The future is bright for CareerTrackers

By Kevin Nuttall, Published 15 October 2017

I recently wrote an article about Future Scanning and the importance of looking at your external environment to predict future changes that can have an effect on your organisation. 

We looked at a few examples of companies who failed to do this, and as a result, they did not survive. Whilst the examples of Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster was a catastrophic failure in foreseeing a shift and not adjusting to it, there have been some very positive results when businesses have foreseen a shift and adjusted their strategy accordingly.

An example that comes to mind, of one of our clients, CareerTrackers Australia.  

CareerTrackers is a national non-profit organisation which creates private sector internship opportunities for Indigenous university students. It supports students by successfully linking them with private sector employers to participate in paid multi-year internships and continue on to long-lasting professional placements.

Waterfield has a long-standing relationship with CareerTrackers, proudly providing strategic and collaborative services for over 7 years.

CEO and Founder of CareerTrackers realised the importance of strategic planning, even as a start-up business. Engaging Waterfield based on a recommendation of a senior leader in a respected organisation.

We had to get the strategy right from day one, and we needed the right tools to do it. I was told there was one team in Australia who could help me. And we knew that if it was good enough for the best companies in Australia, we had to have it. That was Kevin Nuttall, that was Waterfield and that’s why we chose StrategyConnect.
— Michael Combs, CEO and Founder CareerTrackers Australia

It was the collaborative nature of StrategyConnect that appealed most to Combs and the team at CareerTrackers. Ensuring that the strategy was accepted throughout the organisation and supported by board members, senior managers and the entire team was vital to it's success.

We engaged a wide range of stakeholders. It wasn’t my strategy as the CEO, it wasn’t the Board’s strategy, it belonged to every single person who was in the room. So we included our interns, our employees, our alumni and our corporate partners. That was a very deliberate decision, and it’s something we’ve continued to do every year. These people are the custodians of our strategic plan for the next 12 months at least. That’s buy-in.
— Michael Combs

But the real breakthrough for CareerTrackers came at the front end of the strategic planning process, looking at the external environment and changes that could have a significant impact on their business model. When we conducted future scanning, a wave analysis showed two trends that would significantly impact CareerTrackers current business. One of the key external factors identified during our future scanning process with CareerTrackers was that following the Rudd/Gillard government apology to Indigenous Australians, it was foreseen as a risk that government funding (of which CareerTrackers were 80% reliant on at the time), would slowly decrease over the next 5 to 10 years.

Indigenous communities find it tough to trust a not-for-profit because the moment you fall in love with them they disappear because their funding got cut. We needed to build trust and we needed to ensure our longevity.

CareerTrackers corporate partners were identified as the key strategic investment to keep CareerTrackers viable for the next 50 years. So during the StrategyConnect process, we drilled into this opportunity and came up with an idea to get one company to sign a ten-year partnership. Then we thought deeper. Getting one company to sign would be good but what about ten? That would be a real statement!

Everyone said it was impossible, that companies barely sign a ten-year lease for their offices, let alone a community partnership. But Michael and his board convinced one CEO to say yes. He had such belief in CareerTrackers vision that he went on to help Michael convince nine other CEOs to join the program. Today, CareerTrackers has 19 ten-year partners.

That fundamentally changed the way CareerTrackers business model runs. It changed the relationships with the students. Those 19 organisations are essentially the caretakers of CareerTrackers.

When I look at CareerTrackers now, I see a strong, sustainable organisation that matters. But none of that would have been possible without the strategic clarity we built through StrategyConnect.
— Michael Combs

CareerTrackers strategy outcome was to move their reliance on funding from the government to corporate support. This strategic outcome has resulted in the successful implementation of a plan for a 10x10 commitment from companies, which led to CareerTrackers becoming a sustainable organisation that can really make a difference.

Learn more about StrategyConnect by Waterfield.