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From HR Leader to Client to Navigate Forward CEO

Anne Sample Shares Her Career Journey
Anne Sample, CEO

Thank you notes are standard during the hiring process. But receiving one from an executive whose position you eliminated? That’s certain to grab your attention.

It’s one of our CEO Anne Sample’s favorite stories to tell, because it perfectly encapsulates the moment she realized the Navigate Forward team went above and beyond the typical model for outplacement consulting.

“I remember sending the first leader through Navigate Forward services,” she recalled. “We’d had a really tough conversation that this person did not expect, that their role was going away. I introduced them to Navigate Forward, and six months later I got a thank you note.”

She continued, “That really made me sit up and realize, ‘This is different.’ It sold me on Navigate Forward being the right place, and I became a very loyal corporate customer.”

Combining a Passion for People with P&L Accountability

Sample’s own career trajectory serves as a Navigate Forward success story, demonstrating that finding your passion and purpose in the business world doesn’t always follow a straight line.

After two decades as an human resources executive at a variety of high profile organizations, including Whirlpool, PepsiCo., Citibank, PepsiAmericas, Thrivent and Caribou Coffee, Sample found her own career at a crossroads. When her Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) position ended, she faced a choice: Look for another senior HR position? Or chart a new course with P&L accountability and greater decision-making power?

Sample’s career demonstrates that finding your passion and purpose doesn’t always follow a straight line.

Her own engagement as a Navigate Forward client helped her uncover the most rewarding path. Six months later in March 2019, she became new owner and CEO of Navigate Forward.

“Navigate Forward has such a strong base and brand,” Sample said. “It was the opportunity to buy a very strong and well regarded business that was also a hidden gem.”

Rigor and Strategy to Support a New Adventure

Sample first encountered Navigate Forward through a chance meeting at a networking event with co-founder Teresa Daly. The company’s highly customized, outcome-focused approach and focus on senior leaders resonated with her. Shortly after, she became a corporate client, offering Navigate Forward services to departing executives.

Sample gained a new perspective on transition in 2018 when she came to Navigate Forward as a client. Co-founder Mary Kloehn served as her lead consultant. It was Navigate Forward’s in-depth discovery process and ongoing support that provided the rigor and strategy she needed for a new career venture.

“The exploration process really encourages people to think about what do they want to do next, how much time do they have left in their career, what’s important to them,” Sample noted. “For me, it was having P&L responsibility.”

She continued, “Navigate Forward encouraged me to go explore that idea. I wasn’t sure I was going to buy a business. I went back to old bosses to see if there were business unit roles that I could do. I was really looking at all of the ways that I might get that experience.”

Envisioning a Strong Future for an Established Brand

At the same time, Navigate Forward’s founders were actively looking for their successor, although they never revealed those plans directly to Sample. When she learned of the sale through a third-party, another opportunity opened for her. It was the perfect way to combine her passion for talent development with her new leadership goals.

“As a former HR buyer and client, I had the chance to have an insider’s view of what was so wonderful,” Sample recalled. She immediately recognized Navigate Forward’s potential.

Navigate Forward’s in-depth discovery process provided the rigor and strategy for a new career venture.

“I knew that they could support people outside of the Twin Cities,” she explained.” I saw some opportunities to make investments in systems and in process that would improve the experience for clients. Our new LinkedIn practice and virtual delivery model are good examples of that.”

Sample also orchestrated the company’s move to its new offices at International Market Square in Minneapolis. The custom-designed space is ideal for one-on-one client appointments, large-group learning sessions and private coworking for executives in transition.

A Path of Business and Personal Growth

The journey has not been without its challenges. The onset of COVID-19 prompted swift action to keep staff and clients safe, while pivoting to a virtual delivery model. Sample also quickly learned the many sides of entrepreneurship.

“There was an adjustment in running your own business after an entire career in large companies,” she noted. “You have to be ready to be the chief cook and bottle washer, to step into things that are loads of fun, and other things might not play to your strengths.”

She is most proud of retaining 100 percent of Navigate Forward’s talented staff through the transition, and credits co-founders Kloehn and Daly for their vision and hard work in creating such a dynamic organization.

“Mary and Teresa’s support has been vital to our continued to success. Our similarity in values and perspectives is part of what made this transition go so well,” Sample said.

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