60 Seconds with: Eamon Clune, COO, Taxback International

Business, Interviews | Fri 25 Aug | Author – Business & Finance
Eamon Clune, COO, Taxback International

Eamon Clune, COO, Taxback International, takes on the Business & Finance 60-second interview challenge.

Q. What was your first job?

I was fortunate enough to be born on a farm, and that’s a great place for a kid to grow up. When I was 7, I was given £27.50 when I made my communion and used that as seed money to invest in a sheep. Each year my sheep had two lambs which were sold and that became my first income stream. There was always work to be done on the farm and it helped me develop a good work ethic from a very early age. As I grew older, I always enjoyed helping to fix tractors and machinery and learned valuable problem solving skills from these everyday situations.

My first paid job was in 1998, when I worked in Taxback (or European Student Services as it was called then). I was employee number seven, my job was completing tax refund forms manually and I came up with the idea of using a database to complete all the forms automatically. The company was in its infancy then so any change to the process had a fairly big impact.

Q. What would you regard as your greatest achievement in business to date?

Convincing my beautiful wife to marry me was my greatest achievement! I am also blessed to have a beautiful daughter.

My greatest business related achievement would have to be – together with exceptional technical and operations teams – to have transformed our VAT Recovery process at Taxback International from being a manual process to being one of Ireland’s leading FinTech companies. At Taxback International, we have built highly sophisticated data integration, data capture and automated work flow solutions and packaged them into an industry leading client interface.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I was given some great advice from Terry Clune, Taxback Group CEO, while we were competing in a tender for a very significant prospect. The prospect, if we were to win it, would be our biggest client by a long shot, so winning this client was of great importance.

The advice was, “Imagine how you would feel if you didn’t win the client. Think about all the things that you be telling yourself that you should have done and rather than kicking yourself when it’s too late, do all those things now.”

This approach of doing absolutely everything we can possibility think of for our clients, helped us win that particular client and set us on our way of winning 37 of our last 38 competitive tenders.

Another important piece of advice that I was given in relation to product development was “Focus on solving client’s problems.” Don’t worry too much in the early stages about where revenue will come from, but if you come up with something really great that solves clients’ problems then you have a really strong business right there.

Q. In three words or less, how do you define success?

99% attitude, 1% aptitude.

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one business person for the day, who would it be and why?

Definitely Steve Jobs. He has been a tremendous inspiration to me and millions of others around the world. He had such an amazing vision, to dream up revolutionary products that captured the imagination of the public and changed the world.

Not alone did he have such clarity of vision to know exactly what to develop, but he also had an unwavering determination to ensure that what was developed was nothing short of perfection. The degree that he immersed himself in every detail to ensure perfection was reached in the face of adversity was extraordinary.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I love what I do, and am driven to make our services become market leaders. I’m an innovator and love coming up with new ideas. I like to define what success is for a particular project and I enjoy visualising that success. I focus in on how the success makes me feel and that really motivates me to go for it.

I have an unbelievable team who I work closely with, and we are all pushing each other to be better and hit the highs. The best way to motivate team members is to clearly understand each team member, understand what makes them tick, and make sure that the work they are doing is aligned to these strengths and interests.

Q. How do you relax?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends. My two-year-old daughter loves being outdoors and jumping in puddles! I enjoy hiking, (need to get back into that again). I also love to read books about some of the world’s leading tech companies.

Q. What’s your motto?

Two mottos come to mind. The first is a paraphrase of the golfer Gary Player – “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” and the second is “Go BIG or go home!”

Q. What are your aspirations for the future of your business?

Taxback International is an Irish company making a significant international impact. From a modest team of just seven Business Development Managers based in Kilkenny, we have won global deals with some of the largest companies in the world. All the pieces are in place: the people, the technology, and the knowhow. Our goal now is to capitalize on this success by continuing our rapid global expansion and be seen as the true global industry leaders in our market.

Within the last 12 months alone we have opened new sales offices in Australia, China, Japan UK and US, and relocated to four larger processing and operations locations in Europe.

The best way to motivate team members is to clearly understand what makes them tick