What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from starting your business?
“When I first started, I worked 80 hour weeks as well as most weekends; however, I came to realize that most of those hours were spent on tasks that could’ve been easily delegated to someone else in my organization, or the hours were spent on tasks that didn’t directly affect my bottom line. Peter Drucker said it best, ‘Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.’”
You could forgive those early clients of Brian Rodriguez, who on more than one occasion stopped a meeting in mid-sentence to ask his age. After all, the Web designer was only 18 when he started the company that he has built from a part-time job based in his freshman dorm room into a half-million-dollar business.
Now that Rodriguez is all of 25—his birthday was June 28, after this project’s age cutoff—he can look back on those early doubters with amusement.
“Some of them were really impressed when they found out how young I was,” he recalls. “Some were like, ‘Why should I spend a lot of money with this little kid on a Web page?’”
They might not be asking that question today.
Gatorworks has established itself as a noteworthy player in the increasingly crowded field of Web designers. Its clients include governmental agencies such as the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the Orleans Parish School Board as well as small- to-mid-sized businesses. The firm also generates a healthy share of its revenue from designing Web sites for political campaigns.
Rodriguez never set out to be an entrepreneur, but he did gravitate toward the field of information systems almost from the outset of his college career. He was a business major with a concentration in ISDS (information systems and decision sciences) at LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business when he started designing Web pages for friends as a hobby. By the end of his freshman year, he realized he had something going and gradually started building it into a business, hiring freelance programmers to work with him.
When he graduated in 2006, he decided to expand Gatorworks into a full-time operation. He also made a crucial and wise decision to bring in a partner, Charlie Davis, who had a couple of successful businesses of his own. Davis, who is active in the Louisiana Republican Party, also had political connections that would help bring the firm its lucrative election-season business.
Today, Gatorworks has five full-time employees, the eldest of whom is just 26. Having a young corporate culture is one thing that gives Gatorworks its energy and creativity. Rodriguez values his employees highly, and he tries to make their workplace experience an enjoyable one.
“Our greatest asset is our employees, so I highly invest in my people and make sure I make the work environment fun and interesting,” he says. “One of my big keys to success is that I spend a lot of time trying to find the right people and then giving them what they need to help them do their job well.”
As he looks to the future, Rodriguez would like to continue growing his business in Baton Rouge. He also has become active in the growing techie community in New Orleans, which has recently started to organize internally and out-of-state.
“There’s a lot of talent here, and we have to figure out how to cultivate it,” he says. “There are a lot of people graduating from LSU and leaving the area. It’s frustrating, so I’m trying to learn what we can do to keep them here.”
For the full cover story article, click here.
By Stephanie Riegel
Originally printed in the Baton Rouge Business Report June 30 – July 13, 2009 edition. Photography by Tim Mueller