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Fast Track

Fasttrack/23″/LK1st/mike2nd Pinnacle Network Services Inc. Year Founded: 1992 Core Business: Design and installation of complex computer networks Revenues in 1996: $3.5 million Revenues in 1997: $4.8 million Revenues in 1998: $8.4 million (projected) Employees in 1996: 30 Employees in 1998: 58 Top Executive: Avo Amirian, president Goal: To become a leader in the field of computer networking services Driving Force: Demand for cabling systems for advanced computer networks By WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter Avo Amirian believes the high-tech industry is a mess. It’s messy because all too often, a company’s computers, printers, switches, telephony and other hardware systems have been improperly cabled together, leading to operational glitches and down time. To help tidy up that mess, Amirian co-founded Glendale-based Pinnacle Network Services Inc. in 1992. “In many cases, cabling work goes to whoever is cheapest, and often the wrong people end up doing it,” Amirian said. “You end up with people who don’t know what they’re doing, and they build problems into a system.” Amirian’s 58-employee firm may rarely be the lowest bidder when it comes to its specialties, which include designing, installing and maintaining complex computer networks, as well as consulting. However, he claims Pinnacle can design a system for a single company or an entire industry, help shop for the right goods, and piece together a network that is highly “future proofed” against problems, compared to many competitors’ work. “Their overall knowledge of the technology and the way they put our system together was excellent,” said Jack Peterson, president of Entertainment Partners Services Group, a Burbank-based entertainment-industry payroll firm that hired Pinnacle to design and assemble a computer network and a phone system for some 400 people at the company’s headquarters. “They weren’t the cheapest available, but I’ve heard horror stories about systems built by less-than-qualified people.” Other clients have included A & M; Records, SunAmerica Inc. and Herbalife International Inc., among others. Drawing much of its business by word of mouth and repeat clients, the company expects its revenues to reach $8.4 million this year, sharply up from $4.8 million in 1997. Kara Barton, Pinnacle’s business development director, stressed that while Pinnacle offers highly professional work, it cannot offer perfection. That’s why the firm places such a high premium on customer service. What sets it apart from the competition, she said, is “the way we respond to problems.” “We commit to being ready to respond to problems at any hour, any day and without being combative with the client,” she said. “We know how expensive down time can be for a company, and we are fully willing to own up to mistakes we make.” Amirian founded Pinnacle largely because he saw a dearth of network-service companies that did their work competently and courteously. Before founding Pinnacle, he was a special projects manager for a Los Angeles-based bank (which he declined to name). His responsibilities there included setting up computer networks in some 40 branches and linking them with the home office. He contracted an independent company to do much of the system installation, and encountered numerous problems, such as chronic tardiness among its workers and managers on job sites, in addition to poor-quality work. “I was constantly fighting them for service,” Amirian said. When he complained to the contractor’s project managers that workers were doing sloppy things like stapling network cables to walls, and asked that the wiring be installed out of sight, he was told, “That’s the only way we do it.” Amirian, who had been steeped in the value of customer service throughout his career, thought such treatment was abhorrent. After about four months of ongoing problems with the contractor, a new project manager was temporarily assigned to Amirian’s project. Amirian found the manager, named Joe Licursi, to be far more competent and professional than others, and soon pitched the idea of the two founding a new company. “Licursi’s reaction was, ‘When do we start?’ ” Amirian recalled. “He was also dissatisfied with that company.” That was in January 1992. Amirian spent six months drawing up a business plan, and in June the two quit their jobs and founded Pinnacle with three others, with Licursi as Pinnacle’s vice president and operations manager. At first, their clients came from connections the partners had in the industry. Now a majority of the company’s work comes by word-of-mouth referrals. Amirian and Barton do most of the sales work, and refuse to take on clients who resist Pinnacle becoming “a member of their team,” as opposed to just another contractor. For example, on the Entertainment Partners project, Pinnacle officials participated not just in developing the computer network, but in designing the firm’s 100,000-square-foot headquarters building itself. At one point, Amirian told an architect that a computer-switching room needed to be moved 30 feet from where it was blueprinted, in order to provide for proper network cabling. The move was necessary because if computer cables are laid too far between hook-ups, they do a poor job of transmitting data. “The architect was at first surprised that I would ask such a thing,” Amirian said. “I explained the advantages as to savings from things like ongoing maintenance, and he agreed.”

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