When Michael Lujan started working at USAA as a security guard, he had no idea he would one day put his own financial security on the line by launching his own business.
But that's exactly what happened two years ago. He also says that the hard work that he put in at the locally based insurance giant for 13 years helped instill in him the discipline and understanding of corporate culture necessary to find success in his entrepreneurial endeavor. The job at USAA also provided him with another valuable resource: education.
As one of the benefits of his security-guard job, USAA provided Lujan with on-the-job training and opportunities for employment. While there, he studied for and became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.
Now, Lujan aims to work with USAA again, as well as similarly sized companies, but this time in another capacity -- by offering the services of his company, Y&L Consulting Inc.
The company, which has a staff of about 50, provides several computer-related services to its clients, including mainframe programming and project outsourcing services, as well computer application and website design.
Lujan says that what makes Y&L different from other companies is what he refers to as the company's golden rule.
"Whoever has the gold, makes the rule," he says. "And that is what our employees are to us. They are our gold, and we will treat them like that."
"The average turnover rate in the information technology industry is 20 percent, and ours is 2 percent," Lujan adds. "Our consultants are our gold, and we will treat them like that. They are the core of our business."
Indeed, Lujan says that the success of Y&L stems from the work of the firm's consultants, not from any publicity that he has sought. Presently, the company is located at 7550 IH 10 West, Suite 940.
"I have never done any advertising," he explains. "We have done all of this through word of mouth."
David Gross, commercial systems manager for Valero Energy Corp., says that the work Y&L has done for his company has been fantastic.
"Our relationship has been working well," Gross says. "We have projects come up all of the time, and they have always been able to get the job done. We have been very pleased."
Y&L's success is leading it to explore adding another 2,000 square feet of office space, bringing the firm's total office space to about 5,000 feet.
"We are going to take this to the next level," Lujan says. "That is our biggest focus, on the business side."
Lujan explains that he first got the idea for striking out on his own soon after working for others.
"I had finally gotten a break (while at USAA) and was working in a library," he says. "Pretty soon, I was working my way up the corporate ladder, but I was not making any money. That is when I realized that the only security I have is in my head."
Lujan left his job at USAA in the mid-1990s and went to work for John Deere in Illinois. He says that it was while working there that he realized his true ambition.
"I saw that a smaller piece of a big pie is better than a big piece of a little pie," he says. "So I told John Deere I wanted to start my own company."
However, Lujan also knew that he would need help in starting a business.
"I told my boss that I am resigning, and I want you to come with me," Lujan says.
To that end, Lujan returned to the Alamo City with his former supervisor, Erach Songadwala, and started Y & L Consulting two years ago.
"We bring a lot of experience from big and small businesses," Songadwala says. "We took the best of both worlds, and we have been successful."
While Lujan describes his business venture as being successful, he admits that it has been hard work for his company to come in and establish itself, especially with the "big boys" in the city.
"The biggest hurdle for us is that these big companies like USAA and SBC have big vendor lists," he says, referring to the fact that bigger companies tend to work with established consultants. "We have a hard time getting in there, but once I have those doors open, I can tell you about the success we have had."
However, Lujan also says that he doesn't want any favors from any of his potential clients.
"We are very proud, and we don't want any favors," he says. "Let me compete for your business. Just give us a chance, and when we get up to bat, we will hit."
Lujan also says that San Antonio doesn't command the same respect in high-tech circles that other cities, such as Austin, command, and that stereotype can create barriers as well.
"There is a lot of technology here," he says. "San Antonio is typically known for tourism and the military. But San Antonio is stretching its arms out in the technology workforce. We are not a typical city."
Personally, Lujan relates that he has had his own obstacles to overcome, and to that end, he has felt a responsibility to give something back.
"I donate a lot of my time to many of the South Side (college) campuses," he says. "When I learned about technology, I learned my future was secure, and I want to pass that on. I want to get that message out ... that if I can do it, then the sky's the limit. I am living proof."