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Syvantis Technologies continues to grow while adapting to ever-changing tech marketplace

Ken RIley (left), Janelle Riley and Todd Froemming in the break room at Syvantis Technologies' new office in Baxter. Submitted photo

Syvantis Technologies is proof that if tech companies resist change, they won't be tech companies for very long.

Company President Janelle Riley simply points to the 15-year evolution of her company as a shining example of how nimble and forward-thinking tech companies need to be to stay in the game or, more accurately, to stay ahead of the game.

"Technology companies have to reinvent themselves every four years," she said. "If you look at the history of our company, that's what we did."

And it's working. Baxter-based Syvantis started in 2000 when Riley, her father Dan Froemming, her husband Ken and brother Todd Froemming purchased the Computer One retail store and added IT support services to its offerings. Over the next decade, as technology needs changed in the marketplace, the company continued to adjust its business focus before finding its niche as a technology consulting and training company.

The results speak for themselves. Syvantis is in growth mode and has been for the last decade. Its client roster includes companies of all sizes, from coast to coast with a few others overseas. Fourteen employees now work in the Baxter office with another six in Minneapolis. And the firm just moved into a new office building that has room to add another 12 employees.

Riley says Syvantis is now positioned to add 250 clients in the next two to three years.

But just as Syvantis is enjoying success, it's also suffering growing pains. Finding new clients isn't a concern, Riley said. Finding new employees is. That's a challenge that's magnified by the fact that Syvantis hires a very specific type of person—millennials (loosely defined as 18-30 years old).

The company's hiring strategy is pretty simple: Hire smart, college-educated millennials and offer them a nontraditional work environment that gives them the best chance to be successful. It's all about stripping away the confines of a typical workplace and offering millennials the things that matter most to them, like office hours that fit their lifestyles, unconventional workspace and technology. Lots of technology.

But why millennials? Isn't that generation supposed to be self-centered, lacking focus, acting entitled and unable to take constructive criticism, among many other non-flattering traits?

Riley is well aware of the generalizations but millennials tend to have the skills and attributes she needs to best serve her clients. For Riley, it's easier to make adjustments to the workplace than to insist that her employees conform to a traditional office setting. Whatever it takes to maximize productivity, attract new employees and grow the company.

"Millennials aren't '8-to-5ers,'" Riley says. "They're hard workers but they want to work on their terms, which can be late hours and weekends. They can do that here. We want them to feel good about working here."

Riley looks for millennials who have four-year college degrees and a high grade point average. She doesn't even care what their major was because their job will be technology-focused, and that generation tends to be comfortable with technology and fearless when learning and using it.

"It's more important that the person is a good fit for our company," she said.

To help attract young employees, Syvantis built a new state-of-the-art office in the Fairview Conservancy office complex off State Hwy 210 in Baxter. Designed specifically with millennials in mind, the workspace has no cubicles or offices. It's a large open room with workstations that have adjustable desks that allow employees to sit or stand while working.

Special rooms were added for very specific purposes. The Mojo Room, for example, is brightly decorated and is designed for small groups to generate creative ideas. The dimly lit and soundproofed Zen Room, on the other hand, is a quiet, calming place in which to relax and recharge. Several small "broadcast booths" are wired for individuals to conduct client meetings via video conferencing.

"We designed the building to encourage the flow of information but still maintain some privacy," Riley said. "You still need a balance between the two."

The entire office is wired for "plug and play." Employees can move their laptop computers from area to area, easily connecting with other employees, clients and the rest of the outside world.

Connectivity is a big deal for Syvantis and a major reason why it continues doing business in the Brainerd lakes area. The vast majority of work that Syvantis does is online. Speed, bandwidth and reliability are all critical to the company's day-to-day operations, Riley said, and the fiber optic network that serves the area allows the company to effortlessly conduct its business.

"People (in the Brainerd lakes area) don't realize how significant the fiber optic network is and how valuable it is for local businesses," Riley said. "We have a better infrastructure here than in many other parts of the country, including many metro markets."

Moving large amounts of data quickly online is all about what Syvantis does. The company specializes in moving its clients' computer applications, databases and systems from servers to "the cloud." This can include accounting records, phone and email systems, sales and marketing information and customer details—anything that a company typically would host on servers located at their location. Riley says using the cloud is more reliable and secure than local servers, and doesn't require someone to continually maintain the server if power is lost or problems arise.

"We use Microsoft, which has server farms that are fail proof and Fort Knox-like in terms of security," she said. Server farms are giant buildings with hundreds of servers that host information for hundreds of thousands of companies and individuals. Syvantis also conducts troubleshooting for its clients and software training.

Syvantis' success has also benefited the marketing efforts of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation, which regularly uses the company as an example of how tech companies can grow and succeed in the area because of the infrastructure, workforce and, of course, the quality of life.

"Janelle Riley and her team have done an excellent job of adapting to a rapidly changing industry," said Sheila Haverkamp, BLAEDC executive director. "Syvantis is a shining star in our local tech sector and we love to highlight its success when working with tech companies that are considering moving to this area."