by Michelle De Jean, NIU Business Director of Marketing
“Make sure to push your dreams forward.”
Syndeo Networks founder and CEO Amit Patel didn’t allow lack of resources to discourage him from pursuing his dreams. Not even after the elimination of thousands of positions, including his, because of an industry in the throes of major disruption. In the face of chaos, Patel took action and enrolled in NIU’s Master of Information Systems graduate program.
By the end of his first year of studies, he founded Syndeo Networks, a telecom consulting business. Patel launched the company on a bootstrap of $500 of his own money, a well-vetted business strategy, a financial plan to keep the company viable, and eight clients at the onset – all industry relationships he had maintained and nurtured. He completed his last year of MIS coursework while simultaneously investing time and energy into the business. He graduated with flying colors, and his business grew significantly. Within 3-4 years, Syndeo acquired other companies, primarily in the Midwest and in California.
Patel’s journey to company founder began when he converted his undergraduate chemical engineering degree from Illinois’ flagship university into full-time employment in the telecom industry. From 1999-2002, his responsibilities included supporting regional and international markets for Lucent Technologies, a company then enjoying more shareholders (5.3 million) than any organization. But soon the telecom bubble burst and Lucent began losing market share. The company missed earnings targets and, worse, overstated quarterly revenues, becoming embroiled in a scandal. Lucent responded by shedding thousands of employees before going completely under.
While most industry professionals fell back onto their heels, Patel dug in and focused his energies on his dreams.
“I had a business idea in mind that involved technology. I felt compelled to develop a stronger business framework,” Patel says. “NIU’s program was the only one in the Chicago area to leverage technology and business. I took extra classes and spoke regularly with a variety of NIU Business professors – Brad McDonald, Jim Johnson, and others – to learn more about business law, mechanisms for organizing companies, finances, and such.”
Since that time and more than a decade later, Syndeo has grown into a regional network spanning across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. The company spun off four different entities, all of which have been funded.
“Our entire business model is built on two core principles. One of those principles is disruption because disruption leads to innovation, which drives costs down,” Patel explains. “The other is a commitment to enabling employees – and markets – to become vested partners in the enterprise. Essentially, we believe in driving innovation down through the organization to the customer level and reinvesting in individuals and markets.”
As an example, the company innovated by creating a fixed mobile wireless technology, which – from an internet service provider standpoint – brings technology requirements down, makes the service very affordable and at the same time provides superior quality levels. On top of this innovation, Syndeo also commits itself to creating social impact, personal impact, and business impact – performance indicators that combined have consistently created superior market share for the organization.
“We follow a public-private partnership model,” Patel explains. “We leverage the existing assets in a town – the buildings, electrical framework – and then build whatever other assets might be needed. The residents receive superior service from us along every dimension. Then we turn around and reinvest in the community by giving the town a percentage ownership of the business.”
Syndeo, which specializes in rural markets, established just such an arrangement with the town of Fairdale, Illinois, helping the community rebuild after the devastating EF4 tornado of 2015.
“I’m a firm believer in development and in building bridges with individuals, with customers, in markets. This type of mindset can really drive your growth, both personally and professionally.”
Amit Patel received the 2010 OM&IS Outstanding Alumnus Award and has generously sponsored three Syndeo Network Faculty Research Fellowships in the Department of OM&IS.
Amit’s Lessons Learned
- If you’re good at what you do and love what you do, success will follow.
- When it comes to good ideas, don’t allow lack of money to discourage you from pursuing something you believe in.
- Constantly nurture your ability to work as a team with others and to network with others.
- Build bridges between your peers. Stay in touch and make sure to have regular conversations – think of things outside of work to brainstorm about with your peers.