​“Hello, this is Juan. How may I assist you?” At most businesses, when customer service phone lines are busy, you usually get a recorded message letting you know how important your call is. At IDT Learning, you might just get the CEO, because that’s how important your call actually is.

Juan Rodriguez is a serial entrepreneur. Currently he heads up several successful technology businesses: Integrated Digital Technologies Corp (IDT), Global Trainer Inc., and Axxiom Data, plus Last Minute Training US and toptrainingschools.com. His primary focus is on teaching people the tech skills they need to compete in the modern marketplace. Thousands of students have been able to develop or improve their tech skills and make themselves stronger job candidates, thanks to Juan and his passion for educating others.

So what are his secrets? He’s won numerous prestigious awards, was recognized for his accomplishments by Satya Nadella during the WPC 2014 keynote, and went from a 1,250-square-foot start up to a 14,000-square-foot office and multiple satellite locations. One major key to his success? He still answers the phone. Here are some others:

Grow smart

Juan came to the US from Venezuela at age 16. Armed with a Presidential Scholarship allocated by his high school, Niños Cantores del Zulia, he landed in Pasadena and hit the ground running. Sadly, after just one year, the organization funding Juan ran out of money. Although he was a minor and his parents weren’t completely in favor, Juan decided to stay in the US and complete his education. “I worked in retail and at Kentucky Fried Chicken, I mowed lawns. I did interpretation and worked in the school’s language lab, whatever I had to do.” He graduated from Pasadena City College with an AA degree and then transferred to CSULA where he obtained two Bachelor degrees: Computer Science and Mathematics. Years later, he attended UCLA to enhance his business and management skills. He is also a Microsoft Certified Trainer and possesses several recognized IT industry certifications.

Early in his career, three layoffs convinced Juan he wasn’t cut out to be an employee. With a wife and new baby, he wanted more than ever to be in control of his own future. He saw the need for more tech training, so he started conducting training sessions at night. Eventually he opened a small business in that 1,250-square-foot space, training students for programming and IT projects. Six months later, the business moved into a 7,000-square-foot space, and it hasn’t stopped growing since.

“We’ve grown so much, but always we’ve grown carefully,” Juan says. “Even though many training companies have failed, I’m still here. I’m willing to innovate, to change, to find new ways to get more business. And I’m very thrifty. I’ve cut my salary when necessary for my business. And that’s OK, because I know I’ll make it back on the other end. We’re fully solvent and have no accounts payable whatsoever. I try to keep it that way, so if a bad day is coming, we’ll be OK.”

Serve the customer

“I try to be very personal. I think in these days we’ve lost that personal touch. I want to treat my clients the way I want to be treated myself. I want that personal attention.” Being personal doesn’t just mean having a friendly phone manner, it also means understanding the market and staying ahead of the curve. The tech world changes quickly, and Juan and his team work hard to anticipate how employers’ needs will change and to make sure his students are developing the skills those changes require.

Find partners who will support you

Building strategic partnerships is critical, Juan says: “Partnership is essential to business, so I look for partnerships that make sense. Those who don’t partner in the current environment will probably go out of business in the next few years. Good partnerships can not only help you succeed in your current business, they can open up new possibilities and point the way to new revenue streams. Just today I met up with two potential business partners in areas I hadn’t considered before, but after conversations with them, I see the potential.” By blending their product and Juan’s existing infrastructure, they can be ready to go to market in less than 30 days.

Juan is also very active in his local International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) chapter, which he says has been instrumental in his success. “Definitely, the IAMCP has allowed me to increase my networking and at the same time get business referrals from some of the partners attending. Also, the content presented at the IAMCP meetings keeps me up-to-date with what’s new at Microsoft and other industries and gives me the ability to meet Microsoft Representatives that are relevant to my business.”

Align yourself with the right people and organizations

Juan says his business touches every single area of Microsoft technology. They’re starting to build all their site platforms and portals and new programming on Azure and plan to move 25-50% of their business onto the Azure platform in the near future. Becoming a Microsoft partner has been enormously important to his success, Juan says, because Microsoft is willing to put the extra money and effort into seeing its partners succeed. “Of course, Microsoft has enormous resources. But it’s also that you’re willing to spend it to help partners.”

Enjoy life

“It’s critical for me to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest,” Juan says, though it’s hard to believe he has time for it. He makes time for family and hangs out with wife Adriana and daughters Alexis and Alexandra as much as he can. He loves traveling around the world and sings in a Venezuelan Gaita group. Unsurprisingly for a guy in tech industry, he loves gadgets and is an early adopter of the latest and greatest innovations. As if all that weren’t enough, he’s also learning Mandarin.

Give back

Every year, Juan and his team find three people who want to learn but can’t afford formal training, and they give them the training for free. In the past, those three seats have been occupied mostly by members of the Hispanic community, but now Juan is opening up the opportunity for all underserved communities. “I believe you must share your success so others can benefit. There was a time when all I had to eat for a day was a couple slices of bread with butter and sugar. I was young, educated, and on my own, so it was OK. But others, with families, they really struggle. If I can help make it easier for them, why wouldn’t I?”

Stay curious

Even with all he’s achieved, Juan feels he has more to learn. “If I could take a class right now, in anything, it would be on entrepreneurship. There’s a lot out there that I still don’t know. I’d also like to learn more about time management and deepen my knowledge of cloud technologies. I absolutely believe that we must constantly be learning.”

There is no lack of passion or innovation in our partner community, and Juan is a great example. We thank him for sharing his insights and path to success!