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Entrepreneur of the Year 2018: The "Accidental Entrepreneur"

Entrepreneur of the Year 2018: The "Accidental Entrepreneur"

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

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An alumnus who modestly calls himself “an accidental entrepreneur” has been named Siena’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Daniel J. Rutnik ’80 accepted his award at an April 24 campus ceremony. Rutnik is the founder and president of Bender Lane Advisory LLC, a multifamily wealth management company based in Albany that has clients throughout the United States.

He shared words of advice for Siena students and Bender Lane employees who were gathered for the presentation:

“Enjoy what you do. Don’t ever make it about the money.”

“Surround yourself with good people, because success rarely happens alone. Grab a good person when you see them and figure out what to do with them later.”

“Luck pays a huge role in success. How you respond to good luck and bad luck makes all the difference in the world.”

Rutnik founded his company in 2002 out of his Delmar home, and named it after the street where he lives. Bender Lane provides a range of financial services to a select group of wealthy families, as well as internal accounting and tax services to private investment partnerships. It employs a recently-expanded team of more than 25 with expertise in finance, accounting and law, and has experienced more than 30 percent growth each year since its founding.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award is presented annually to a Siena graduate who has excelled as an entrepreneur, positively impacted his or her community, and is driven by the entrepreneurial spirit and values of Siena. Several possible future recipients were on hand for the ceremony. Simon Bruno ’18, outgoing president and founder of Siena’s entrepreneurship club, spoke at the event, as did incoming president Sureet Pabbi ’21.

Bruno recalled sitting in a meeting as a freshman listening to Guy Maddalone ’89, and other business leaders, many of whom founded their own companies.

“I learned to embrace the experience of being the least accomplished person in the room,” said Bruno. “It was a golden opportunity to listen and learn.”

Pabbi gave a nod to the “energetic, student-led culture” of Siena, where entrepreneurs are given the skill sets and contacts necessary to make their business dreams a reality.

Before founding Bender Lane, Rutnik worked for Ayco, and said his willingness “to do jobs others didn’t want to do” enabled him to learn about the various aspects of running a business. He took that trove of knowledge with him when he left to create his own company.

Bender Lane is known for flexible schedules and friendly work environment, and the Albany Business Review took notice last year, naming it one of the Capital Region’s “Best Places to Work” in 2017.

Rutnik graduated from Siena with honors with a B.A. in political science and went on to earn a J.D. from Albany Law School.  He was a featured speaker this spring at Siena’s Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Siena connections are strong with the Rutnik family: his father, George J. Rutnik, is a 1956 alumnus and his youngest son, Danny, is currently a freshman.  The family has held men’s basketball season tickets since home games were played on campus in the Alumni Recreation Center.

“My Siena education was fundamentally important to what I achieved in life,” he said.