Janine Connor began her professional lifeas a secondary school English teacher. Today she heads Tax Talk, one of thecountry’s top providers of tax-related information. The leap from teaching tothe world of finance was not such a great one, however, because her focusremains on education and the role it plays in empowering people. Her experiencein adult basic education and training has also stood her in good stead, as hasher eight-year stint in corporate sales, marketing and business development.
Connor launched Tax Talk as a website in2002 after realising that there was a gap in the market for a specialist taxpublication aimed at demystifying a subject that is often people’s worstnightmare.“The world of tax is shrouded in jargon andtechnical language,” says Connor. “My aim in launching Tax Talk was to removepeople’s fears and apprehensions, and to simplify South African tax laws andregulations as much as possible so that any business owner can understand andeven benefit from them.”Two years ago, Tax Talk had around 30subscribers; today it has 600, as well as a circulation of 4 000. The magazinestarted off as a quarterly publication, but demand for information has been sohigh that Connor is publishing it every second month this year. The responsefrom the SME sector has been particularly good.
Connor funded the business herself byrunning educational tax seminars and talks, and eventually brought shareholderson board to help her grow it. Today, the multimedia business is a comprehensivetax forum that provides easily digestible and interesting information andinsights into the world of tax. Other services offered include tax symposiums,sponsoring television talk shows and arranging in-house tax education workshopson specialised tax topics.“We approach well known speakers and taxspecialists and ask them to host events on our behalf,” says Connor. “With thetax amnesty deadline coming up at the end of May 2007, for example, we will behosting an event to educate people about the amnesty and provide them with theinformation they need to take advantage of it.”
The toughest part of start-up, she says,was establishing Tax Talk’s position as a neutral information provider. “We donot take sides. Tax Talk is a platform for the discussion of topics that impactpeople’s understanding of the South Africa Revenue Service. It took some monthsfor people to realise that we were not a mouthpiece for the Government, or fortax consultancies.” Connor says she set her audience right byensuring that the publication answers every tax question that people putforward. “When one person has a question about apiece of legislation, you can be sure that 100 others have the same query. Byproviding direct and practical answers to the questions we receive, we havebeen able to carve a solid reputation for the magazine and the website.”
Tax Talk sources its information fromindustry professionals and experts with whom Connor has establishedpartnerships. The publication prides itself on the reliability of its sources,and has been embraced by the industry.Connor and her team of journalists ensurethat they keep abreast of any developments in the tax world by conductingongoing research, networking with specialists in the field and basicallykeeping an ear to the ground. She stresses, however, that while all theinformation is reliable, the onus is on individuals to ensure they obtainprofessional advice on more complex tax questions that affect them directly.Tax Talk sponsors Tax Issues, presented bytax law expert Daniel Erasmus on Summit TV every Monday night. The businessuses this channel to market its services. In addition, a monthly newslettergoes out to its entire subscriber base. Connor also engineered the introductionof Tax Talk magazine into the online FNB and RMB Private Bank eBucks loyaltyrewards programme. She is planning to take the magazine into retail outlets inthe future, and to establish an online tax chat forum that leverages Tax Talk’spopular website.Asked what single discipline has stood herin good stead in business, Connor replies: “Persistence and self-motivationhave been key, as well as my ability to interact with people. These are skillsI learnt in my teaching days.” Contact: +27 11 476 5095, www.extaxes.co.za