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1. Job Capital

Wednesday, 30 March | by Kate Sallai


A chance meeting with an investor was the spark that created Job Capital, the $9 million business built from the ground up by Jo Burston.


Burston was working for another company when she met serial entrepreneur Philip Weinman. She was meant to sell her employer to Weinman, but ended up pitching her idea for a new business.


“I realised that he was very dynamic and entrepreneurial and he became my investor,” she explains. “Looking back, not many people would’ve done what I did. But I knew his background and I worked out very quickly that he could be a potential investor.”


“He listened to my ideas and was very open to them. He could see I was enthusiastic and has said to me that he backs people who back themselves.”


Leaving her job was a relatively easy decision for Burston. “It was a very corporate, structured environment and I’d got the point where I had nowhere else to go in the company,” she says. “I knew if I was there for another five years, I wouldn’t be happy.”


Burston realised that a new business could offer what her current employer refused to. Job Capital handles the tax returns, invoices, collection and migration of independent contractors – an all-round offering that her previous employer didn’t want to countenance.


The nascent company was up against several larger, more established businesses but, as Burston reasoned: “I knew the thing that would differentiate me was the service delivery. I knew the large businesses had high attrition rates. We could be nimble.”


Initially starting off at home by herself, Burston’s industry reputation quickly won her clients. Cashflow was an initial concern, but the guidance of Weinman helped Burston avoid a cash crunch.


“I had a few touchy moments, but I worked out that cash was critical to success, so I focus on sales, cashflow and debt, rather than just the bottom line,” she says. “Having a mentor who stressed this was a great help. I realised that cash in my business is the difference between success and failure.”


In practice, this meant that Burston chased down debts very quickly to maintain cashflow, as well as insist on top-level service to lure and retain clients.


She has put in a flat management structure in the business in an attempt to empower staff. “We’re still very agile – there’s no procrastination,” she says. “We don’t have meetings about meetings. If we need to speak for eight minutes, we speak for eight minutes, not an hour.”


“I came from a hierarchical environment and it just didn’t work. There were too many places for people to hide and too many delegators and not enough delegates.”


Burston hired her first sales employee after sitting next to him at breakfast and “liking his style.” Her PA, who studied entrepreneurship at university, applied to the job after hearing about Burston’s approach to staff.


“I have heard it many times now and I truly believe you cannot be successful nor have experiential growth without passionate people in your army,” she says.


“My front line is empowered to make commercial decisions and I respect their opinions, simply because they are face-to-face with our customers. They are given total permission to close the deal and determine margins as they know how every dollar affects their own bottom line incomes.”


“My last company was so structured that individual flair and ability to grow ideas into revenue. It was suffocating. I feel the most liberated I have ever felt in business and so does my amazing team.”


“We believe that great service delivery and reliability has built a special culture, unique to Job Capital. Everyone is here because they want to be here.”


Job Capital opened up a Perth office in January and Burston is eyeing expansion to Brisbane.


“I want to have four of five people in Melbourne too, up from the one we have at the moment,” she says. “I want to be recognised as a leader in the industry.” VIEW ALL StartupSmart Awards 2011