Posts Tagged ‘James Barber’

A salute to my first boss, James Barber

November 19, 2018

Greg Canty

I was really sad today to find out that my very first boss, James Barber sadly passed quite recently at Marymount Hospice.

Many people play a big role in your life, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, a classmate, a colleague, a child, a life partner but your very first boss is a very special role and in my case, James Barber was the very best boss I could have had.

Why James choose this enthusiast, post leaving cert 17 year old with a big afro, beyond other candidates I’ll never quite know but I’m very grateful that he did and I’m forever in his debt that he treated me so well and gave me a hunger and love for business as well as a lesson in how to treat young people in their first ever roles.

(The pic is of me on my first day in the job, September 1982 – my mother was very proud if me!!)

The brilliant thing about James is that he always treated me with respect. I never felt like a young kid, he brought me to business meetings when we met clients and he made me feel like my opinion and my input was always valuable.

In particular, I remember our long trips in the car to see a client in Tralee and at the end of those days I used come away from them buzzing after learning so much.

He gave all of us in the office great training, he always gave us detailed briefings and clear guidance about each client so that we were always fully informed and therefore confident that we could execute our work well and we did just that. He was the ultimate professional but he also knew how to motivate us.

James was the first person who introduced me to the world of computers – god knows how much it cost but the practice bought a machine and it sat in his office and we were invited to use it and complete tasks for clients. It sounds odd now but it was really progressive and great for all of us.

My proud boast was that we (Barber & O’Leary) were a lot more than auditors and accountants, we were business consultants and for the most part it always felt like we were adding huge value and I credit James for that clever brand positioning, which always helped us to differentiate against competitors.

He was a great accountant, but he was also a great businessmen and I loved every minute of the work on some of the projects that he was involved with.

Towards the end of my days there after I had qualified I was getting itchy feet as I wanted to be even more involved in business and not just working on accounts, so I moved on.

I think James had other plans for me and it was always a regret of mine that I didn’t explore that more but I had made up my mind to move on.

A few years ago, James actually became a client when he came to Fuzion for help with media for a project he was working on and thankfully our input made a difference and we achieved our objective for him – in a very odd way I found it strange to work for him as I still felt he was my boss, still Mr.Barber and not a peer in the business world!

To this day I still talk about those formative years working at 80a South Mall so warmly and I credit James for my grasp of all types of business and the valuable skills he taught this eager young man.

When anyone passes I firmly believe that they live on through everyone they influenced and I know there is a part of him in me.

James…Thank you for being a great boss and for giving me such a great foundation and I hope I can be just as good for all the young people that start their careers with Fuzion.

Sincere condolences to his wife and children, Vivienne, Stephen, David and Amanda.

Rest In Peace..


Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

£35 a week!

December 31, 2010

Greg Afro Canty

September 1982 and this 17 year old hopped off the bus (this was unusual because every other time that  I went to work it was on my trusted bicycle – then again it was day one of the rest of my life!) on The Grand Parade in Cork and headed to work for the first time to Barber & O’Leary, Financial and Management Consultants, on the South Mall no less!

To celebrate this special occasion I had a new brown blazer with a choice of different trousers, each a different shade of brown or beige to complete this classic ensemble. The “piece de resistance” was my curly afro, while quite unique was probably a talking point for many!

Despite the grand title the firm was really a small to medium sized accountancy and audit firm, but the partners did have some investments in their own projects, which we all ended up working on at some point.

While I was confident I could make my mark on the business world, I was also quite nervous – I didn’t even do accountancy in secondary school!

Jumping right in at the deep end, that September I started 5 fabulous years working by day and studying for my accountancy exams by night. We dealt with clients of all sorts, big and small including my favourite, Mrs O’Sullivan who had a right skip in her step after her beloved husband passed away .. The glamour of her all of a sudden!

The amazing thing with accountancy (a profession often mocked quite unfairly) is that immediately because you are dealing with peoples finances and their “financial stories” (I always had a romantic viewpoint that the accountant is actually a financial storyteller), you are taken into a position of trust, even at the age of 17!  This is a privileged position to be in, considering that employees could be working in that business all their lives and never be in that position of trust and influence that the young accountant can often find themselves. Wow, I absolutely loved it.

Many people assumed that I must have loved working with numbers and that is why I did accountancy .. Nah , I loved the idea of being in business and I reckoned this was going to be the best business degree of all – day in day out we worked on all sorts of clients, doing bank reconciliations, sorting out total messes at times, preparing accounts (storytelling, I tell you) listening, learning and advising.

My god, I learned so much from one of the partners of the firm, the fabulous James Barber, who was an absolutely brilliant boss (I would love to catch up with him some time and find out what he really made of the curly haired 17 year old!) and I tried my best to avoid the other partner , the unpredictable Sean O’Leary, who mostly didn’t seem to care at all and the odd time took too much interest.

The crew inside there were great but I must admit I learned the most from the enigmatic Christopher “third degree” Burns who was an erratic but brilliant accountant, a chancer most of the time but the only one in my view who could handle our biggest bully of a client Mr B (unfair to name the man but he shares a surname with my mums side of the family – maybe we are related? Scary thought.. ). I still tell people stories about Third Degree to this day – a total and very colourful legend!

Robert Arnopp from Bandon, shared the same love of music as me and we swapped albums continuously throughout this time. I later met one of my best buddies Brian Sexton, who joined the year after me and later worked with me again in the drinks industry. Brian famously noticed the very attractive secretary, Bernadette Dilworth on his first day at work (“cop on Brian” she is out of our league were my clear thoughts) and ended up marrying her years later! For some reason Brian and I started to call each other “Bob”, which  we still do to this day. Why? I have no idea .. We managed to have some of the best of laughs out on different jobs that we worked on together – we were just kids, behaving as professionally as possible, but at times we just couldn’t control the giggles!

These were my formative years, I worked hard and studied hard, I learned incredible skills that have always stayed with me and I ended up leaving the practice five years later as a young qualified accountant. I was asked to stay on but I needed to discover more about the world of business!

I started at £35 a week, just like any other apprentice (I was making more than this on my newspaper round, which I continued out of necessity!) and genuinely loved every minute of it except for the 3 months we did the most boring study in the whole world for the Cork Harbour Commissioners, which was one of those times I wished Sean O’Leary would take less interest!

Regarding our huge pay packets, Robert had this great story of going to the bank and lodging his monthly pay check. He knew the bank teller who commented on how much he was being paid, very impressive indeed. He didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a months pay and not a weeks!

To Mr Barber, Third Degree Burns, Robert and Brian thanks for the fabulous business degree, which always stands to me and to be honest, the really great time!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications