Jo Martin, the 329th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is someone who prides herself on stepping out of her comfort zone and living a rich, varied life.
Jo owns an aged care and disability care business, Senior Helpers Sydney Northern Suburbs and Northern Beaches, and lives in the Northern Beaches of Sydney – which is very different from what she would’ve imagined her life to be if you’d asked her at the start of her career.
Back then, Jo, who was the ninth of eleven children, was working as a physio in her native Ireland. But Jo and her husband, Shay, felt there would be more opportunity and better weather in Australia, so, more than three decades ago, they made the move.
Sydney was tough to begin with: they had three young children and, with Australia experiencing a sharp recession, work was hard to find. But, eventually, they found their feet. A few years later, Jo and Shay, in partnership with another couple, made the bold move to buy a struggling childcare centre, with Jo stepping up to run the business. Over the next decade, they turned it into an incredibly successful operation, before selling it for a substantial profit.
At that point, Jo seriously contemplated retirement. But when someone asked her to do one day per week of bookkeeping work for a very successful aged care franchisor, she agreed. Jo turned out to be too successful for her own good, because that role ended up growing into a much busier finance manager position.
After a decade or so, Jo was again wondering whether she should retire, until she was offered a great opportunity, in 2021, to start her current business. It took her a few months to find her first client, but now demand is so strong that she actually has to turn away clients.
It’s safe to say that Jo is very good at business but very bad at retiring.
Jo’s success can partly be explained by her work ethic and high standards of customer service. But I think it can also be explained by another quality I recognised in Jo, which is her quiet self-confidence. She knows she can get things done, because she’s had so much life experience and been so willing to push her boundaries.
Away from work, Jo is energetic, outgoing and very social. She’s also a compulsive traveller. One day, if she ever figures out how to retire, she’s going to visit all the places she’s never been, from India to Machu Picchu.