Strengthened by 27 years of business ownership experience, Avis Yates Rivers serves as the president and CEO of Technology Concepts Group International (TCGi), an information technology solutions provider and full-service equipment leasing firm. TCGi supports the public and private sector in the areas of IT asset management, equipment financing and other technical and professional services.
In addition to leading and managing TCGi, Rivers is an advocate for minority- and women-owned businesses and a prolific public speaker. Rivers is is also the director of the National Center for Women and Information Technology. This avid golfer, wife, mother and grandmother is also listed by the White House as one of the country’s champions of change.
Madame Noire: What were you doing before you founded Technology Concepts Group International?
Avis Yates Rivers: I [had] an 11-year career with Exxon Corporation in New York City. My last assignment was selling technology on Wall Street before Exxon sold its office automation division. When that happened, I launched my first firm, Word Processing Express, in 1985. I started Word Processing Express out of the basement of my home. My previous experience working in the corporate world helped me to understand the needs of business owners.
MN: When did you start the Technology Concepts Group International?
AYR: I originally launched TCGi in 1996 to deliver information technology (IT) services to corporate America. I reorganized the firm in 2008 after acquiring a spinoff from Bank of America. The acquisition allowed us to add equipment leasing and total asset management solutions to our portfolio of services.
MN: Was that Technology Concept Group’s first acquisition?
AYR: That was my first acquisition and it was an interesting experience. I wanted to keep the experience of the bank’s team of professionals together to launch TCGi Capital. It made a lot of sense, but we were (unknowingly) headed into this tough recession which delayed our attainment of certain goals. In fact, there was little to no revenue attainment, but very high expenses over the first two years. It required more funding, tenacity, and a lot of prayer.
MN: What was the biggest challenge you faced as a business owner?
AYR: Limited access to capital has been the biggest challenge over the years. To overcome this challenge, I cut expenses and grew organically by sourcing new customers. To date, major customers we have worked with include Bank of America, Freddie Mac, Cisco Systems and Verizon.
MN: When did you realize that you had a viable business and what did you do to celebrate this milestone?
AYR: When my sales reached $3 million and I made money every month I realized I had a viable business. Those sales allowed me to move TCGi into a 10,000-square-foot building in Somerset, NJ, where the company is headquartered. I used the space to house my growing staff.
MN: On May 18, 2012 Facebook became the first social media network to become a publicly-owned and operated firm. Clearly, the Internet is having a major impact on IT. What changes do you see the Internet having on your industry over the next two to four years?
AYR: Dramatic advances in cloud computing and Internet technology will continue to dictate how we all work, play, get friends, find new customers, start relationships, become educated and find new jobs. One strong trend is how we will consume computing power and software in the future. Many more applications will migrate to the cloud, allowing us to pay as we go. As a whole IT is helping business owners to bridge the global divide, gain access to emerging markets and grow their firms internationally.