10 Questions: Jim Meakin

January 2, 2019

Jim Meakin has been working with entrepreneurial clients as a tax and business adviser for more than 30 years. He was the managing partner of the Newcastle office at a major international firm but four months ago joined Armstrong Watson – a top-30 firm of accountants and business advisers – as head of tax

What was your first break in business?

I think my first awareness of a real business opportunity was when I started my career in tax with the Inland Revenue (now HMRC). At the time, the highest tax rate applied on earned income in
the UK was 83 per cent and there was an additional surcharge of 15 per cent on earned income, which made a potential top rate of 98 per cent. These astonishing tax rates led to many talented people leaving the UK, but as a very young man I could see the opportunity in a career as a tax adviser.

What did you want to be growing up?

I am not sure I have grown up yet, but when I do I will be the lead guitar player in the world’s best blues band.

What attracted you to your current role?

I saw a strong sense of shared vision and values with the senior leadership team at Armstrong Watson. I also saw a real opportunity to contribute to the firm’s success.

What is your firm’s mission?

To help our clients achieve prosperity, a secure future and peace of mind.

How do you get the best out of your staff?

I think by trying to create a real feeling that while someone has to be the leader, we are all vitally important. Also, by trying to have some fun and an understanding of one another as people. We put a lot of time and energy into what we do and there has to be more than just a financial reward at the end of the month.

What has been your career highlight?

At my previous firm, I played a crucial role in growing the tax business of £90 million of revenues. I’m hungry to surpass that – maybe not in absolute terms, but definitely relatively at Armstrong Watson.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Having insisted on leaving school at 16 because “I knew best”, I had to spend five years catching up on my professional peers – but I think I got there as my own person.

Who or what inspires you?

Many different things in different ways. I admire the way many of my musical heroes, such as BB King, have done more than any politician to break down prejudices. Forty years after his passing, am still inspired by the outlook on life my father had. My wife, Joanne, also encourages me to get out and do what I need to do even at times when I don’t feel like it. In business and professionally, I have been inspired by many people but one who sticks in my mind is Roger Frost, who was my senior partner when I first became a young partner and showed belief in me.

What are Armstrong Watson’s short and long- term goals?

Our short-term and longer-term aspirations revolve around our people and our clients. Ultimately, we aspire to be the go-to firm for family-owned and owner-managed businesses in the North of England. To achieve this, Armstrong Watson must have a culture that truly enables people and puts our clients at the centre of everything. We want the firm to be acknowledged as ‘a great place to work and a great firm to do business with’.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

I have fantastic family and friends who remind me there are lots of other things in life than work. But, for me, the key to self-regulation is to remind myself that while what I do is important to my clients and others, I shouldn’t take myself too seriously.

Armstrong Watson

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