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Jo Burston

06 May 2011

Position: Managing Director, founder and sole owner Job Capital

Is a million dollars at the end of your working life enough to feel financially secure? “I would rather be happy and have nothing, than miserable with a whole lot of money. I feel secure as a person with or without money. I’ve been in both situations, so I know money isn’t my main driver.”

According to the figures, Job Capital’s revenue was $9.14 million in 2009-10 and on path to at least doubling this year again. A contract management company, Job Capital is just 4 years old, has shown continued award winning success, and is ranked the fastest growing company in Australia in 2011 as a start-up (StartUpSmart) and 6th in the BRW fast 100 in 2010.
At 38 years old and 178cm tall, its owner, Jo Burston, is by her own admission a highly competitive perfectionist who shot up like a bean pole when she was young.
“I did gymnastics as a child from the age of 5 to puberty. Gymnastics is all about seeking perfection, the perfect 10. I loved it. My mum and dad used to say I spent more time with my feet in the air than on the ground: cartwheeling, somersaulting, back flipping round the yard or in the house if I wasn’t at the gym. But when you grow like I did, you have to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much you practice and love the sport there’s never been a good six-foot gymnast. I was all arms and legs. They’re nimble and quick.”

Sliding doors
Before Job Capital, Jo had worked for a large corporate business that essentially had a similar business concept. At 30 she was running that business in Australia, when on a trip to Melbourne to meet with entrepreneur Philip Weinman, a potential client for the business, Jo had what she calls her ‘Sliding Doors’ moment and an epiphany.
Late for the meeting because her flight was delayed, she rang Weinman’s EA to apologise and see if she could push the meeting out a bit. The EA pleaded Jo’s case and Weinman agreed to see her. The very opposite of his initial reaction to her not being on time, she later found out.
“I walked into the office and there was this really energetic, vibrant guy. There were trading screens open all round him. All this stuff was going on and there was all this energy. Here was someone, as a business’ person, I needed to know more about and understand. I had 15 minutes. He asked me to take a seat and I walked round to his side of the desk, took his seat and pitched my concept for Job Capital. I walked away with a backer and 200 grand.
“Then for the next 3 months I hounded him like hell to get going. I did all the research put the infra-structure together and a year later launched the company.”

Building perfection
On the mats, Jo may not have been compact and nimble but they certainly are the traits of her company which, to differentiate itself in the marketplace, has focused on service delivery.
“I knew the large businesses had high attrition rates. We could be nimble. Focusing on cash flow has also been important,” continues Jo.
It’s something she learned in the early days from Weinman, whose role as mentor has become invaluable.
“Having a male mentor has taught me a lot about men and that’s been essential in an industry that is male dominated,” says Jo, smiling ironically. Mentors have also been absolutely essential for circumventing obstacles. Their advice has helped her deal with and solve problems in a much shorter time frame.
“Dealing with someone who is a really fast, intelligent thinker was daunting. He [Philip] would say, ‘are you still processing that? We had that conversation 10 minutes ago.’ Now my speed is equal to his and that’s been a very valuable outcome.
“I was also in this lonely position because I had no other directors, but I knew I could pick up the phone to him and get really sound advice. I knew his only motivation was to see me succeed.”

Growing up
Jo Burston grew up in Revesby Heights. Her father was a fireman and her mother worked as a banker from 16 until she retired in her mid 50s.
She remembers her mum coming home from work crying because of the workplace chauvinism and her dad wondering why she’d want to stay working in it.
“Mum always said she wanted to see it through and stay true to what she thought. She was a glass ceiling breaker moving up into management,” says Jo.
Working in a largely male dominated industry herself, Jo hasn’t felt held back and believes her strategy to create credibility for herself and the business and build a reputation for transparency and honesty has been a successful one.
Asked if she daydreamed about having her own business, Jo says she learned to manage money at an early age and that she has always been a good saver. But she never had a thirst for having her own business. She does, however, remember picking up the business pages when she was still at home and wanting to know what they meant.
“I wanted to be able to read the share market pages. My mum sat me down and explained equity markets and how they work. There is something entrepreneurial in how I think,” says Jo.
Certainly, when she thinks about the past it comes from a place behind her and as for the future, she counts herself an in the moment person.
“I am an optimist. I get over things and move on… not by ignoring it, but I don’t carry baggage. Of course, I think of the things I like and I can visualise them but I wouldn’t be unhappy if they didn’t eventuate.”

My business: the team and the culture of the business. The management structure is a very flat one and that has been purposefully created so that everyone’s input becomes as important as the next. The peer-to-peer mentoring it has created has made for a dynamic environment.
My friends and family: many of my friends are the people I grew up with. My older brother lives in the country, I love the values of small tight knit communities.
The arts: anything to do with it. I admire how they are interpreted across the globe and how people use the arts to express who they are and what they stand for.



  • Jo Burston

    Jo Burston 10 years ago

    Hello Zahrah! Id be more than happy for you to contact me and discuss your project. My email is Drop me a line and we can connect. Jo

  • Zahrah Imtiaz

    Zahrah Imtiaz 10 years ago

    You have a great story! and I would love to learn more about it. I am working on a project about female entrepreneurs at the university of Sydney and I would love to have the opportunity to have an interview with you? Would that be possible? Please let me know...Zahrah Imtiaz

  • Jo Burston

    Jo Burston 10 years ago

    Hi there Lisa and thank you for reading! It was very much \"the right\" chemistry (business), as well as I just knew this was a person that had an incredible track record and backed people. It wasn't a pitch in the sense as you would expect, rather my story of how I got where I was and where I thought I would like to go next. I believe to this day I was backed because I absolutely backed myself. And I still do. Our investor/ mentor relationship ended, when I bought him out of the business entirely, however our mentor relationship and friendship prospered and continues today. He is the Non Exec Chairman and is mainly now focused on strategic growth plans and how I get this business to the \"next level\" again. Day to day there is absolutely zero involvement. I have a brilliant team that does that. Being a woman never entered the equation. My investor and mentor respects people that are passionate at what they do, end of story. He has also backed men, however I'm sure I can put my hand on heart and say i was definitely one of the more attractive of the success stories! lol. I never thought about gender to be honest, and I am lucky enough to have never been in a workplace where gender has been an obstacle. I do believe that having a male mentor has helped me understand men better though and how they conduct business. (that's in general). I enjoy doing business and negotiating with men and women alike. Hope that helps Lisa!

  • lisa coburn

    lisa coburn 10 years ago

    Wow. What an amazing and inspirational success storyHow after 15 minutes did you manage to get a backer and 200K!! You must have given quite a sales pitch !!Do you think being a woman helped you ? Do you still have an ongoing mentorship with your backer. Is it hard to establish strict business boundaries and keep it professional ?Or is a friendship on whatever level part of it. I have so many questions to ask as I find your story so interesting and inspiring!!