In 1998, Moe Jafari had almost everything—success, stability, security. The one thing missing, however, was the most important thing of all: satisfaction.
It hadn’t always been that way, but Moe’s employer had recently sold out to a larger business, and the change in corporate culture proved to be anything but welcome. “The company that acquired us had more reporting mechanisms, bureaucracy, and paperwork,” he reflects today. “The first company I was with was great, personal enough to pay attention to the value each employee contributed and the skills each of us brought to the table. But after we were acquired, I found myself doing reports more than I was doing business.”
Moe had a pregnant wife to support, yet he believed enough in himself and his mission to take a gamble on venturing out on his own to become his own boss. “I went to all the clients and they said they would come with me, so I took the risk,” he explains. “Shockingly, I made more money in that first year of business than I had ever made in my life before.” With that, HumanTouch was born, and after a decade and a half of evolution, Moe remains the President and CEO of a place to work that is not only successful, stable, and secure, but satisfying as well.
Today, HumanTouch employs over a hundred people and brings in over $20 million in revenue each year. First launched as an HR service for government contractors, it initially provided resources to government contractors. Over the years, however, it became a government contractor itself, providing resources to the federal government. HumanTouch evolved from recruiting to staff augmentation, and Moe later decided that he would take the brainpower they were channeling outward and instead begin channeling it into business itself, building a team of the best and brightest to start creating solutions for their clients. “That’s where we are today, focusing primarily on building solutions in the IT, management, and consulting side of the equation,” Moe explains. “We’re now focused heavily in the healthcare market, with the FDA as one of our largest clients as we also gain standing with the IRS and FBI as we hone our expertise in network security projects.”
Some might consider his decision to leave behind a secure future a bit crazy, especially with a baby on the way, but for Moe, staying where he was would have been counter-intuitive. “Being uncomfortable is a good thing,” he avows. “I like taking risks. They don’t always pan out the way I want, but I always feel better and learn a lot.” It’s a philosophy that has taken him far throughout the entirety of his life: rather than resting on your laurels, run toward something new and different—something better.
Reflecting back from where this philosophy stems from, Moe recalls his earliest days and credits his parents for his work ethic and tenacity. Born in the West Bank of Israel, he came to the states with his mother at the age of four in 1970. His father has been in the US since 1950, living variously in Indiana, Iowa, and finally in Arlington, where the Jafari family settled and Moe spent his childhood. Comprehensively stressing the importance of work through words and action, his father worked up to three jobs at a time and rarely took days off to rest. A barber by trade, he would bring Moe into the shop on Sundays to help him clean and maintain the store. “He would always tell me that I needed to do something to contribute,” he remembers.
Consequently, Moe worked every summer from a young age. His first job was in an auto parts shop, which was ideal considering his innate interest in cars. After a time, he and a friend pursued that interest further by starting a business buffing and waxing cars in his friend’s driveway. “His father had a double driveway, and he would make us pay for the soap and water we used,” Moe reminisces. “He also told us we’d need to replace his tools if we broke any. They were equipping us with real-world expectations, and we became very self-sustaining.”
The pair made good money, recruiting customers around the neighborhood and working late into the evenings. “I remember being really tired at the end of the day,” he says. “I kind of started figuring out that physical labor is not an enjoyable lifestyle in the long-run.” It was then that Moe’s natural salesmanship came to light, but years would pass before he considered using his sales ability professionally. “I didn’t want to do it because everybody painted it in a bad light,” he continues. “I was very good at sales. Even when we were buffing and waxing cars, somebody had to go out and hit the street to find customers, and I was pretty astute at doing that.”
Beyond the surfacing of his innate talents, Moe learned valuable lessons that summer. “The experience taught me that, if I didn’t want to do that again, I needed to figure something else out.” The following summer, Moe abandoned car washing for lawn mowing, but when he turned seventeen he found a different type of work all together.
At the time, Moe’s sister worked at the Marriott downtown and called him to ask for assistance bartending an event. Finding that he enjoyed serving drinks and conversing with the attendees, bartending became his major source of income through college at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He was a full-time student and full-time worker, expanding both his mental and professional horizons simultaneously. “I really enjoyed the bartending business and got into hospitality for a number of years, and by the time I was 22, I was managing thirty- and forty-year-olds, some of them married with kids,” Moe affirms. “Through that experience, I began to understand the basics of how to manage an organization.” In that capacity, Moe’s natural talent for sales proved tremendously helpful. “The concept of up-selling is the practice of providing a more costly alternative to the customer’s original selection and explaining its value,” he explains. “It’s crucial in bartending and translates to almost any sales arena.”
After college, Moe continued feeling out his strengths and weaknesses. His career path was uncertain, but he certainly didn’t sit still. “I thought I wanted to be in the finance field, so I earned my Series 6, 63, and life insurance licenses, and then went after my Series 7 license,” he recounts. “But I realized the vocation wasn’t for me after good friends and a new client taught me a very valuable lesson. I was struggling with educating the client on some of the financial instruments that could be utilized, and I quickly realized that I didn’t have the patience for it. It wasn’t a quick turnaround, it was a teaching environment. I’m not a good teacher. And after picking up on that weak area, I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s best to focus on your strengths and hire others who are strong where you’re weak. After finding out what I like and don’t like, I now see myself much more as the 50,000 foot visionary versus the hands-in-the-guts guy.” Indeed, Moe won’t be the one instructing his employees on a day-to-day basis; he’s the one determining the direction of the entire business.
After his experiences in the financial field, another opportunity quickly presented itself when a friend of his stopped by a nightclub he was running and observed, “You’re one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen, but it looks like you’re spinning your wheels.” The friend advised Moe to take some time learning his business—IT recruiting—to see if he enjoyed it.
“After a couple weeks of getting to know that industry with him in his office, he said he just got an offer from a company to go help them grow, so he planned to wrap up his little company in his house,” Moe says. “And he told me I was coming with him.” Never one to sacrifice good potential for stability, Moe left his job and learned to excel at the business of recruiting. “I got very adept at running accounts once I came to understand that it was all about a systematized process,” he affirms. “It’s about face time, understanding what the customer wants, finding the solution, and bringing it to them. I started with a couple of projects with two or three people, up to projects of fifty rather quickly.” However, the buyout transformed his work environment into a more anonymous corporate behemoth, leaving Moe unsatisfied. “After rejecting a career in accounting or finance, I didn’t want to be pushed to the back office. I think that was just the salesman in me.” With that, it was time to run toward something new.
With the assistance and support of his wife, who had worked as a consultant providing Human Resource support for years prior, and who became an integral part of the business, HumanTouch was created as an LLC, and Moe’s ability to sell himself quickly made the business a success. While HumanTouch was doing staff augmentation, Moe called Nextel to check on a reference. The man who answered gave him more than he bargained for, referring to Moe as “the guy who’s taking everybody from my division.” The good-natured accusation was followed by an invitation to come into the office and meet, and while there, Moe secured Nextel as a client, one of HumanTouch’s largest for a long time. In fact, the business grew from five employees to 65 in less than a year.
Looking back on his career, Moe’s greatest point of pride is the people he hires and the culture he encourages. Having had both positive and negative work environments, he’s eager to encourage the former. “They’re good people, they work hard, and we’re imparting a good culture that espouses the importance of having a good work / life balance,” he stresses. “In life, you have to be able to enjoy both, and maintaining that balance between personal and professional is one of the greatest professional challenges anyone can face.”
It’s a balance Moe himself works hard to maintain. When out of the office, he can be found in the stands at hockey games, a sport both of his sons now play, and working with Decorate a Vet, a charity founded by a personal friend. The group cleans and decorates veterans’ homes for the holidays, providing landscaping services, putting down gravel in driveways, and taking care of anything else that is necessary. “My entire company is involved in it, and I’m glad to say we usually end up with about fifteen or twenty volunteers from our company alone helping out every year,” says Moe. “Others who can’t be there help out with money as well. We put together a 501(c)(3) and I’m sitting on the board, so I’m enjoying that aspect of being able to help where I can. From a giving back perspective, I like to do things where we get our hands dirty.”
And, of course, making time for his three children is always a top priority. Between work commitments, he’s somehow found the energy to coach both of his daughters’ basketball teams and his younger son’s soccer team. When asked about the legacy he hopes to leave them, he asserts, “It’s always in my mind not to over-spoil my kids, and one of the things I want to impart is that the greatest thing about this country is that they have opportunity. They have the opportunity to do whatever they want, and they have to act on it. Action, then, is the most important thing I could possibly teach them—to go out and get something done. Don’t just sit and wait. Don’t whine about what did or didn’t happen. I think we get caught up in those things and it just doesn’t do anything for us.”
Similarly, his advice to young entrepreneurs entering the business world today is action-oriented. “Go try it. Don’t let somebody’s influence keep you from trying something,” he emphasizes. For example, Moe recently hired a young man who had been temping with an auditing firm next door. After exchanging pleasantries in the hall several times, the young man got up the nerve to ask Moe, “What is it that you do? And would you look at my resume?” After reviewing his credentials, Moe was impressed. “He’s a very bright young man, a graduate of San Jose State, with master’s degree, who took a job temping,” he explains. “What if he hadn’t taken it? What if he had thought it was beneath him? By taking it, he landed in our lap. He’s got a great personality, he fits with the team, and they’re excited to have him on board.” Thus, doing something or running toward something is always a better alternative than doing nothing or staying standstill. “Even small opportunities like temp jobs or waiting tables can lead to bigger ones,” he reaffirms. “It’s always surprising who you meet or what direction life takes you, as long as you’re willing to move forward.”