Package your story, embrace disruption and understand the true meaning of customer centricity - with Jennifer Cook

January 2021

It’s about packaging your story so you stand out from the crowd, explains Jennifer Cook, a human-centered design thinker who helps property owners, developers and managers create award-winning experiences and high performing places that customers love. But it’s also about understanding the meaning of true customer centricity. “I like to bring the customer to the table in every discussion, no matter the business… It’s very easy to get caught up in operation manners that are separated from your audience. I bring the conversation back to how the customer will be impacted, what are they thinking and how do we adjust to their changing attitudes?” she explained.

CV snap shot

Jennifer has more than 20 years experience working in retail, office and mixed-use property, major festivals and events, the arts, retail, professional services and tourism. She is the Managing Director for the consultancy business Company 360 and currently serves as the:

  • Advisory Board Member for Vennu - a digital marketplace transforming the way community spaces are used locally and globally
  • Member, Advocacy and Outreach for The Sydney Fringe Festival — an alternative arts and culture festival, which is an initiative of the Newtown Entertainment Precinct Association
  • Committee Member for Waverley Public Art Committee, which fosters public access to creative public art. 

A self-confessed unconventional candidate for the Boardroom, Jennifer has spent the last five years deliberating her next move. “I thought about joining a Board a lot, but it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that I got serious. When I became a consultant, I had more control of my time and made it easier to go for it.”

The catalyst for Jennifer’s recent appointments to her various board positions was her participation in the Susan Oliver Syndicate 2019-2020 of the WOBSX Program, a director-led, peer support program to assist women achieve ASX Board roles. “Applying for and being accepted on WOBSX was the biggest game-changer for me. It represented my commitment and my accountability to taking this next step and I can honestly say, it was the precursor to all my Board success recently.”

Know your skill-set

With extensive experience in marketing and grand strategy, Jennifer knows how to position a brand and create a competitive strategy that sets a business apart from the rest. “I’ve worked with entrepreneurs in disruptive spaces and in innovative fields. I know how to manage disruption and I know how to be the disruptor. Or if that isn’t the intention of a business, then I know how to support them to adapt. It comes quite naturally to me,” she added. 

From former Managing Director of International Partnerships for Circa Contemporary Circus to Manager of Brand Strategy for AECOM to Head of Customer Experience for AMP Capital, Jennifer says that, “True customer centricity is an objective in most business or development project plans, but it's not easy to get from the lofty vision statement to the real deal.” 

In fact, it’s Jennifer’s customers that helped her to write and craft her own elevator pitch when applying for Board positions. “Having a background in marketing can be a blessing and curse. You can think about it so much that you’re constantly trying to rephrase everything that you write. What has been most useful is asking my clients what my strengths are. I asked them why they hired me and how can I  enable them. Everyone is a great communicator or has experience in governance with a passion for X Y and Z, but that doesn’t highlight who you are and what you are capable of doing. My advice? Ask your customers. They know best!”

Community connection

As the Advisory Board Member for Vennu — the Airbnb of community spaces as Jennifer puts it — her experience has been actively hands-on. “They’re a start-up with a great idea. I love that I have the opportunity to be helpful and practical. It’s really rewarding for me to give advice, to make connections, to provide an outside and honest perspective, and to support them as they grow.”

“It’s been a challenging year for Vennu in the middle of COVID, but what I love is that despite all our advances in technology, there’s still a core need for community to come together face-to-face. That will never change. It’s an in-built desire of our DNA. From surf clubs, to pony groups and ping pong rooms, Vennu is facilitating community connection while also supporting the sustainability and maintenance of community spaces,” she shared.

Future thinking

Looking to the future, Jennifer advises that all aspiring Board Directors complete the Australian Institute of Company Directors course. “It’s essential — just do it if you want a look in.” She also urges others to look five years ahead. “Think about where you want to be in five years’ time. You want to be careful not to be pigeon holed. Think about what you want your CV to look like. Give due consideration to your eventual goal and how you are going to get there.”

Jennifer is considering making room for her next step: “I would like to move into large private companies and into paid Director roles. I need to be strategic about that now so I’m gaining the right experience. Part of that is telling people I want a Non-Executive role. I didn’t do this initially because I thought that was a bit presumptuous of me, but when I did I made connections I never would have. I’m not a huge self-promoter and it felt very self-absorbed, but now I have worked out how to do it in a way that feels authentic.”

“It’s also really important to remember it’s not all about you. People like to be thought of as connectors. It’s good for the ego so give people an opportunity to help you,” she counseled.

Learn more about Jennifer on LinkedIn
Find out more about WOBSX