Mark Miller, Naviant Inc.
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Mark Miller, vice president of sales, Naviant Inc.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
The most challenging is managing time and stress. Many times, I feel like I am simply running from one meeting to the next, and it can get exhausting. I need to remind myself to enjoy the moment and not worry about the next thing on my schedule. However, mentoring young talent is very rewarding to me. I have a small team, with some really talented folks. These millennials are about as far away from the clichés as I’ve seen; they work hard, they’re driven to succeed, and they want to learn more every day. Watching a teammate knock a presentation out of the park makes me proud to work with them.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
My mother, Stephanie Miller, was a shrewd, hard-working businesswoman who had a kind and giving heart. She worked in real estate for many years, and I learned a lot from working in the business for her through high school and college.
She was an expert at knowing when to use compassion and tact while working with customers who were making one of the biggest buying decisions of their life. She helped thousands of people realize their dream of home ownership. She was also very creative; many times she needed to help guide both the client and local business partners (lenders, title companies, appraisers) to help get the deal done. She wasn’t afraid of hard work and led by example, showing me many times how to roll up my sleeves to get things done.
She also understood the big picture and gave back to the community in many ways. Not only did she donate time to many causes, but also more importantly there were the little things that she did to help people when they were down and out. I’m sure I only witnessed a fraction of the giving that she did for the community.
Her work ethic and giving heart are a few of the things that I try to use every day in the business world and in life in general. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the lessons — sometimes very hard lessons — that she taught me before her passing.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Recently I received the “Be Like Mike” award from Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin for my efforts over the past 13 years to help them end hunger in Wisconsin. The award is given to an individual who epitomizes the true spirit of “Share Your Holidays,” started by Mike McKinney and Mike Hart 23 years ago.
I was completely surprised and humbled by the award, but even more so by the outpouring of support of so many people in the community. My reward is watching as others draw energy from my passion for this cause.
One other high point has been helping a customer recognize $25-plus million in savings for a project that transformed their business. The company received an award for the project and recently had its story published in a book focused on intelligent adaptability! They were the heroes of the story, and I was honored to be one of the guides that helped them recognize this transformation.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Don’t wait for the moment to be perfect, just go for it. Take bigger risks and chances; it’s how you learn, grow, and evolve throughout your professional and personal life.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
I grew up in Madison and have worked here my whole life. I met this beautiful woman — my wife, Lisa — in college and she convinced me to build a home on her family farmland that backs up to the Horicon Marsh. So, technically I live in Dodge County, but I commute into Verona nearly every day.
Madison and Dane County bring together such a diverse group of people with all kinds of passion. It’s a little big town — in other words, everyone is well connected and the opportunities to explore your passions are endless.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I have a knack for remembering dates for positive events in my life — not just the normal, special personal dates, like the day I met my wife, our first date, our engagement, anniversary, and birthdays of my children, but dates for pivotal business meetings in my career, like the first time I met an important customer, the first pivotal presentation, and the time it took to come to an agreement to work together. (It took 1,505 days.)
On the flip side, I have a difficult time remembering specific dates for negative events, like the dates of death for some really important people in my life.
I’m not sure of that’s a cause for my ultra-positive “glass-half-full” outlook, or my competitive nature and strong desire to never give up until I’ve exhausted all options, but I have certainly recognized it over the past 10 years.
What are your guilty pleasures?
For those who know me well, it begins and ends with coffee. I love espresso and start nearly every morning with multiple shots to get me going. I once cut caffeine out of my life for about a year — what a terrible mistake that was.
Another guilty pleasure is Key lime pie. When the server comes around to ask if anyone wants dessert, I always ask for it. Of course, 99 percent of the time the restaurant doesn’t have it, but if they do, I will always take an order to go! It’s become a running joke in the office, so that some co-workers will send me pictures of Key lime pie when they are out!
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