Episode 192: A Conversation with Raffi Jamgotchian

Our view on technology isn’t technology for technology’s sake. We align technology with business goals. Ask “how is this technology going to help you be better” or “how is it going to reduce your risk?”

Raffi Jamgotchian started Triada Networks in 2008 and continues to be a leader in the IT and cybersecurity industry.

In the IT business, especially in cybersecurity, you have to have an innate sense of curiosity to explore and try things. Otherwise, you don’t move forward.

Raffi’s business journey started when a friend and former coworker reached out to him to help them build the IT infrastructure for their new business firm. In this episode, he shares with us how he has grown as a person and as an entrepreneur in the IT industry.

  • Listen to find out
  • How you can learn from making mistakes and taking losses in business
  • How you can overcome challenges in business
  • How you can align technology with your goals in business

Reach out to Raffi:
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/raffijamgotchian/
Twitter: twitter.com/triadanet
Triada Networks: triadanet.com/

John: Thanks for tuning in to the Local SEO Today podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe and share the episode. Joining me today is Raffi Jamgotchian. He started Triada Networks in 2008 and continues to be a leader in the IT and cyber security industry. Thanks for being on our show today Raffi.

Raffi: Thanks, John appreciate it.

John: So I’m excited to hear a little bit about you, how you got started and maybe share with the audience members what got you into starting your own business maybe go way back into you know maybe earlier years.

Raffi: Yeah so grew up around computers my dad’s a computer programmer when we came to the United States in the 70s. He took me around his work and got…I got my love for computers then so it was kind of like a foregone conclusion that I would go into computers and IT. After graduating with an engineering degree I worked in corporate IT for about 12 years and one of one of the managers had…who had just left tapped my shoulder and said, “Hey, look I’m starting an investment firm. I’d like you to help me build out the infrastructure.” And that gave me the opportunity to build a company from this ground up from the…from a technology point of view and also learn how to build a business and so two years after that I decided this is kind of a cool thing. I’m gonna start doing this for other companies and a number of other managers from that same investment firm started popping out and said, “Hey can you…I heard what you did for them. Can you help us build our thing and that’s how we started rolling with it from that point on.

John: That’s amazing man so in terms of like how far back did you start learning computers because again you started your business 12 years ago and before that you were in IT for 12 years, right? What has changed like IT has evolved in terms of investment technology and everything else like were you always in cyber security like what were you doing?

Raffi: No. Yeah so great question so when I actually…when I was in corporate IT prior to starting Triada I…we had a little event where we had just started building out our connections to the internet so this is really early kind of mid 90s, right? At that point we had just had email, we didn’t have any other internet browser. Somebody got an email and clicked on it and it started infecting the network and so it was kind of all hands at that point trying to figure out how, what happened, isolate it, then jump in try to identify how it got in and all that and just that whole, the thrill of unraveling all that really got me excited and said, “Okay this is where I want to focus.” And so from then on I started focusing more on cybersecurity to the point where we were acquired by a number of bigger investment firms and our small operation kind of became the model for the rest of the firm to start a security program because the company didn’t have one at that point so as we built the security program me and my team that kind of got us around that thing. That was just kind of the beginnings of what now we call cybersecurity but that was what it…so when we started Triada we knew that we wanted to be a security focused IT services company.

John: Gotcha so right now what kind of industries do you focus on? Is it still startups or…

Raffi: Most of the time it’s investment companies. What we do is our primary client base are small investment firms that are large enough that need our services which nearly is every investment firm even if they’re really small that can’t afford to have a full-time IT staff and so when even with a company that may be able to afford a full-time person it’s sometimes beneficial to work with a company like ours because now you have the breadth of experience of 20 plus years, 25 years of IT and cybersecurity specifically in investments so you know, I’ve been working with investment companies since 1995 and that brings along a lot of idea and con …it’s of how to support companies like themselves at a smaller scale.

John: That’s amazing and this is what I mean by like owning your niche in space, right? Be the expert in that domain and I love hearing that because 20 plus years of knowing your ideal type of client knowing exactly what triggers they are and what really you need to provide support, right?

Raffi: Yeah and from a business point of view it was interesting because when we started our company we necessarily…we didn’t necessarily focus on financial services they happened to be who our first clients were and that’s where our experience was but and it you know, thick head. It was…it took me a couple years to realize, “Hey, most of our best clients are in the financial services industry. Maybe we should actually market to them rather than just be a general marketer around IT.” And that’s been really a boon for us, absolutely.

John: Exactly once you realize like your ideal type of client and the best long-term value customers, right? Loyal ones that treat you right, take care of you, those are the ones that you want to resonate with and get more of so I love hearing that. Can you take me back a little bit about I know you mentioned about your dad where did you guys originally come from and why, where? Like New York or suburbs which is New Jersey. Were you always living there or…

Raffi: Yeah, we…so I was born in London. My dad was going to university there while he was married to my mom. They had moved there from…to Beirut so my dad’s had…we’re Armenian by by race and you know, for us we’re kind of spread all over the world. My grandparents had settled into the Middle East and my dad had left the Middle East in order to go to university. My mom went along with him and that’s why I was born in london. By then…by the time my dad was out of school and then started to work. The…my grandparents had moved from Beirut to the States and they put…settled into New Jersey because we had some other family that had settled there prior to that and that’s what drew us to come to the New York area.

John: Amazing and then what got you motivated to kind of pivot away from working in corporate? I know you mentioned someone a colleague tapped on your back to help them but you know, what really triggered you to kind of do your own thing afterwards?

Raffi: Yeah, it was I had…it was kind of two major things by that point I had hit my…the top of my potential at that company unless I wanted to move to another state. We had too much family here in the Northeast it wasn’t something that was really in the cards for us to move to Texas to
further go of my career so I could have stayed where I was and I would have been very comfortable but I had a little bit of an itch. My dad was a business owner. He was a…you know, freelance consultor…consultant. My mother had a hair salon for many many years so we kind of had a little bit of an entrepreneurial itch in it. My wife’s side of the family ran businesses so it was kind of like you know, with all those coming together plus alright, I want to be able to kind of own my own destiny at that point. That’s really kind of what set us off.

John: That’s amazing to hear so were they inspirational to you or were they kind of mentors like who really guided you or were there people that you actually turned to early days for advice.

Raffi: Yeah so my mom, my dad definitely were… I would say inspirational for that I wanted to control kind of what our outcome was. I saw the kind of family life that we were able to have as a result of that and so and I won. I had…I have four boys. I wanted to kind of build something that they could also potentially step into and that was kind of the only real way to be able to do that is to be a business owner. From prime…from a mentoring point of view I would say the most would be my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law has had a couple of small businesses and he had started his most recent business shortly before I started mine and so along the way we’ve been helpful for each other. Him mostly to me on how to kind of manage and understand even though completely different industries and all that. I would say I joined…when I first started Triada we joined a couple of IT services organizations. ASCII was a big one, a few others compTIA and that’s been really…that was really been helpful to connect with our peers, to understand what the industry was at that point we were just kind of working at the seat of our pants partly on the …what an IT company is supposed to look like, partly what we should be doing on the business side. I didn’t really have any business experience other than what I had seen in corporate and that’s not the same as running a small business.

John: Yeah and I love hearing that because everyone goes through their own journey and destiny, right? And for you there were at least someone that you can kind of you know, ask questions, right? A lot of people are doing it alone especially if you’re a solopreneur and there are people out there that are willing to support and help you, right? Throughout this whole journey and you’re wearing so many hats as a business owner so being in business, working for corporate is completely different from owning your own business as you know, there’s not just one thing that you’re delegated to you got to take care of operations, HR, you got to take care of your clients, you gotta take your support, you got to work 24/7. You got to be there and you’re accountable, right? So a lot more goes on you have way more responsibility than you think and you know, at the early days I’m sure you can attest to this. How difficult was it in terms of the transitions? Were there times that you said, “I had enough. I want to go back to corporate.”

Raffi: I…that still start…that still happens even after being in business for 12 years. It’s…it still happens or it’s like you know, I could just been sitting in my office and kind of sipping my coffee and you know, and doing that thing and but then there you know, then you remember all the other…the good parts you know? And so when certainly in the beginning learning that I’m no longer just an engineer or a manager I mean I had management experience but I didn’t necessarily…that doesn’t equate to running a company where you’re also doing sales, you’re also doing accounting, you’re also doing the other things and that was a big you know, learning curve for us early on and we’re still learning, we’re you…make mistakes, you learn from them, you hear other people’s mistakes, you learn from them and that’s that’s part of the process and the journey and that’s been…that’s been you know, I…it’s one of those things where you also have to be coachable you know, you find coaches, you find mentors and you listen to them but you have to make it your own and do your thing.

John: So let’s get on that topic. Are there people that you still use as mentors or coaches like how did you kind of form what you have today? Was it through those people or was it kind of trying to figure it out?

Raffi: Yeah, it’s yes to all of those things so we’ve been involved with lots of different and organizations that have had people who are leaders of that have a kind of a you know, you can almost call it punditry or some kind of world view on how companies like ours should be run and managed. We’ve been in peer groups that where you know, we get together in non-competitive ways to discuss how we run our businesses, what our goals are, how we and we hold each other accountable. I’ve been in a number of those so I would say like each of these have added you know, a brick to our wall so to speak to kind of grow out how we’ve…how I formulated my kind of my thinking and it’s evolving you know, I’ve…I definitely have some thoughts on how for us is the right way to do things but you know, even 10 years in we did a massive shift on how we structured our support offering. Previously, we used more outside people now we have more inside people so it’s kind of lots of different…the company is always evolving and I’m always evolving.

John: That’s great to hear so it seems like you’re always pivoting, you’re trying new things to see if it works, right? And if it actually works for you because everything is individualized for your business and because you’re in control it’s okay to try it, right? As long as it’s not detrimental to your client base, right? Or your operations.

Raffi: And I think that we’ve made that error in the past where we’ve maybe changed things too quickly and not let things bake and settle and sometimes going for the the new shiny thing rather than trying to work with what you have and that’s also bitten us in the past but we’ve you know, we do our best to to learn from that and move on.

John: So a lot of people are in the analysis paralysis situation they over analyze but as long as you take small steps you try different things you’re pivoting, you make mistakes, learn from them. It sounds like you’ve done a great job doing that so a couple other questions in terms of some of the challenges or mistakes that you’ve made over the last couple years can you share some with the audience members?

Raffi: Yeah so a few that I’ve made I would say I mean probably more than I can remember there are a couple that come to mind for sure when we first started early on we had done, we had some work with some vendors that we…that some other IT companies wanted to work with and didn’t have the connection or whatever it was to work with that company so we took it on face value that the IT company…these other IT companies they weren’t really competitors to ours, they were not in our area so I was willing to help out and we still do. We help out IT other IT companies all the time but we we sold them some equipment without getting paid up front and it was a quite a bit of money for that time this is going back like about 10,11 years almost it’s the first couple years of being in business that hit us hard when they decided not to pay and because we delivered the equipment we had to pay our vendor and that was hard so we ended up having to actually take a loan to pay off the vendor and then pay off the loan so that was it ended up being even more expensive than the initial loss.

John: So you then put in a procedure at the beginning for upfront payment like what did you do afterwards?

Raffi: Yeah so for stuff like that if it was a company that we hadn’t been doing business with ongoing you know, we expected an upfront payment before doing that now for our customers. We do a little bit differently so if we have a client that we’ve been doing, ongoing where we have some clients that we’ve had since the beginning. They asked me to order a new computer. I’m going to order them a new computer and invoice them. I’m not going to necessarily wait for them to pay in order to send something. Some would disagree with that. I look at it as you know, it’s kind of a good business practice. I have 30 days to pay, they need to pay me right away within that. They pay me within that 30 days you know, we’re good so it’s not a…it doesn’t end up being a problem for the most part but that’s definitely one of the processes that we adjusted for. We also another common…another mistake that we learned a few years later was we kind of do these want to say all-inclusive packages you pay one fee you get a whole bunch of services kind of in the box so to speak every month and one of our oldest clients was moving offices and there was really no way for us to capitalize on that in any way and end up becoming a net loss for us to do that because we did it under the inclusion of our existing contract rather than having specific exclusions like, “Hey, if you do something like this drastic like moving offices that’s not covered and that’s going to be additional billable so along the way we’ve learned to add and adjust what our contracts look like in order for that…I mean we never really want to refer to our contract for what we’re doing but sometimes it’s necessary and you want to make sure that you’re covered so we learn to talk to the right lawyers and make sure that we have the right terms of service and that’s…that…those are things that you’ve learned along the way.

John: Yeah and I love your examples because it happens to every business owner, right? You got to take care of your loyal customers and you do things for them, right? That you wouldn’t do if they are new because they’ve been with you for years and you know, they’re going to pay your bills, right? They are reliable sources and so it’s more of the relationship building that is important and then of course for certain scenarios, yes and then once you’ve ate the loss or you’ve kind of understood what you need to do to improve. You just incorporate moving forward. So I love those. In terms of running a business now and I know you’re in the IT field. Technology changes so rapidly how do you stay on top of that?

Raffi: Yeah, I mean you know, something has changed from when we started this conversation I’m sure, right? so it’s one of those things where it’s always happening so I listen to a lot of podcasts that’s not surprising I think and not only technology so we listen to technology podcasts, we listen to business podcasts, we listen to politics even everything kind of informs your world view and kind of understanding what’s going on so that’s one. Peer group so we’re learning from our peers sure, our vendor partners we learned a lot from them as well and reading and websites. You have to be curious at the IT business and especially in cyber security you have to have an innate sense of curiosity to look and explore and try things otherwise it doesn’t work and you don’t move forward and you end up with companies that are held in the past and where our view is when it comes to technology is not technology for technology’s sake that was kind of how it happens sometimes in corporate because there’s so many layers but you know, we really look to align technology with what the business goals are. Not only for ourselves but obviously for our customers too so that’s how we approach it with them. It’s like how is this technology going to help them be better or help them reduce their risk and if we’re now charging a thousand dollars to protect something that costs three hundred dollars to replace maybe that doesn’t make sense but if you take a step back and say okay this thousand dollar investment is going to help them reduce overhead because their staff can now do other things because we’re automating it. That makes sense if we’re saving them from a potential loss of being out of business for two days with this you know, a thousand dollar device or equipment or whatever then that makes sense but you have to make sure that the…all these things align.

John: Yeah so throwing like business cases together really doing due diligence on like new software advancements because you like myself there’s a lot of things going on in digital, right? Advancements, changes, updates there’s so much like moving to 5g I’m sure we’ll have huge ramifications in terms of like just processing speed you know, people have the ability to do a thousand times as much or fast as 4g, right? So there’s a lot going on so it’s great to hear that you’re curious and as a business owner you have to be or else why would you be in this IT world, right?

Raffi: Yeah and we approach others. It’s helped us approach other things too in that way so you know, even though it started out with a curiosity and technology that’s expanded to a curiosity and business like how can we do something better you know, faster, cheaper. How can we…same thing with marketing can we…how…what can we do…that is gonna give us more leverage with our marketing spend? All that the curiosity definitely helps expand into a lot of different areas.

John: That’s amazing so early days I just wanted to ask you, I know you mentioned you got a lot of referrals or you had a lot of contacts to get you going to start, it helped you get the… get in the door, right? Outside of that how else did you try to get new customers if you know what I mean?

Raffi: Yeah so when from a legion point of view we kind of I don’t want to say we cast a large net but we do go down some certain factors so referrals certainly, we also use centers of influence. It’s kind of like an offshoot of that where a company that will you know, sometimes they’re called joint ventures but we sometimes we will use another third party that also sells to our customer base and work with them in order to do things to leverage their contacts. We leverage our contacts on their behalf, etc. Networking and even more so actually you know, pre-in-person networking as well as online networking with like platforms like linkedin has been very beneficial for us and then you know, we try to get the word out you know, whether it’s something like this or we put out a paper or we write a book you know, we have another book coming out where you’re doing a chapter in a cyber security book where the anchor chapter at the end that is being released on amazon in the next couple weeks so it’s any of those things. We try to use as leverage to because I’m again it’s one person I’m you know, chief technology, chief sales, chief marketer you know, I’m doing all these things so we want to make sure we maximize our time doing all these things so a little bit of a lot of things and then some things we go a little bit deeper because we’ve seen a growth on it for example email marketing. I haven’t been using… fully successful on that I think it’s been one of the areas that it’s a weak point for us is list building and as a result of that that’s kind of hurt us in our email marketing game but we’ve done better in other areas like social marketing through direct connections, in-person marketing and then the centers of influence those would be the big three for us.

John: That’s awesome and then a couple of last questions so you know, it seems like you’ve been doing this for a couple years and you know, 12 plus years what continues, what’s your key driver right now? What keeps you going? What’s your purpose of and goals at the end of it?

Raffi: Yeah, my wife and I started the company in 2008, our ultimate goal was always that we would build something that we could pass on so yeah, we… this was always the decision early on was always that Triada would be a multi-generational company and that one or more of our boys will step into it and probably will take it and change it in some way and make it even better than it is and that’s kind of the idea. It’s also allowed us a certain kind of lifestyle for sure, right? So it’s been…it’s allowed me to coach soccer, it’s allowed me to be on the school board, it’s allowed me to you know, pay for three colleges you know, we have two in college now. One graduated recently the fourth one’s still in high school so it’s allowed us to do a lot of those other things that otherwise I think would not have been as easily possible. Definitely not spending them as much time as I did with them with sports and what have you if I was in corporate still

John: That’s amazing and then do you see any of your children picking this up like are they into IT right now? Are they…

Raffi: Yeah, my oldest is. My oldest graduated with an IT degree. He is working with a friendly competitor right now. It’s always been the idea that he should go work somewhere else kind of learn on his own and then when he’s ready you know, come back and that’s so far that’s been working out as planned. The others we’re not so sure there may be one more in there somewhere we’ll see and it might be something that they take, they add something to it that they…that wasn’t something that originally planned you know? My second son is a computer engineer so that’s what I studied in college even though I eventually went into IT. Computer engineering in the mid 90s or early 90s it’s completely different than it is now. Computer engineering today is more software and devices and you know, mobile devices and what have you and I think there is an opportunity with taking that into bringing that into our company and then kind of expanding it even more so there’s some other possibilities.

John: That’s amazing so have you been dripping them with like potentially kinda taking this over eventually or suddenly of course because it’s kind of overwhelming for someone for children, right?

Raffi: Yeah, I’m not sure how subtle we were you know, we it’s always been you know, they’re around it right? My office is in my house. It has been for you know, six-seven years now. Even prior to the pandemic so they see what we do and what I do and that sort of thing. They’ve always had it even the ones that are less inclined to get involved in IT or computers they still have I would say a computer or technology skill set that maybe they you know, from that sort of influence but we’ve always talked about and we talk about business at the table you know, they understand kind of what’s going on we’ve included them more and more as they’ve gotten older so they’re I wouldn’t say there’s an expectation but we always wanted to have them have the option that this is if this is something you want to do we’ve I think we’ve shown to them that business ownership is there’s some there’s a lot of good to it. You also are going to get some stress, you’re gonna see that you know, that’s definitely not a…it’s not as you know, you punch out at five o’clock and you go home not like any other IT job necessarily you punch out but I didn’t go home and that’s the end of it. I feel like I still used to work 15-18 hour days back then but it’s a…it’s one of those things where it’s rewarding in many other ways for that.

John: That…it sounds like it’s super gratifying. It sounds like you set yourself up for the next generation, your family to be involved and it seems like you’re a great dad, right? And that’s what everyone wants to be, right? Like they want to play a vital part in children’s career or you know, life and being present. It sounds like you’re allowing them to see and a lot of people are afraid, right? They’re not certain and it’s great that you’re embracing everything and letting them in on what’s potentially possible if they decide to choose this kind of career so it’s great to hear that I love it.

Raffi: Yeah, it’s fun, that’s fun.

John: Well, thanks a lot Raffi. I did have a really good time just learning about your journey, learning about your business so how can some of the listeners get a hold of you, your business and learn a little bit more about your services?

Raffi: Yeah so you can reach us out at triadanet.com t-r-i-a-d-a-n-e-t dot com. Learn about what we do, we do work with small businesses of all kinds of even though we primarily focus on financial services companies. You can set up a consultation if you go to triadanet.com/podcast it’ll actually take you to a little giveaway if you’re interested to fill out your information, we send some information back to you.

John: Amazing, well Raffi we had a great time getting to know you. There’s a lot of people out there that need to hang out with good business owners that are looking for the best interests of others and it sounds like you’re molding your family and making sure that they’re involved in the business and that’s I’m sure how you take care of your clients as well l so I love it. Thanks a lot Raffi for joining me today.

Raffi: Appreciate it.

John: Thanks.