Carlos Castelán

Managing Director of The Navio Group

Carlos Castelán is the Managing Director of The Navio Group in Minneapolis, a retail and consumer goods business consulting firm that works with companies to improve their internal management and productivity challenges, helping them perform better and succeed in today’s competitive business environment.

Before joining The Navio Group, Carlos was a Partner & Chief Strategy Officer at Conlego, a premier negotiations and partnership firm. There he advised on growth strategy, negotiated key agreements and was the principal partner to open new accounts.

Carlos previously founded & was the Managing Director at Noma Consulting Partners, acquired by Conlego Consulting in 2016, a boutique firm where he developed tailored, data-driven solutions for clients in the areas of e-commerce, guest insights, and financial analysis.

Prior to Noma, Carlos worked at The Boston Consulting Group and as a Negotiation Leader at Target Corporation, where he brokered large-scale agreements between Target and key suppliers.

Carlos holds a B.A. and B.S. in International Studies and Economics from the University of St. Thomas and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He enjoys playing soccer and grilling in his free time.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

We wanted to create a company that reflected our vision to help clients navigate change and chart a new course. Navio, or nao in Old Spanish, was the primary ship used by the early explorers from Spain and Portugal during the Age of Discovery. Their design made them ideal for navigating to unknown territories and through uncharted waters. Just as these ships carried their voyagers on to new lands, The Navio Group helps navigate our clients to new heights and the future.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

The funny part about our work is that since we are in client services there is not a “typical day” – and that’s part of what makes the work fun. That said, we travel a lot to be alongside our clients and believe the face-to-face interaction and communication leads to faster and higher quality outcomes. Our days often reflect this nature as we work around the country alongside our clients.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Jump right in and get started and then refine with your team as you go along. Perfect is the enemy of good.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that’s exciting to me is the convergence of work and HR. Today, it’s this macro-level phenomenon of the gig economy, people staying in jobs for shorter periods of time and, at the center of it all, is the changing nature of work. Of course, what our team does at The Navio Group reflects this larger trend and, at the same time, a lot of the work that we do with clients is around the nature of ensuring alignment between talent, organizational structure, and the larger company goals.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Listening to podcasts at 1.5x speed – it’s a real game changer. I’m able to get through more podcasts than I normally would without diminishing the quality of the listening experience.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t always take the path of least resistance.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I think the old adage that being good or specialized in one area will help you succeed is becoming increasingly less important for younger employees. Given technology’s pace of change, I think it’s just as important to be good at learning and constantly evolve. Careers and work are so fluid today that to put your eggs in one basket seems be it one skill or one career path opens up a lot of risk.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Never stop learning. Life is busy but make time to read the news, books, articles, and engage with peers to hear their perspective. In a world where the pace of change continues to accelerate as a result of technology, continuous learning is critical to success.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy we’ve used that has helped us is to develop content via thought leadership pieces for our blog and other publications. It’s helpful from a marketing perspective but, also, from a team and personal development perspective because it forces us to synthesize information and come up with a world view based on the data points. In a fast-paced world, one of the hardest things to do is take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Developing thoughtful content forces, us as a team, to do that which, in turn, helps us add more value for our clients.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

A failure I had on my first go-around was not setting goals for my business. I discounted the importance of doing so and, as a result, did not have a clear strategy or path for growth. Setting goals and tracking progress is important to building a business because it helps you make choices along the way that lead you to the desired outcome.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There’s a great opportunity to help train companies and their employees on a Consulting 101 toolkit from the value of frameworks to Excel or PowerPoint basics and then soft skills to sell an idea to internal team or external partners. That offering does not exist today in any large fashion but think so many out there could benefit from knowing just a few of the things the big consulting firms teach.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Tickets to Minnesota United FC, the local Major League Soccer team. In my mind, there’s nothing better than watching a soccer game in-person on a beautiful summer night in Minnesota.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

One of the best tools out there for consultants is think-cell. It’s used by many of the big consulting firms and helps build better data visualization, charts, than can be built on your own.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I am a big fan of Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock. It changed my thinking on attracting and engaging talented employees. Talent is increasingly becoming a scarce resource in the Information Age.

What is your favorite quote?

There’s a famous line from Spanish poet Antonio Machado that, admittedly, sounds better in its native Spanish but I have always found inspiring: “Walker there is no path, you make the path by walking.”

Key learnings:

  • Be focused on constantly learning and growing
  • Talent is increasingly the biggest differentiation between competitors
  • Be clear about your company’s purpose and goals. Ensure that the day-to-day work is aligned to those priorities