Written by Adam Pearson of the Baton Rouge Business Report

Brian Rodriguez was in high school when he and a friend started Gatorworks, a website development company that is now a half-million-dollar business.

“I had no idea it would grow into what it is today,” Rodriguez says.

Now a 10-year-old company with a client roster that includes some of Baton Rouge’s biggest companies, Gatorworks has a reputation for developing practical, effective and visually appealing websites. It sounds simple; it’s not.

A native New Orleanian, Rodriguez takes a “lean and mean” approach to his business, employing six full-time workers—all under the age of 30, except for his partner. (His high school partner opted out long ago to attend veterinary school.)

He also moved to bigger digs earlier this year, choosing to leave behind some of the playground amenities for twentysomethings that were symbolic of his company’s corporate culture in its early days.

“You want to make your workplace fun and interesting, you want to create a culture, but you also want to make sure you’re not just blowing money,” Rodriguez says.

Gatorworks in recent years has become hyper-focused on margins to squeeze out profit.

“The top-line sales number doesn’t matter all that much if you’re not actually bringing in net income,” he says.

It’s all a learning process, and Rodriguez says he continues to learn every day, often from his clients, which include Associated Grocers, Turner Industries, and the Republican Party of Louisiana.

Although Gatorworks turns 10 this year, Rodriguez never considered it a full-fledged company until after he graduated from college. But by then he had already realized that he wasn’t a better programmer or graphic designer than people he could hire, and honed his focus on business development and sales instead.

As he continues to grow his company, Rodriguez says he now realizes 90% of the problems he faces every day are not unique and have been solved by other businesspeople.

As for the secret to his success: “You just have to be mentally tough.”

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I remember wanting to be a policeman.

If you could have any other job than your own, what would it be?

I would say an executive directors of a local nonprofit.

What is your best business advice?

Find business mentors as quickly as possible. You definitely don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

What is Baton Rouge’s greatest strength in its quest to attract young professionals?

Rodriguez, who is from New Orleans, remembers going to downtown Baton Rouge one weekend in search of some nightlife for the first time and being stunned by its quietness. But that’s changed in the short time he’s been here. “I kind of look at Baton rouge as being on an upswing,” he says.

Also, the arts community is growing and downtown is changing—”It’s fun to be a part of that.” He’s seen a lot of friends graduate and leave, but now there’s more reason to stay.

What is your favorite place in Baton Rouge?

The Perkins Road overpass area, downtown, and tailgating on the LSU campus for football games.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about Baton Rouge?

“I think it would be cool if downtown was more centrally located.” Or if the city had public transportation that could get you downtown and light rail connecting it to New Orleans. “That would be amazing.”

What is the biggest challenge you face in your career?

The two biggest challenges are cash flow and effectively motivating employees. His business is in the creative industry and mainly comprised of workers in their 20s who come out of college with a mindset that the workplace should make room for lots of fun and games—stemming production.

Where will you be in five years?

Rodriguez says he’d like to grow his business to a point where he doesn’t have to be involved in decision-making on a daily basis. That would allow him to pursue other business ventures.

Check out the rest of the 2012 Forty Under 40 List.

Read more from Business Report here: http://businessreport.com/2012/Forty-Under-40/Brian-Rodriguez#ixzz2GqmsRPWE