Glass Ceiling? What Glass Ceiling?
At the age of 19, Tanveer Patel met her husband, Maqbool, 10 days before their wedding. Two weeks later, the native of Bangalore (a coastal city in the tropical region of India) found herself in Philadelphia — where, according to Weather Underground’s archives, the temperature was 34°, and it was raining. Hardly the kind of sunny start she may have hoped-for, but downright balmy compared to their next two stops — namely, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.
Today, Patel confesses even Birmingham winters are well outside her comfort zone. At the same time, she’ll tell you, “Every move Maqbool and I made improved our lives. They’ve all been positive.” After subsequent stops in Chicago and (for 9 months) their native India — part of his continued climb up GE’s corporate ladder — Maqbool accepted an offer to join Birmingham startup Emageon as VP of Technology.
The Bug Bites. Hard.
During that time, the couple had their two sons — Adil and Ozair— and Tanveer’s own career objectives took a back seat to her role as wife and mother. She then spent a few years working in Corporate America until she was bitten by the proverbial Entrepreneur’s Bug. And with no prior management experience, she launched CircleSource — a Birmingham-based software company whose staff grew, in just 7 years, to more than 100.
It Runs In The Family.
Exactly what could have led her to conclude she had the business and technical wherewithal to start her own company — much less build it into a global provider of custom software development services? “I’d wanted to run my own business since I was a young girl, watching my father.” He’d founded a logistics company which became India’s largest cotton hauler, with 32 branches and hundreds of employees — and also created a Luxury Coach company with a fleet of well over 3 dozen vehicles.
“As a young girl, I’d always been interested whenever dinner conversation turned to business. So my father started taking me to his meetings, during summertimes and holidays, when I was about ten. I guess something must have registered with me back then — and I remember how much he emphasized the importance of networking, relationships and strategic thinking.”
Early Retirement? Yeah, Right.
When Patel sold CircleSource to Nashville-based emids Technologies, her thinking at the time was that she’d retire from management — concentrating her efforts on investing in others’ ventures and advising startup-business owners. She and Maqbool bought their current Hoover residence — where she turned her time & attention into decorating the family’s new home. “I’d been advised by my friend Praveen Sinha [who’d built and sold a couple of his own companies] to do nothing for 6 months. It was great advice. It gave me time to reflect on my journey — and understand my strengths and weaknesses.”
Not that the CircleSource experience had been all roses. “So many ups and downs, so many nights my eyes were wet, thinking about the pains,” she says, “but the experience made me a better person. I grew-up a lot, and learned a lot.” The most valuable lesson? “How to create win-win situations. You want an environment that helps people grow. As an entrepreneur, I believe it’s less about me — and more about the people I work with.”
Giving Back is a strong theme in the Patel family’s worldview. Together, they founded Patel Public Schools in India — and the Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama (an all-volunteer medical group offering “primary care services to patients regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or ability to pay”).
One Tough Customer.
The second most valuable lesson Patel cites from the CircleSource experience might be considered a bit more on the practical side: Namely, growing organically without outside capital investment. Based on the experience of building her first company with just one small angel investment early on, “I’ve learned to be very cautious about spending money. And I’ve learned good negotiation skills.” (A personal note from the author: Having served Patel’s current venture as a Contract CMO during its early days, I can personally attest to just how well she learned both skills).
The Bug Bites Again.
Which leads us to said current venture: ConcertCare. Today, the company looks quite a lot like CircleSource — custom software development services — but with the addition of TeleHealth services for large healthcare systems. However, her original vision for the company — which she manages day to day with partner and longtime friend David Marshall (and with routine input from longtime attorney, friend, and also ConcertCare partner James Childs) — was on a far broader and grander scale.
Can You Do That?
The concept called for a company offering physician practices a comprehensive suite of revenue- and productivity-enhancing consulting services and technology products — all of which would ultimately work together to collect patient and treatment data (the ultimate currency in contemporary healthcare), which would then be converted into actionable intelligence for improving patient outcomes.
It was a strikingly original business model, and nearly impossible to explain in the proverbial 15-second elevator pitch. Which would be the short version of why, in late 2015, Patel scrapped the model altogether — and started over.
“We already had a great core of programmers with an Indian company we acquired in 2014. And in 2015, we recognized our opportunity in TeleHealth was in providing the service to large providers; not in competing for end-user business with all the other companies fighting for that market.”
It’s a decision that’s paid off. By mid-2017, ConcertCare’s staff had grown to 70 full-time programmers — and its TeleHealth division’s client list included the city of Liverpool, England, with provisional agreements in place to serve additional healthcare systems in India and Dubai. All told, ConcertCare is right on schedule with Patel’s plans to sell the company some day. “It is designed to build and sell.”
Plans? You’re Getting Warmer.
After said Sale takes place, Tanveer’s thinking she and Maqbool might travel the world. Possibly as long as six months. Any thoughts on destinations? “Wherever it is,” she says with a smile, “it won’t be cold!”
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