A Little Bit About Us

Since there are two of us, it’s hard for either of us to talk in the first person. That being said, we’re going to break with tradition and tell our story jointly, and when we need to talk about our personal stories, we’ll make it fairly obvious to you.

Breakthrough is made up of Joyce Schaefer and Charlotte “Char” Nenninger. We pride ourselves on our years of hands-on experience, as well as our sound understanding of best practices and business theories.

We’ve known each other for years. We met right after college, as entry-level auditors/CPAs for a public accounting firm. Becoming fast friends, Joyce left after three years, to join a Fortune 500 company. Seven years later, Char left to become the CFO of a privately owned small business.

Joyce:

Within a few years I went from St. Louis, to Pensacola, to Chicago, and then back to St. Louis, all within the same company and all various accounting/financial positions of increasing responsibility. Seven years into my Fortune 500 career, I made a change from Accounting to Human Resources. During that time I managed an HR call center, then moved into domestic, international and executive compensation and then moved on as an HR lead working as a strategic business partner and organizational development leader, first for a Biotechnology division and then for the U.S. Sales and Marketing division. But that’s just corporate speak. What it all really means is I was working with senior vice presidents and leaders in the company, helping them create, implement, and communicate the strategies to run their businesses. I offered insight and perspective to help them make themselves and their business more effective.

Of course, working directly with organizational leaders on strategy and leadership development was the stuff I enjoyed most. I found it fun and rewarding. Unfortunately, in Corporate America, there are often a lot of “have to-dos” that are just as important as the the “want to-do’s”. I personally felt the “want to-do’s” had the most positive impact on the organization, but the “have to-do’s” got a lot more of my time and attention.

So I hit a wall. I felt like I wasn’t able to do the things that I did best and had the most impact. I got caught up in the operational things that kept me behind my desk and didn’t get to spend as much time with my clients.

It was during this time that I was introduced to my own executive coach who made a huge difference in helping me sort out what was important in my career.

Char:

Fairly soon after becoming CFO, I was promoted to COO. During that time I gained a lot of hands-on experience in the business operational areas. I found myself wearing many hats: Finance, Operations, HR, Cheerleader, etc. After eight years , I left that company to work for a larger privately held company as their COO.

I had dreamed that one day I would be running a business. Now it was happening yet I still felt like something was missing from my professional life. I began to explore what I really wanted by working with a business coach. Through a deeper understanding of myself and my strengths, I became more clear about what I really wanted for my career.

The only final question was, “Did I have the courage to go for it?”

Joyce:

There was a small window of opportunity and I jumped head first…out of my corporate job after nineteen years. Moments later panic set in. Did I have the courage to do what I REALLY wanted to do or do I run back out and get another J-O-B?

Char:

My life changed very quickly. During this time, my sister who was battling for her life, succumbed to breast cancer at age 40. Through this experience it became clear to me that the old adage, “life is short” became an unfortunate reality for me. From nowhere the courage to start my own business began to flow through my veins. I really wanted to work with leaders to help them became clear on their unique strengths and help them vision a brighter more exciting future for themselves, their teams, and/or their companies.

Joyce:

My quick moment of panic that I needed another corporate job quickly subsided, as I realized I had the skills and talent to help companies improve the way they do business and the way they manage without getting caught up in the day to day firefight myself.

Call it serendipity or fate, but it was during this time that our career paths crossed once again. When we both realized that not only were we ready to take the plunge into self-employment, we realized in this case that one plus one equals much much more than two. We wanted to create a company that offered real results without the politics and nonsense. We wanted to offer breakthrough results.

From there, our company was born.