I Love My Job: Rob Kathol

The Navigate CEO shares why he's loving his company's new Philly satellite office. He also tells us his guilty pleasure (read: obsession) and how much, more like how little, sleep he gets each night.

Mayor Kenney cuts the ribbon with CEO Rob Kathol at Navigate's new Center City satellite office.

Navigate CEO Rob Kathol cuts the ribbon at Navigate’s new Center City satellite office with Mayor Kenney by his side.

Rob Kathol founded the management consulting firm Navigate in 2005, and now, the firm with headquarters in Wayne, Pa., is regularly named “best place to work” by various outlets like the Philadelphia Business Journal and Consulting Magazine. Navigate works with clients like Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Independence Blue Cross and Comcast. And though Kathol isn’t a Philadelphia native, he’s made a big commitment to the city—Navigate opened up a satellite office in Center City in May 2016, making it the first company to open up a satellite space in Philly under Mayor Kenney’s term. Kathol says he’s a big proponent of moving business to Philadelphia. The city has an incredible vibe and pulse, and Navigate has grown because of it, he says. In the interview below, Kathol shares why he committed to a multi-year lease and the biggest unexpected benefit of the decision so far. He also tells us his guilty pleasure and how much (or how little) sleep he gets each night. You won’t believe how short his daytime cat-naps are.

I grew up in … Omaha, Nebraska.

I came to Philly for … a job. I moved down here after I attended Boston College.

I am a huge fan of … the Phillies. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 12 years.

The best thing about 2017 so far is … from a Navigate perspective, we’re off to a great start. We just came through our review cycle and we are seeing the largest number of promotions we’ve ever had.

I founded Navigate in 2005 because … I saw a need to help companies bridge gaps that occur between departments and operating groups. And I wanted to create a place driven by core values and not the bottom line.

Core values are important to a business because … they are the heart and soul of the company. What we do may change but how we do it should never change.

Something most of my colleagues don’t know about me is … I’m a fly fisherman.

A challenge Navigate is always up against is … hiring and retaining talent. It’s not really a challenge but more so a priority as we have low turnover. For us to continue to be successful we need to maintain our culture and make sure we have the best team. In the past, people would work the same job their entire career, but that doesn’t work anymore. So we have to keep creating opportunities for people and excitement. We have to make them really want it.

On weekdays I wake up at … 5 a.m.

On the weekends I wake up at … 5 a.m. I’ve always been an early riser. Sleeping in for me is like 6:30 a.m. During the day I take naps that are five to ten minutes long. I’m usually in bed at midnight for five hours of sleep each night.

A guilty pleasure of mine is … ice cream. Lot and lots of ice cream. I have three ice cream makers.

My favorite place to get ice cream in the city is … Franklin Fountain. And there’s also Wayne Bar in Wayne, Pa. They bring in ice cream from all over, like from Little Baby’s, Scoops, or Graeter’s Ice Cream out of Ohio.

We expanded Navigate from Chesterbrook/Wayne, Pa. to … demonstrate our commitment to the city, to our clients, and to our employees. Around three out of five of the folks we hire live in the city. So it’s critical to have an office here. We thought it would be successful, but it’s completely blown our expectations away.

A difference between out suburban HQ and Philly satellite office is … the view. In Philly we can see City Hall and William Penn.

Rob Kathol. Image courtesy of Navigate.

Rob Kathol. Image courtesy of Navigate.

An unexpected benefit of the expansion has been … that our company culture has grown and been strengthened in both locations. We were concerned at first that there wouldn’t be a natural flow between the two locations but there is and we couldn’t be happier.

Some advice for any company looking to open up a satellite office is … consider the many shared spaces or co-working spaces in the city. It’s an easy way to do it without a huge commitment. And you don’t have to move into Center City. Look at University City, for example.

A notable trend to hit consulting this year is … clients moving towards outcome-based fee arrangements instead of rate times hours worked. Clients are looking for consulting firms to put more skin in the game in terms of how they’re paid. And digital will continue to drive change in our industry.

Something I’m doing differently this year is … I’m operating on a more strategic level, from a business perspective. I need to be more disciplined about working on the business instead of working in the business. It’s hard because I love consulting, but I’ve had to back out of it.

I’m really afraid of … my middle son beating me in golf.

I get most excited about … my family. Not just the big experiences and adventures, but also the day-to-day.

In Philly I’d like to spend more time exploring … the Barnes.

The last book I read was … The River of Doubt by Candice Millard. It’s about Theodore Roosevelt’s son’s expedition down the Amazon.

The restaurant where I dined the most last year was … Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square. It’s not close to home, but we’re members at Longwood and me and wife take our three boys there to give them some culture. [Laughs.]

As a business leader in this political climate I feel a duty to … stay committed to our core values.

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