When it comes to planning, Anne Grogel has a few words of advice for you to consider: “If you want to be right all the time, you won’t like being a planner.”
Being good at planning, she explains, means taking all the information you have available and doing your best to guess what will happen. “We all wish we had a crystal ball,” Anne adds, “but the best planners combine the art of being proactive and reactive at the same time.”
This is the work Anne has been doing for a while now, first for about 15 years at Eddie Bauer and then for the last 10 years at SanMar. And to be clear, she and her team of planners is often right.
But the nature of the work means that being wrong is just a part of the process. “At the end of the day, the concept of our job is easy,” Anne says. “We forecast sales and buy inventory to support those sales. But the supply chain is bigger than just us and there are many things that can affect the sales and inventory position. Our job is to analyze when things work and when they don’t. If something didn’t work, let’s get together and try a new approach.”
We’ll explore just how that works, but it helps to understand that Anne did not start out wanting to be a planner. She originally had her sight set on being a teacher.
The Art of Mathematics
“When I went to college, I wanted to be a high school math teacher,” Anne remembers. “I loved teaching, but I learned that I didn’t want to teach kids.”
Working in an Eddie Bauer stockroom showed her a different way she could use her love for math and education in her work, and she soon moved up to a planning position at Eddie Bauer’s corporate office.
Planning, the way Anne looks at it, is more than just moving numbers around on a spreadsheet. A huge part of the work is building relationships with vendors and product development teams, as well as understanding industry trends and inventory needs. The goal at the end of the day is getting the right inventory in the right place at the right time, but it takes a lot of education and relationship-building to get there.
“This is how we take the art of math and apply it,” she explains. “I’m good at teaching people and I’m good at math. In a way, now I am a kind of math teacher!”
Speaking From Experience
After fifteen years at Eddie Bauer Anne was looking to explore her chosen career, so she accepted a new position of Production Planner at SanMar. “It’s one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made,” she recalls.
Anne recently celebrated her tenth year at SanMar, and in that time she’s also been a Demand Planner and a Production Planning Manager. In February of this year, she was named SanMar’s Director of Production Planning. “I’ve done all the jobs in Planning, and it’s nice to be able to speak to that experience,” she explains.
Her perspective helps her to understand how their work affects everyone in the supply chain, from our product merchandisers and logistics teams to vendors and customers. Along the way Anne helped to develop vendor projection files, a way to share what our future purchasing plans look like with our vendors. “This had a huge impact on our vendor relationships. It’s a game-changer for how we work with them.”
Steady communication and clear processes like this are critical to keeping the supply chain moving, especially when it’s struggling. “Positive communication keeps people uplifted and moving forward,” she says. “That’s something I’m always challenging myself and my team to do.”
An Award-Winning Surprise
This year, SanMar established a new employee recognition that hearkens back to our history. The Yellow T-Shirt Award pays homage to founder Marty Lott’s yellow t-shirt story. This is an annual award given to one employee who lives our values of Being Nice and Telling the Truth, and goes above and beyond the duties of their job in service to colleagues, customers and our community.
There were many nominations from across SanMar and all were worthy candidates for the award. But in the end, one person stood out in her dedication and how her work connects across the company—and that was Anne.
“Anne takes amazing ownership in making sure we do the right thing, is kind but not afraid to tell the truth, and is committed to the success of those around her,” said Jennifer Larson, SanMar’s Chief People Officer. “She epitomizes the can-do spirit that makes SanMar such a special place.”
SanMar President and CEO Jeremy Lott expressed similar sentiments when he presented the award to Anne at a company-wide meeting. “She’ll tell you when we’re failing but she doesn’t complain, she jumps in to help. She’s here to make a difference.”
For Anne’s part, she had no idea she was getting an award or was even nominated. “I know I work hard, but I just don’t think of myself that way,” she says. Her colleagues (who did know about it) made sure she was sitting in a seat with easy access to the stage at the company meeting.
She has two words for her reaction when Jeremy announced her name: “Mind. BLOWN.”
Anne’s award is only the most recent milestone in a remarkable career of accomplishments. In addition to her “day job,” she was a part of SanMar’s transition to an updated Enterprise Resource Planning software platform, which launched in 2020. This was a project which took years of combined effort across the company—and as usual, it was the relationships that Anne valued most in that process.
“It was crazy, painful, ridiculous, but also momentous and proud,” Anne recalls. “And it was awesome to meet others around the company and get to know them.”
Despite the long hours and hard work, when Anne’s husband asked if she would do it over again, Anne’s answer seems to speak to her body of work as a whole. “In a heartbeat,” she replied.
Congratulations to Anne for winning SanMar’s very first Yellow T-Shirt award. When it comes to forging relationships and developing a positive plan for the future, we’re lucky to have someone who gets it right.