With his drive to succeed honed in the sporting arena, Neil Jones appreciates the value of a great team more than most.
It’s mid-November and Neil Jones CPA is travelling to the biennial Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast to defend his gold medal. At the previous Games in 2014, Jones and his baseball buddies took out top spot in the over-50s category. Involved in the sport since the age of 13, the now-57-year-old still plays every game to win.
“Winning’s not everything, it’s the only thing,” he says. “What keeps bringing me back? The camaraderie with the team is one thing, but the success is important, too.”
That same attitude towards competition, teamwork and achieving goals has greatly influenced Jones’s professional life. Now director of the successful Melbourne-based tax-training business TaxBanter, he spent the first 17 years of his career in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). At the ATO, Jones rose to the position of assistant commissioner, large business and international. From there, despite having just one more rung to climb on the ATO ladder, he decided to explore a new career in tax accounting.
His first stop was KPMG, as senior tax manager. After three years, Jones was headhunted for a position with tax training firm Webb Martin, a role he accepted with one stipulation.
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“We had a chat and I saw an opportunity with a reasonably small business to have a significant influence in the tax sphere,” he says. “I was ambitious, so I said I’ll accept if there’s a chance of equity within a year. The answer was yes.”
During his nine years with Webb Martin, Jones discovered a grand passion for tax training.
“It’s standing up and talking to everyone – from the Big Four accounting firms to sole practitioners in the bush,” he explains. “You’re a performer and if you deliver, you get recognition. It’s rewarding when someone tells you it was enjoyable and engaging, or says they really learned something from you.”
These days, Jones takes more than 140 flights a year training clients of his business TaxBanter. Webb Martin was eventually sold to education provider Kaplan, and TaxBanter then bought back much of the tax training business. It has made another two acquisitions since launching in 2008.
“World domination has always been the game plan!” jokes Jones. “We currently do around 6300 hours a year of training over about 2800 interactions. In Victoria, we’re fairly well saturated, but in other parts of the country we can see room for growth.”
Jones believes part of his success comes from his education on the sporting field. “The concept of ‘team’ really does apply in the workplace,” he says. “You set a goal or objective, clearly state it so everyone knows what to do, then work towards that objective. The mix of skill sets you get in a great team is vital for success.”
One piece of advice
“Focus on what you want, then work damn hard to get it. Just keep your eye on the target and work as hard as you can.”
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