Tony Jimenez

Going All In

How many of you have money to start your own company?” Tony Jimenez asks a room of budding young entrepreneurs.  A sea of hands go up.

“How many of you used your homes to get that money?” he continues.  About half the hands disappear.

“How many of you are willing to lose your home, everything in your IRA, everything you had ever hoped to put aside?”  Only five or six brave hands remain in the air.

“The rest of you can go home; you’re not ready,” he concludes.

As the President and CEO of MicroTechnologies, LLC, or MicroTech, Tony has certainly walked the walk of going all in.  The equity in his home, his credit cards, his 401k, and his wife’s retirement with the Federal government—all were put on the line in the hopes that MicroTech would persevere through the fledgling stages that spell certain doom for so many entrepreneurial endeavors.  On several occasions, he told his wife that he couldn’t make it past the first of the month.  He turned to his parents or to people he knew who owed him money, offering them a discount if they paid early.  Once he was within 48 hours of calling the whole thing quits, when he suddenly received a check in the mail that would get him through the next month.  “I had done everything I could do and ran out of options, and once again I was blessed,” he remembers.  “If you really want to start a business, you have to be willing to go all in and hope that luck will make up the difference.”

Originally founded as a one-man show at Tony’s kitchen table in 2004, MicroTech has transformed into an award-winning technology integrator that employs a team of around 450 people in over 25 states today.  The company specializes in identifying, developing, and delivering the most efficient, best-of-breed   technology solutions to their customers, and ensuring that large agencies like the Department of Defense and the Social Security Administration are all developing information structures that can operate efficiently together.  “When you’ve got a lot of pieces all operating differently at different levels of efficiency, there’s going to be waste and it’s going to be a mess,” Tony points out.  “Our government and Fortune 500 companies are realizing that commonality breeds efficiency, and MicroTech serves to create and enforce that commonality.”

When he left the Army after 24 years of service that instilled in him a dogged commitment to achievement, Tony’s dream was to work for big business in order to hone his expertise enough to launch his own operation.  “I figured that, if I looked at big business and how those companies worked in cooperative arrangements with smaller businesses, I would get a feel for how it was done,” Tony explains.  “I already knew enough to get started, but I also knew there was a piece missing in terms of how those arrangements come together, and I wanted to make sure my knowledge base was comprehensive.”  With this in mind, he went to work for Unisys, where he was involved with small business partnerships and was exposed to a wide range of small companies.  “I was shocked at the success of some of those businesses that really weren’t very good,” he says.  “It formed my vision of what I needed to do going forward.”  Tony took this knowledge and firmed up a business plan he had been working on, thus laying out the official foundations of MicroTech.

Shortly after launching his company, Tony realized that, if he was going to achieve what he hoped to in the timeline he had set for himself, he’d need to bring in some partners to invest money and knowledge, and to provide support.  “I had some doors slammed in my face, but several people saw the spark,” he reports.  “I could speak Army fluently, but little else.  Still, they recognized the passion in my entrepreneurial spirit and were willing to throw gas on the flame to keep it going.”  Tony has now been working with the same two partners for the last seven years, and the tremendously positive working relationship between the three has been a driving force in MicroTech’s success.

MicroTech has done five acquisitions over that seven-year period, but Tony acknowledges that purchasing smaller companies becomes increasingly difficult when doing business with the government because so many contracts are conditional on the size of the business.  Therefore, MicroTech would need to acquire operations roughly its own size, which requires more capital.  Regardless, Tony forecasts definite growth in the company’s future.  “We spend a lot of time looking at where the market is going and what the government, big business, and small companies need from technology to make things more accessible and efficient,” Tony affirms.  “As I’m building this machine, I have to make sure that everything I add to it, whether through partnerships, acquisitions, or organic growth, is an investment in the ultimate growth of the overall capability of the solution we’re developing.”

How does one acquire the tools to build this kind of machine?  Tony’s father equipped his children with an unparalleled work ethic, driving home the point that there’s no substitution for hard work.  “He taught us that, if you don’t work harder than everyone around you, you won’t be noticed,” Tony explains.  “For him, success was bred from hard work, perseverance, and passion.  He’d say that anyone can sell a product, but if you love what you sell, you’ll sell a lot more of it.  Because it makes you passionate, loving what you do is 90 percent of being good at what you do.”  Tony cut lawns and delivered newspapers as a boy, and his father was a great support mechanism for that.

Though Tony’s father also placed a high premium on education, Tony himself wasn’t sold on the idea because, when he was younger, he couldn’t be sure where it would lead him.  His guidance counselor in high school was convinced he wasn’t college material and advised him to consider an occupation instead of an education.  This message, combined with the fact that he knew very few college graduates, engendered the mindset that college just wasn’t an option for him.  Instead, Tony felt his greatest avenue for growth lay in seeing more of the world and diving into what was out there.

Pursuing this dream, he enlisted in the military and settled into the Military Police branch.  He subsequently  left the military to attend college at night and was ultimately hired as a Colorado Public Safety Officer.  “I loved that it was truly selfless work,” he remembers.  “I was giving back to my community and providing a service, which was extremely fulfilling and definitely in line with the hands-on kind of work I had always envisioned for myself, but after several years it became clear to me that something was missing.”  That something was the military service he had left, and he reenlisted to spend a year on active duty before he was offered a scholarship in that capacity.

For that period of his life, Tony was attending school full time during the day, studying about six hours a night, and sleeping one.  “After meeting more people and gaining a new perspective, I started to believe for the first time that it was possible for me to succeed in advanced education if I gave it a shot,” he explains.  Defying the expectations of everyone except his father, he graduated with honors at the top of his class and earned his degree in business in 1984.  Through his scholarship, he earned a dual degree in business and counseling, and he reports now that he probably uses his counseling degree more than he uses his business degree.  “Counseling is something I love because I have a passion for helping people,” he avows.  “That education helps me understand when and how people are impacted by things you wouldn’t otherwise be tuned into.”

After earning his first masters degree in 1993 and his second in 1999, he began working on his third in 2000.  While working on his Bachelors degree in 1982, he accepted a position at a large cable company, where he quickly rose up the ranks.  “At that time, I made some heart decisions as opposed to money decisions,” he concedes.  He walked away from a salary twice as large as he would have been earning as a lieutenant so that he could pursue a career as an officer in the Military. After retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and accepting a position at Unisys, Tony again walked away from a great salary to launch MicroTech, knowing he wouldn’t be able to pay himself for the first year.  “I found ways to keep the company moving in the right direction, and about eight months into the process I reached a point where I was bringing enough money in that I could start paying myself,” he recounts.

In advising young entrepreneurs entering the business world today, Tony echoes his father in advocating for that particular blend of traits that makes for a great entrepreneurial character.  “A good degree is certainly important, but when you actually get out there in the hustle and bustle, you have to love what you do and do it better than anyone else,” he emphasizes.  “Through experience, you’ll collect tools to help you do this along the way, but they’ll mean nothing without a sturdy foundation of strong work ethic, passion, and the pursuit of excellence.  Lay out your plan, and don’t be satisfied with mediocrity.  People take this for granted, but the beauty is that we have the opportunity to do this in America.”

Indeed, the beauty of the American Dream is that it is available to all.  Yet for those select few who really are willing to go all-in, to risk everything and call on every resource and faculty at their disposal in their drive toward success, these individuals will come to embody the American character that goes beyond individual accomplishment and that reflects true achievement.  “My great fear today,” Tony allows, “is that there will be those who will see my success and wonder how I do it, that I don’t seem to work hard at all.  But even now, I still take risks on a regular basis.  I remain “all in,” and as long as I’m involved with MicroTech, I always will be.”  It is those who are prepared for total commitment in the face of great adversity and risk, who even at the brink are willing to give even more of themselves, who create for themselves the greatest opportunities for success.

Tony Jimenez

Gordon J Bernhardt


President and founder of Bernhardt Wealth Management and author of Profiles in Success: Inspiration from Executive Leaders in the Washington D.C. Area. Gordon provides financial planning and wealth management services to affluent individuals, families and business owners throughout the Washington, DC area. Since establishing his firm in 1994, he and his team have been focused on providing high quality service and independent financial advice to help clients make informed decisions about their money.

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