Scott Behn, who has worked in the telecommunications industry for nearly four decades, on June 24 began the newest chapter of his career as CEO of business services provider Aureon. He succeeds Ron Keller, who retired from the company in June after leading Aureon for seven years. Behn, a Wisconsin native, most recently was CEO of Mosaic Telecom in Cameron, Wis., which serves northwestern Wisconsin. Before his time with Mosaic, he was an area general manager with two large technology companies, Frontier Communications and Insight Communications. Aureon, which is based in West Des Moines with offices in Kansas City, Kan., and Omaha, provides technology, contact center and consulting services to businesses throughout the United States. It currently has about 450 employees, of which some 260 are located in West Des Moines. Aureon recently announced a five-year strategic plan that includes a $60 million investment in state-of-the-art infrastructure, fiber and network equipment throughout Iowa.

How did you decide to get into telecommunications as a career?

That probably goes back all the way to high school. Cable TV was new and we couldn’t get it out in the country, so that forced me to learn as much about it as possible. I just really enjoyed building my own antennas and things like that, to try to bring TV stations from the world back into rural Wisconsin. 

What are your initial impressions of Des Moines? 

In previous positions, I’ve come down and done things like visit the Capitol. [Now] it’s very progressive; it reminds me a lot of Madison — we recognize that this is a huge community that’s growing, and there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of energy. It was exactly what we were looking for at this time. 

What does Aureon provide you as a leadership opportunity? 

I’m very excited about it. I’ve been involved with big companies in the past, but never at the CEO level. Being involved in a company of this size and reporting up to a board of directors, taking care of our owners and our customers [is leading] at a whole different level.

What’s the current state of the telecom industry, and how do you see Aureon’s role in it? 

From my perspective, the technology in telecommunications is evolving very quickly. It continues to change and to modify itself into an infrastructure that is no longer just a nice-to-have. Most businesses and homes really can no longer operate without the internet. Anytime you have the opportunity to be around a bunch of grandkids and you have the internet go off at your home, it’s interesting to see how fast they come pouring out of the bedrooms. Or if you want everyone to come to dinner, just unplug the Wi-Fi. But it’s something that everyone relies upon. And our businesses continue to rely on our broadband infrastructure and our technical expertise to make it work at a level that they cannot bring to themselves. 

Where does Aureon stand in market share? 

I can’t say at the moment, but I can tell you that our market share is going to be going up. [Aureon has] a really solid product that’s been time-tested and invested in. And now it’s time to continue to broaden it out and expand it out to bring it to more people, more and more businesses in the state. 
Does Aureon’s expansion plan call for expanding into new markets, or to grow in existing markets? 

It will be a little bit of both. So it’s growing into other markets and serving more and more cell towers and things like that. Surprisingly, I find that most people don’t realize that cell towers are “wireless” only between the cellphone and the tower, and then that information needs to be delivered back on either copper or fiber. So the only real “wireless” in wireless is from the device to the tower, and that infrastructure needs to continue to be brought deeper into rural America. And with the proliferation of cells and devices in suburban and metro areas, more and more bandwidth is being utilized. So we have to reinvest in those areas as well. So it’s a combination of new markets and reinvesting into markets that we currently serve to meet the needs of our customer base. 

How competitive is the telecommunications industry, and what’s Aureon’s edge? 

First off, it is very competitive. And that’s part of the landscape of the ever-changing telecom world — it can continue to get more and more competitive. But when a business partner of ours can rely on a company that has been here over 30 years doing this type of work and continues to expand, that really tells our customers and potential customers that Aureon means business and that we’re here to help them, so they don’t have to worry about that back-office connectivity. 

It’s been about a year since the company sold the human resources division, Aureon HR. Do you see other shifts ahead to add or remove other business units? 

As a company, we’re always looking for the right synergies. In my world, it would be nice to bring to our board of directors some synergies within the technology and business services areas that we would either invest in or develop. Again, I think as long as we’re helping our business partners by building connectivity to allow them to concentrate on their business, that’s really going to be a focus of ours [as we] continue to broaden our network. 

What’s the biggest thing that keeps you up at night? 

On the business side, how fast can we grow and be ready for the growth? Because that’s really what we’re here for, to support our customer base. 

From a community perspective, what sort of volunteer efforts were you involved with in Wisconsin, and how do you see yourself contributing here? 

I’m still looking at some of those connections. Possibly the American Red Cross. I was heavily involved as a regional board director. So when you asked about me coming in as a new person, I had to smile because I thought of “new blood.” When I was with Mosaic, one of the things we did was have our technicians offer free installation of smoke detectors [as a collaboration with the Red Cross]. That initiative resulted in almost three-quarters of the region’s smoke detectors [being installed]. 

So you grew up in rural Wisconsin? 

Yeah, about an hour and a half from Lambeau Field. I don’t try to tell anyone [the town] where I grew up because it’s a population of about 23. … My wife and I are experimenting with how we’re going to watch the Packers and the Brewers games here. 

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

Fishing, ATVs and snowmobiling — you sort of gravitate to those types of things when you’re in the north of Wisconsin; it’s very long winters. And golfing, even though my wife would say most people wouldn’t qualify what I do as golfing.