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CURiO’s Anne Sempowski Ward on the Wide-Ranging Value of Board Service

Board Readiness Alum Recently Honored as 2021 Outstanding Director by Twin Cities Business

Anne Sempowski Ward had her eye on board service for a long time. Her rapid career growth from an internship to a Marketing Director inspired a mentor to suggest she join Procter & Gamble’s philanthropic funding board. There Ward witnessed how boards affect change through guidance, goal setting and governance as well as how the viewpoints of the board members shaped the goals of the company.

During her next career phase in leadership positions at Fortune 100 companies, Ward concentrated on billion-dollar brands and fostering growth strategies. Ward’s specialty is in guiding companies through their transitions, especially during major expansions, like unprecedented growth and acquisitions, or cultural change, such as rebranding and turnarounds.

Today, as the current CEO for CURiO Brands and serving on their board, Ward simultaneously serves on two other public company boards and one philanthropic board. For her notable contributions, she was recently honored by Twin Cities Business magazine as an Outstanding Directors for 2021 for her board service to VANDA Pharmaceuticals and SPS Commerce. She reflected on her board service contributions, as well as the role Navigate Forward plays in helping senior leaders grow into serving as board members.

Noteworthy Career Experience Creates a Unique Board Perspective

Ward’s influence resonates differently with the various companies she serves. Some boards benefit from her expertise in leadership, expansion and cultural shifts, while others appreciate her retail insights, thought leadership, financial insights and strategy.

Ward manages this broad range of focus through her high levels of organization and preparation. Given the range of boards Ward could serve on, she has benefited greatly from the Board Readiness support from Navigate Forward.

Board Readiness uses a one-on-one approach to prepare executives to continue their career momentum into board service or to leverage their board service to serve on additional boards. While Ward’s experience alone was very attractive to boards, Navigate Forward helped Ward to focus her focus and messaging and fine tune a high impact Board Bio.

Companies succeed when their board members are able to identify their own strengths and optimize their contributions to the company’s long-term strategy.

“Navigate Forward partners with executives to realize and quantify their impact,” said Patti O’Leary, Navigate Forward’s Board Readiness practice lead and Ward’s Board Readiness Consultant. “We also help leaders to define a targeted market strategy which will ensure that they are focused on the organizations that will leverage these strengths.

Current Experiences and Lifelong Identifiers Can Also Provide Thought Leadership Boost

Ward’s board contributions and thought leadership are also informed by her ongoing experiences of championing causes she is passionate about.

“I bring perspective as both a sitting executive and a board member. This range allows me to understand what the management team is going through on a day-to-day basis while thinking about strategy and governance. Ultimately, this helps me be a better board member,” Ward said.

In addition to her current and relevant CEO experience, Ward also leans into offering boards her valued point of view as a woman of color. Often the only or first minority in the boardroom, her assessments add unique perspective to the conversation. As companies look to address diversity and inclusion concerns while supporting distinct stakeholders and communities, Ward’s firsthand cultural experience is timely, relevant and invaluable.

“These days, boards are looking for more diverse skillsets,” said Anne Sample, the CEO of Navigate Forward. “While strategic insight on the P&L has always been important, Boards are also looking for thought leadership in areas that include digital transformation, crisis management, social and racial justice, cybersecurity, ESG and sustainability practices.”

Ward herself is dedicated to creating more diverse boards with increased representation of genders and the BIPOC community, and she finds ways to mentor and support others of similar demographic identifiers. The Women Corporate Directors Women of Color initiative, led by Ward and several other prominent women, identifies and prepares women of color for board service. In fact, Ward and her peers from WCD reached out to Navigate Forward to ask for their direct involvement in this effort. The partnership was a great example of the way that Ward leverages resources for broader impact.

Start Your Board Journey. Whether you’re ready to add value beyond your day job, or considering an encore career, Navigate Forward can help you achieve your goals. Learn more about our Board Readiness service.

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