Interview with Rob Hatch: Lessons in Finding Your Passion

Rob HatchI have plenty of time to make up my mind but I wish I could just decide now. Do I do lead a modest life doing something morally satisfying to stay in good graces with the angel on my shoulder? Or do I seize the most lucrative opportunity I can, to satisfy the demon on the other? Well, like most metaphors of human thought and emotion, these two characters are completely inadequate and don’t actually exist. And if they did, who says they couldn’t coexist?

I recently had a truly enlightening conversation with Human Business Works COO Rob Hatch. He’s the perfect example of a man who found that balance of success and satisfaction. However, unlike how I’m hoping my life will play out, he didn’t just stumble upon it. He had to find it through hard work and an open mind.

Education is one of the noblest paths someone can take short of wearing a uniform. So how did Rob Hatch’s inspiration for early childhood development lead him to where he is now? I could tell you in a nutshell, but it’s much more interesting and inspiring in the words of the man himself.

Let’s begin with your background. Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Maine. I grew up in central Maine, Pittsfield to be exact.

You went to Wheelock College correct? When you went there, did you go in undecided?

Well, I knew what I wanted to do. In fact, I transferred in; I did another year at a school in Vermont. I transferred in knowing that I wanted to focus on early childhood education. It’s very different from what I do now. There’s some connection, but very little.

So when you graduated had you already made the transition in what you wanted to do with your life? Or did you graduate with those intentions still fully intact?

I actually just recently switched industries, so to speak.  I spent the last twenty some odd years in the field of early childhood education. From the point that I was actually going to school at Wheelock I was already working in the field. And then, after I left Wheelock, I stayed right in the field and ran organizations, child care centers and eventually a non-profit in western Maine called the Child Help Center. I have really been in the business of working with children and families for twenty some odd years and I still maintain a connection. I still train what are called home visitors in Maine in the area of working with children and families.

It’s hard to tell as a college student whether it’s more important: to find a career that is personally rewarding or financially lucrative. What are your thoughts on this? What’s more significant?

Well, I mean, you have to pay the bills, right? What I did for twenty years is exactly what I wanted to do, what I loved to do. But I recognized pretty early on, when I left Wheelock I was teaching, preschool, toddlers, things like that. For  a couple of reasons, that ended up not being a great fit for me, being a teacher, but rather to lead an organization, to run the center and to support the people who were teaching the children, to create environments where they could bring their best to educating children. That was a kind of passion decision but it was also a bit of a financial decision because there’s not a whole lot of money to be made being a preschool teacher. It’s very challenging to live on those salaries. Administration and leadership is a different matter. It was a balance for me to do something I was passionate about and also to feed my family.

So how did you end up with Human Business Works? What was that path like for you?

Well I have known Chris Brogan [of Human Business Works] since we were in grade school. In eighth grade we were good friends. He Human Business Workslived in my town for a couple of years and moved away and it wasn’t until right after 9/11, before social media, that friends were emailing each other and saying “hey, you know, is everything okay? Do you know anybody who was there? Just trying to stay connected through this email tree.” And Chris’ name was on that and we reconnected as friends and just started talking again. Our families became friends and for the next seven or eight years our friendship grew and we kind of mentored each other professionally through whatever challenges we were having and supported each other’s successes and things like that. In 2010, Chris and I were hanging out together and he asked if I would be interested in coming on board to help him out. It took a lot for me to say yes, meaning I had to think about it a lot and consider whether I had the same passion and excitement in this field for what he wanted to do and what we were going to do together. And I felt that I could make a difference, so eventually I said yes.

That’s interesting because just being at school  I find myself observing my peers progressing through their different majors, wondering how maybe I could collaborate with them in the future for my own career. Obviously it’s possible with your story.

Yeah, I mean, with the field I’m in now with Chris, on one hand has nothing to do with early childhood education, but I believe Chris recognized my business skills and my leadership skills, having run organizations in the past, having managed them and directed them.

Yeah, I was going to say, you seem to be good at taking a step back and re-evaluating your strategies and decisions. I saw the video you posted online, you were about to go for a run, about taking a break to optimize your potential. Is this kind of mindset something you had to learn or just how you are as a person?

It’s something I’ve had to learn and work at and I’ve had to make very conscious efforts to take a break and give myself that space because my tendency is to just put my head down and work. When I was running the Child Help Center I would come into my office, sit down, flip open my laptop and not look up for a while, not even turning on the lights. My staff would have to come in and turn the lights on.  Sometimes I’d come in and start working without even taking off my coat. It’s something I’ve had to consciously decide to do and I guess when I do it its tremendous how different I feel.

That’s good to hear. For these interviews I’m asking on the behalf of all of us, all college students, so I personally try to take away as much as possible.  As part of a business, what is the one quality that’s most important for everyone to respects, if not possess themselves?

Oh, that’s a good question. One quality that makes a successful business that everyone should have? I think one of the qualities people should respect the most is passion. And sometimes that can veer people off course. But you have to have an environment where people can feel connected to the mission in what they’re doing. If you allow that and foster that connection you can bring out that passion in people. I feel like if everyone knows what they’re working on and for and why, what matters about it, then the business or organization is going to be more successful because of that.

Because passion leads to motivation, right?

Yeah, it does. And if you know that the daily work that you do moves the organization forward or is connected to the mission of the organization in some way it’s far more motivating than money. In the most recent study I read people feeling like their contribution to something is far more motivating than money or benefits or any of that.

I’m sure you have definitely found that in the children’s center and it sounds like you have with Human Business Works.  Has there been any where, have you had any job, no matter how small or insignificant it was, that you just really could not get yourself motivated by, that you just didn’t have that passion for?

The only time that I felt I wasn’t connected was actually a leadership role I held where I felt like the organization and my role in it was too far removed from the mission and the decision making at the highest level was geared far more around the financial gains of the business and not on the quality of the product.

Just ethically?

Yeah, ethically, and I just felt like people weren’t focused on the right thing. It was a great position, I was well paid, there were a lot of great people in the organization. But regardless of the amount of money I was making, at the time it was the most I had ever made, I didn’t feel connected to the mission and I resigned from my position because of it.

I understand. I want to do something I can feel good about at the end of the day. So finally, this is a two-part question, answer either one: What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given? Or what is the most crucial piece of advice you wish someone had given you that would have made your journey easier?

That’s a tricky one. It’s a great question because I have been on the receiving end of so much great support in my career so there’s a lot to choose from. Sorry for the pause but I really want to think this through.

I appreciate it.

I think it’s really more of the advice that I wish I had been given. I think I have come to realize that being connected and having passion to my work is something that has helped me realize that I was lucky to be doing something that I loved and I had to figure that out over time. It took going through, you know, like the situation I described before about being paid more than I had ever been paid in my life, to prove that the connection matters. I had to learn things the hard way. I wish I had known that then. I probably would have saved myself a lot of grief, with that position I had taken, in finding the importance of the balance between passion and what I needed. I guess I wish I had understood that better early on.

But for the advice I would have wanted, it would be to always be thinking about whether you’re going to feel good or are you going to feel connected to this work or do you feel like you’re contributing, and if not it’s probably not going to be worth it regardless of how much money there is on the table. It’s exactly why, even though Chris is my dear friend and I believed in him, that leaving the organization, the work I loved, took a lot of time and reflection to make sure I was going to love this work before I made the leap regardless of the financial reward. It’s understanding what motivates and drives you and making sure you feel connected to your work that’s most important.

 

Photo credits: www.humanbusinessworks.com

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Comments

  1. Steve Smith says

    I appreciated the reminder of who the blog content can reach. I think we often forget some of the audiences, and focus purely on the customer target. But blogging can reach more than just customers and these other relationships can be beneficial as well. This helps me to see blogging in a new way.

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