Scott Hagizadegan, Founder of Shield IT Networks, doesn’t take anything for granted.
Born in Tehran, Iran, he immigrated with his family to the US in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution. At just five years old, he had witnessed his elementary school principal being taken hostage and shot. “I was at school when the streets erupted in fire and gunshots,” Scott says. “The streets were on fire and my mom flew through a closed-off street to rescue me from school. We jumped in the car, drove home and packed what we could carry. My father was the principal of Tehran High School, so he was able to pull some favors. We hopped on the next plane out of the country and came to California.”
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Scott witnessed the difficulties his parents encountered. His mother and father both worked two jobs each. His dad started three different companies, and each failed. But his parents’ drive and motivation inspired him. “My dad planted the entrepreneurial seeds in me,” Scott said. “It gave me the vision for owning a business because I saw him always willing to take those risks. It gave me the comfort level to say, ‘Hey, one day I’d love to do this.’”
In his 20s, Scott entered the telecom industry, working his way up as a wireless reseller. “I was fortunate to have great people mentor me and the opportunity to be a part of a small high-performance team,” Scott says. “I learned a lot of valuable lessons, some of which I used as a model for my tech company, such as how to add huge value and create customer loyalty.”
Starting From Scratch
Actively searching for the right opportunity to step out on his own and start a business, Scott came across an article about the broadband industry and the information superhighway. Recognizing the explosive growth potential for the future, he took a big risk. In 1999, at only 26 years old and with zero backing, Scott quit his well-paying six-figure job to start his own Internet technologies company along with his friend. “I had a strong desire to strike out on my own,” Scott says. “I respect my previous employer a lot; I just saw an opportunity with the broadband market taking off and wanted to do things differently.”
Without going after his previous employers’ clients, Scott identified an underserved market he felt he could serve better. “We started with the Printing Industry Association of SoCal,” he says, “because their day-to-day operation is dependent on their network always being up and running, highly secure and running fast.”
Over the last 21 years, Scott expanded to partner with additional industries that also require the fastest, most reliable solutions to deliver a secure network with guaranteed 100% uptime. Today Shield IT Networks is an industry leader in the cyber security and resiliency space, ranking in the top 5% of managed security services providers (MSSPs) in the country. Designing, implementing and managing cyber security, voice over IP (VoIP), network resiliency and data wiring, Shield IT serves financial institutions that include firms, credit unions and mutual funds, retailers with 10 to 400 locations and the printing and graphics industry. Scott has grown from serving clients in Southern California to serving clients nationwide that range from start-ups to multibillion-dollar companies, including well-known clients such as Ernst & Young, Guitar Center, VF Corp, Vans, 4 Wheel Parts, First Pacific Advisors and Don Roberto Jewelers.
Why Clients Stay With Shield IT Networks 8 Times Longer Than The Industry Average
Scott built a tactical team that is highly specialized in the markets they serve. With a “do whatever it takes” attitude, and the competence and character to handle problems without finger-pointing, Scott continues to earn high praise, trust and fierce loyalty from clients and team members alike. Whereas the industry average in client retention is 2.5 years, Scott’s clients have been with him for 17+ years. Core team members have been with him for 16+ years. Frequently clients comment on how Shield IT “bends over backwards,” “treats us like family” and is “relationship-oriented.” Anders Roede, Senior Vice President of IT for Don Roberto Jewelers, says, “You make us feel like we are your only client.”
A savvy business owner, Scott has specific ideas about the treatment of clients and employees and does a lot of things radically different, and with high energy, compared with traditional managed services providers (MSPs). These core beliefs are built into everything – even the basics. For example, team members answer the phone live 24/7, greeting each caller with “It’s a great day at Shield IT. Who do you need?”
No matter how many calls come in, every call is answered live. The whole team pitches in to answer the phone when necessary. They even won a first-place award out of over 2,000 companies in Southern California for the way they answer the phone!
Scott’s proactive monitoring approach is a service none of his competitors offer. In most cases, when a network experiences congestion or a security event occurs, his techs are in contact with the client before they even know there is a problem. When clients do call, they are instantly connected to a senior-level tech qualified to solve their problem. “We don’t believe in wasting our clients’ time,” Scott explains. “I’m proud to say that last year we were 96.4% proactive.”
People Over Profits
Scott values people over profits, a strategy he says ensures that everybody wins. “I believe that when you take care of your people and keep them happy, that’s how they best serve your clients,” Scott says. “It’s this win-win philosophy that is the core of my business. I also believe that if you don’t take care of your people and it’s all about profits, it doesn’t work out as well.”
Innovation Brings Opportunity
Scott’s cross-cultural experiences, thinking-outside-the-box solutions and drive – combined with his ability to not be limited by how things have always been done – have resulted in innovative solutions that give clients a competitive advantage.
In 2004, the network design he did for Guitar Center was the cover story of Network Computing Magazine. “It was really cutting-edge,” Scott says. “It was called ‘Dual WANs Keep Guitar Center In Tune.’ Now it’s a lot more commonplace, but back then, nobody did it.”
Ahead of the curve, Shield IT’s longtime experience and familiarity with the industry-leading tools allows them to maximize the implementation of solutions. “When we come across someone using a newer SD-WAN that everybody’s jumping on now, oftentimes it’s not configured right,” Scott says. “They’re only using 10% of its capabilities. Because we’ve been using it for years, we know how to get the most out of it.”
His reputation for creative solutions also attracts collaborative relationships in which Scott consults with engineering teams in product creation. SonicWall, the largest firewall manufacturer in the world, built appliances based on his feedback.
Always Secure, Always Up, Always Fast
A cyber security and network resiliency expert, Scott co-authored the book On Thin Ice, a collaboration providing expert advice on information technology. “Second to cyber security is network resiliency and making sure we keep networks running and fast,” Scott says.
Scott focuses ONLY on specific verticals (financial, printing and retail) to ensure he knows his clients’ businesses and the technology they work with, inside and out. This way he understands all their pain points and how to address them.
“We do research and make it our mission to dedicate ourselves to protecting that industry,” Scott said. “The hackers never take a break. It’s constantly a moving target so our security stack MUST evolve as well to protect our clients effectively. By repeatedly helping the same industry clients, we’ve become familiar with their apps, their systems and their vulnerabilities. As entrepreneurs and business owners, we duck and weave through downturns, the tech bubble, the pandemic. You adapt, survive and dodge bullets. But the cyber security stuff is so deadly that a business that’s been in the family for three generations could come to a halt overnight because of an attack.”
Profit With A Purpose
Scott believes in earning a profit with the purpose of reinvesting it into the needs of the world around him. “We are extremely passionate about the projects we call ‘profit with a purpose,’” Scott says. “We back projects that are a hand up, not a handout.” Scott leads philanthropic projects that raise funds and gather teams to work on initiatives. He also has served on the board of Zambia – Lifesong For Orphans, an organization that feeds, houses and educates for vulnerable children worldwide. He and his team have built computer labs at orphanages in the United States and countries around the world, including Africa, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. “These orphans are hungry for knowledge and opportunity,” Scott says. “They are overjoyed because they can change their own country from within and get themselves out of poverty over time.
“We’re total believers that the key to success in technology is having the right strategic partnerships, because no one can do it alone,” Scott says. “I get fired up about helping people and the opportunity to solve their problems. Coming from a foreign country, I think I have a different mindset about opportunity and not taking it for granted. Our mindset is that all that matters is to always keep my clients secure, always up and always fast. I love what we do. I’ll always be striving to be the best cyber security and network resiliency firm for the specific verticals we serve and to protect as many businesses as we can.”