions, not just “the way it’s been done.” Despite clear advantages versus traditional solutions, we’re still faced with these old-school mentalities of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” (even if their current solutions are inefficient and terribly outdated). Most customers don’t want to rock the boat with new software/solutions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Learn hard skills such as social media marketing or SEO. There are huge opportunities for boutique marketing companies with small and medium businesses.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Rosetta Stone with unlimited languages. As someone who loves to talk, I’m always looking for new ways to connect with people. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to dabble with new languages to make new friends or business connections.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We recently discovered Scribe (scribehow.com). It’s a simple Chrome plug-in that helps us create guides and FAQs for our internal team and existing clients. Whenever a customer request has come through, we use Scribe to create step-by-step instructions within seconds to easily distribute. These are saved and shared whenever common questions arise.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross & Marlou Tyler. This book breaks down sales “machines” into their moving parts with applicable strategies. This book is immensely helpful for non-salespeople trying to establish a sales team.
What is your favorite quote?
“Two good talkers are not worth one good listener.” Regardless of sales skills, it’s way more important to just listen to your customer.
- Find ways to automate your daily activities
- Find partners – both for founders and strategic partners
- Build scalable systems early
- The best salesperson is the best listener
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.