Winner of the Top Workplaces Midsize Employer category always keeps the big picture in view.

Midsize Employer: Navigator Management Partners LLC

About four years ago, Dave Schoettmer had a decision on his hands. He could maintain the focus of his business, which would have been a profitable position for the next two to three years, or invest in a smaller but growing market. That latter choice meant forsaking the immediate windfall, but he made the sacrifice to position his technology and management consulting company for the long haul.

It was a time when Navigator Management Partners LLC had a large base of clients that worked with legacy applications that no longer represented the latest technology and couldn’t provide the benefits that new, cloud-based applications could offer.

While Navigator continued to support those legacy clients, the company dialed back its pursuit of new clients running these tech dinosaurs and began investing in the cloud, which Schoettmer now knows will drive the market for the next two decades.

The investments included partner development, employee training, infrastructure, sales and marketing.

“This was more costly in the short run than simply sticking with a known commodity, but it positioned us to be a long-term technology market leader instead of, well, a commodity,” says Schoettmer, president and founder of Navigator.

That decision to bet on the cloud has paid off. The company has achieved full partner status with its cloud software partners Workday, Oracle, SAP, Tableau and Cloudera. That’s something Schoettmer calls a “remarkable accomplishment” for a boutique consulting firm of its size.

“And it speaks to the quality of work that Navigator has performed in our 18 years,” he says. “This makes ours a unique service offering, and the only one headquartered in Ohio that fits this description.”

Schoettmer’s leadership goes beyond an ability to forecast the business and technology landscapes, say those who work with him. The company, through comments from its employees, earned a special award for values in this year’s Top Workplaces contest. Navigator’s values are: commitment, collaboration, transparency, integrity and community. The community piece especially shows how Schoettmer has used his position for the greater good.

Navigator and its team members support more than 200 nonprofits.

Casey Cramer, Navigator’s marketing manager, says supporting the communities it serves isn’t a corporate goal, but a personal responsibility.

“From our founding in 2001, we have sought and attracted the type of person who is motivated to make a difference not only for our clients’ success, but for causes and organizations as diverse as we are,” she says. “Each person at Navigator takes great pride in getting involved in charitable organizations and community efforts that change lives.”

Schoettmer says the community focus stems from the company’s success. Simply, he feels he’s in a position to help others.

“Navigator and other businesses and their employees strengthen the fabric of our communities, supplementing the social safety net and providing opportunities to individuals that might not be available otherwise,” he says.

“I recently heard the term ‘The Columbus Way’ used in this context. As a member of our Columbus office, I might tag this phrase and note that we’ve been trying to live this for the past 18 years at our company.”

Within the walls of Navigator, Schoettmer’s values have translated to a company culture that’s focused on transparency, including the company financials that are shared every month.

There’s also what’s called a “balance scorecard” made up of four quadrants to gauge how the company is performing. It involves metrics tied to financials, clients, people (human capital) and operations. Leadership and employees meet quarterly to go through each metric so employees understand where the business stands.

Another focus is employee engagement. Several internal groups and committees have been created, including a charitable board made up of rotating employees and leadership, which employees petition to help the causes they care about, and a women in leadership initiative that’s interested in issues such as fixing the gender pay gap.

René Lewis, director of human resources, says Schoettmer comes to all of the women’s events, including the 8 a.m. coffee talks. He makes people feel like they’re being heard and their feedback has value.

“He’s always in here with us chatting about what’s going on.” “He’s always asking those questions—how can we improve? He was the driver in saying, ‘How do we get on the Best Workplaces for Women list?’ ”

That women in leadership group has brought tangible changes to the way Navigator operates. For example, some employees who work at client sites found that Navigator’s maternity leave policy wasn’t up to snuff and, through the women’s initiative, advocated to company leadership that it be improved.

The result is a more generous policy that’s now competitive with Navigator’s peers. It’s an example of Schoettmer’s ability to adapt to the marketplace, just like he did with the cloud.

Q&A with Dave Schoettmer, president and founder

Describe your management style and how it’s changed over the years.
In startup mode, founders are often seen trying to manage every aspect of a business. They wear nearly every hat at some point until the business grows to a critical mass. As Navigator has grown over the years I have moved from a do-all, founder-centered environment to one in which many are empowered to manage their areas of responsibility. While I still love to interact with our clients, it is equally important that I put the best people in a position to help them and our clients succeed. I am now in the role of servant-leader and happy to see my teams respond with world-class performance.

If you had a few minutes with a hot recruit and had to give an elevator speech to sell them on working at Navigator, what would you say?
You will have the opportunity to learn the latest technology, apply it to large and complex business challenges, and work with a fantastic group of people who care about their coworkers and the work that they do.

What are some of the fun events you host at work to keep workers happy?
Project teams are empowered to balance work, life and play at the team level. We host formal monthly and quarterly meetings for all associates to supplement frequent corporate communications. We host parties during the holiday season to give everyone the time to reconnect outside of the work environment. At these events we frequently talk about the many associates and clients who participate together in events like Pelotonia, the Heart Walk, support for the needy and recreational activities.

If you could throw your employees a dream party what would that be?
Not to say we haven’t had a few parties that might fit this criteria … I would retain space for the entire team at Nationwide Arena where the Blue Jackets would win the Stanley Cup in a game seven overtime win. Can you tell that I am a hockey enthusiast? Let’s go Jackets!

What’s the favorite perk you offer your workers?
I appreciate the gimmick perks that we offer. These still include our casual office space, the beer keg (for events only) and the occasional Labrador retriever to welcome employees to our office. I like the funding of joint social and charitable teams, such as Pelotonia, for training rides and day-of-event support. However, in the end, I have to admit that I am a practical leader as well. Benefits, compensation practices, equal opportunity, diversity and professional development should all be considered as important aspects of being a great place to work. With all of these as part of our employment mosaic, I suppose our greatest perk is to be treated with respect and appreciation by your coworkers and your leadership team.

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.