Interview with Catherine Jacob, Founder and Managing Director at Footprint Consulting
What led you to found Footprint Consulting?
Footprint Consulting was born from my passion for helping businesses and their employees work in harmonious and mutually beneficial ways. I wanted to change people’s working lives for the better and at the same time help companies to realise that supporting their people is integral to business success.
My aim is to instil lasting and transformative changes in the workplaces I visit, which is why I name the business Footprint Consulting. Overall, I would say that my central objective is to have a meaningful impact in the business world that simultaneously benefits companies and their people.
What do you do at Footprint Consulting?
We specialise in facilitating participative and collaborative workshops. Each one of our workshops has been methodically designed and fine-tuned over the years to yield the best results. The areas that our workshops cover include vision setting, strategic planning and strategy implementation, change management and problem solving, and strategic innovation. In every one of our workshops, the overarching objective is to produce a concrete action plan that includes milestones, KPIs, and clear accountability and ownership of tasks.
In my opinion, the most valuable facet of our workshops is our participative techniques. Every time I make contact with a past client I am encouraged to hear about the lasting changes that our workshops have catalysed in the company. It goes to show that we are achieving what we set out to do: affecting meaningful transformations that simultaneously benefit businesses and people.
Over the past few years we have also been developing a Business Diagnostic App, which allows executives to access a holistic snapshot of their organisation that effectively illuminates areas of strength and weakness.
What exactly does your Business Diagnostic App involve? What does it do?
I developed the App to help CEOs and executives self-identify their blind spots, and adjust their priorities and action plans accordingly. It has been designed to be completed by an individual or an entire team. The way it works, which is deceptively simple, is by guiding the user to rate their agreement with a series of comprehensive statements that cover eight crucial business areas (vision and strategy, strategy deployment, sales and marketing, innovation, leadership, organisational effectiveness, risk management, and people and culture).
My experience has taught me that no CEO or executive can excel in every business area, and I wholeheartedly include myself in that observation! The fact is that we inevitably gravitate our time and attention towards areas that we have the most experience in and the areas that the organisation is excelling in. As a result, blind spots develop and this can spell disaster.
The app format is a time and cost effective way to access professional consulting services, making it a great solution for executives who want to give their business a quick check up.
Where did you attain your experience to lead you to where you are now?
I began my career as a structural engineer, which I consider a valuable addition to my consulting expertise. Engineering demands systematic and rigorous problem solving coupled with creativity, and this is an approach that I bring to my consulting engagements.
After working as an engineer for several years I decided to pursue an MBA with the aim of becoming a consultant. After graduating, I landed my first job as a senior consultant with the Renault Nissan Group. The consulting unit at Renault-Nissan is highly esteemed, and performs work for a range of external clients in addition to in-house improvements.
Following on from here I was privileged to begin working at BlueScope Steel, where I developed a new company, Façade Solutions, from scratch, and served as the GM for over five years.
What was one of your most memorable business start ups?
I would absolutely say Façade Solutions! BlueScope Steel had asked me to pitch an idea for a business that would open up access to a new market segment with a new product and, after a significant amount of market research, I realised that there was a gap in the market for high-end steel facades.
I was involved at every step of the start up process, including business modelling, staffing, product refinement and supply chain development. It was so exciting to see Façade Solutions reach commercialisation stage (despite the challenges posed by the GFC) and go on to become an award winning and internationally recognised organisation.
In what ways do you improve businesses?
In short, I would say that I generate a high level of value in a short time frame by tapping into the strengths and expertise of employees. Our collaborative and participative tools, which feature in every one of our workshops, are designed encourage creativity, teamwork and engagement.
I also specialise in identifying overlooked areas and removing blind spots.
What are the five most common errors that a business makes?
Well of course every organisation is unique, and invariably will encounter challenges that are industry and size specific, but there are several particularly prevalent issues. I would say the five most common business mistakes are:
1. Undervaluing the contributions of employees and failing to realise the importance of making employees feel appreciated and fulfilled.
2. Over focussing on short-term results at the expense of long-term goals. The best approach involves a balance of short and long-term objectives, and a clear understanding of how short term results will contribute to long term goals.
3. Failing to align authority with accountability, which can be a barrier to success.
4. Not seizing the opportunity to learn from past mistakes by undertaking root cause analysis and addressing underlying issues to prevent recurrent problems.
5. Allowing poor execution to undermine the value of excellent strategic planning. I always tell people that a strategy can only ever be as good as its execution.
What is the best part about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is definitely seeing the rewards of our participative workshops. I am always so proud to see people become more engaged and managers rediscovering the value of their employees. Knowing that I have contributed to improving peoples’ lives and helped an organisation reach its full potential gives me a sense of purpose that makes me excited to go to work everyday.
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