Medium Company Executive of the Year: Michael Carr, president and CEO, Naviant

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Just after being elevated from CFO to president and CEO at Naviant, Michael Carr is earning praise from employees for his open and communicative style. Carr replaced his mentor, Mike Suter, the company’s founder, in Oct. 2019 and hit the ground running.

Employees describe Carr as a “thought leader,” “employee- and customer-focused,” with one saying he’s a “phenomenal human being and an example of what an executive should be at all levels.”

High praise for someone who describes himself as a “natural introvert.”

Naviant Inc. is a business process automation company working in the high-tech space. The company helps businesses become more efficient through automation including content management platforms, workflow, case management, robotic process automation, or machine learning.

With an 80–20 focus, one of Carr’s first initiatives was selling the company’s physical records division to Iron Mountain Inc., freeing Naviant to focus on its strategic growth markets.

He facilitated the acquisition of Utah-based DoxTek, propelling the company into national prominence and increasing the number of employees by 25%. His foresight to move the company’s technology to the cloud proved intuitive, as COVID-19 would strike soon after. “This has been absolutely vital to our continued profitability throughout the pandemic,” notes one employee.

But his open communication style has clearly injected focus and fun into the company. Early on, biweekly emails focused on COVID-19 updates and personal stories about how Carr and his wife were getting through. “Everyone was a bit anxious and worried about losing their jobs,” Carr reports. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

In fact, employees later asked Carr to continue the “cadence of communication,” which keeps employees engaged, celebrates accomplishments, and reinforces Naviant’s culture of growth and change.

“That was flattering,” Carr says. “Sometimes you think you’re just sending emails into space and nobody reads it. So, the correspondence has been heartfelt, honest, transparent, and folks appreciate that. We addressed COVID, the turmoil with George Floyd, protests, destruction in a heartfelt manner,” Carr explains. “We self-reflected as a company and we’re more intentional now.”

Customers are invited to “Coffee with Carr” meetings to help them embrace new ways of interacting, and Naviant’s diversity and inclusion efforts have ramped up. The company launched a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County to expose young people of color to high-paying technology jobs through internships.

“We always thought our culture was inclusive as part of our value, but we also knew we could do better,” Carr states. “Historically, this field tends to be a white-male dominated. We recognized the need to recruit differently and this is one big way we can expand our talent pool.”

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