Daniel Gallagher got his first taste of success as an entrepreneur in high school.
The Buffalo native participated in a project offered by an after-school program of Junior Achievement of Western New York, which teaches students what goes into starting and operating a business.
Gallagher, now the 53-year-old CEO of Soleo Communications Inc., was a bit of a Junior Achievement wunderkind. He served as president of a student-led office supply company that marketed and sold pens made out of Corian, a solid-surface material created by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. The company had the highest sales in the Junior Achievement of Western New York program and went on to compete nationally for top company honors.
The experience and skills Gallagher acquired in the Junior Achievement program have translated into an impressive career in the telecommunications industry. Things have reached a high point with Soleo, the company he co-founded 10 years ago.
Soleo, based in Fairport with an office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., develops and sells call center software. The company’s products include call directory, transferring, advertising and data services. It processes more than 2 billion calls a year in 15 countries.
Soleo ranked No. 25 on the 2012 Rochester Top 100 list of fastest-growing privately held companies. Gallagher says Soleo has been averaging annual revenue growth of 20 percent over the last five to seven years.
The growth has fueled additions to Soleo’s staff, such as Peter Juroe, a former vice president at Level 3 Communications Inc. who became Soleo’s chief financial officer in September. Soleo now lists nine open positions and is on pace to reach 100 employees in early 2013.
"Soleo has turned the corner from a startup to a company that is profitable on a quarterly and annual basis," says Robert Scura, who worked as a controller for Soleo from 2004 to 2006 and now serves as an independent financial consultant for the company.
"You can see the company is in good position to drive the business to increasing that profitability going forward, thanks in large part to Dan’s leadership."
Gallagher co-founded Soleo with fellow Nortel Networks Corp. veteran James Sonnick in 2002. Sonnick is a senior vice president at Soleo.
Before Soleo, Gallagher worked in positions in sales, marketing and product management for Nortel. He was drawn to the telecommunications industry because of its many moving parts, most of which he says he experienced at Nortel.
"It was a great place to learn about the industry," Gallagher recalls. "Big companies like that are great learning grounds because you get a wide view of the telecommunications industry and you have access at multiple levels within that relate to taking care of customers."
Gallagher left Nortel in 1997 and became a senior vice president for Targus Information Corp., a Virginia-based provider of caller identification services. Gallagher helped take Targus Info from a startup to a company with revenue of more than $100 million.
Gallagher left in 2002, when he began to see a shift in the telecom industry. The company went on to be acquired by Virginia-based telecommunications company Neustar Inc. in 2011 for $650 million.
"There was a sea change going on over the previous 10 years," Gallagher says. "There were a number of different technology changes that allowed the whole industry of information services to change. Soleo was very much at the center of all those changes."
With Soleo, Gallagher sought ways to employ new technologies to create innovative services. Those products included an advanced call analytics service for digital media providers that tracks the quantity of calls and types of people who call from websites and mobile applications.
Soleo also offers a call transfer service that redirects consumers who dial a disconnected business phone number to one of Soleo’s alternative merchants. The service is free to the consumer and paid for by the merchant.
One of the biggest areas of growth for Soleo has been with its pay-per-performance advertising and digital marketing offerings. In its pay-per-call model, Soleo works with advertisers to determine a quality standard for calls so that the client pays only for calls from people looking for what the advertiser is offering.
Gallagher says Soleo develops advanced metrics and analytics that allow the company to guarantee its customers a certain volume of calls per month.
"It’s a form of performance advertising for all our digital media partners," he says. "It’s a new and interesting approach for the small and medium-size business. We are really becoming a major player in the digital media space. It’s the reason why we’ve been growing."
Even with all the growth, Gallagher has still found time to give back to the local business community. Soleo organizes an annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Junior Achievement program.
"I think Dan felt his own experience with JA and the skills he obtained have been so valuable to him," says Patricia Leva, president and CEO of the local Junior Achievement of Rochester, New York Area Inc. "As a result he’s come back to us and said, ‘I want to expand these programs in the future.’ We rely on people like Dan to raise their hands and say, ‘I want to be involved in bringing this meaningful experience to younger generations.’"
Gallagher is also chairman of the Bittner School of Business advisory board at St. John Fisher College, where he graduated in 1980.
"Education is very important to anybody that wants to get into a high-tech field," Gallagher says. "I put a premium on those people who are passionate about learning about technology and want to learn about business. It’s a great way for people to do a lot with their life."
In April, Gallagher received the Excellence in Management Award from St. John Fisher. The award goes to alumni who demonstrate outstanding leadership and a commitment to the community.
Scura says Gallagher’s leadership has fueled a tremendous amount of loyalty at Soleo.
"There’s not a lot of turnover at Soleo," Scura says. "Dan enjoys interacting with the employees, from the people on the executive team all the way down.
"He’s very approachable. But he does not interfere with employees when it comes to their work. He doesn’t micromanage. He likes to empower people to succeed."
When it comes to success, no one is harder on Gallagher than himself. He always has set high standards for his work, he says.
"I’m demanding of myself and everyone around me," Gallagher says. "One of the things I want for the people that I work with is an environment that is challenging, but also rewarding and fun."
Fun is vital
Gallagher, a Fairport resident, is not all work and no play. When he is not at Soleo, he enjoys outdoor activities like running and biking.
Fun is an important part of work at Soleo. To celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary in March, employees took it upon themselves to organize a week’s worth of outings that included bowling and a wine-tasting event at Casa Larga Vineyards and Winery.
Gallagher says the week gave him the opportunity to look back on his last 10 years with Soleo.
"It went by very fast," he says. "This was my first startup company. We take pride in being able to call ourselves one of the best technology companies in Rochester."
Title: CEO, Soleo Communications Inc.
Education: B.S., business management, and B.A., communications/journalism, 1980, St. John Fisher College; MBA, finance and entrepreneurship, 1984, the University of Rochester
Family: Wife Kathy, son, Ryan, daughters Emily and Hannah
Hobbies: Running and biking
Quote: "I’ve always enjoyed the telecommunications space because it’s complicated. There are a lot of directions to go in and a lot of room for innovation."
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