Many young people move away from regional areas to study and work, adhering to the age-old belief that to succeed in business or industry, you need to live in the city. But Southern Phone CEO David Joss is proof you don’t have to abandon regional life to be a business leader on the national stage.
With its head office in Moruya, Southern Phone was formed in 2002 with the vision of creating regional jobs and creating a better telecommunications deal for regional Australia. It is now Australia’s largest regional telecommunications company with a national residential and business customer base supported by more than 150 staff.
David originally hails from the NSW Riverina town of Deniliquin. He went to school locally, attending Deniliquin High School where he says he played lots of sport but was not entirely sure about what he wanted to do when he finished.
“My parents were keen to see me go to university, but I certainly wasn’t pushed,” he says.
After finishing school, David headed to La Trobe University in Melbourne to study computer science. He started his working life in IT in the Victorian capital before moving to SingTel Optus where he took the opportunity to move “off the tools” and into leadership and management positions.
“I made a conscious decision to move more into management” he says. “At Optus, I worked in marketing and business development roles that complemented my IT background. That set me up for my next role with a community telco in regional Victoria.”
That job, with Bendigo Bank subsidiary Community Telco Australia, was not only a step up for David’s career but it also meant a move back to regional Australia. He was able to move his young family to his wife’s home town of Bendigo, only a couple of hours away from his family in Deniliquin.
David stayed with Community Telco Australia for more than 10 years, moving through the ranks to become CEO.
In 2016, David landed the job as CEO of Southern Phone Company but that meant leaving his family in Bendigo for a weekly commute to Moruya.
“It was initially tough but OK though,” he explains. “It was time for a work change. The kids were older so I could afford the time to commute.”
Reflecting on nearly 20 years working regionally, David says: “Working in smaller, regional companies has given me a broader exposure to all aspects of management and leadership than working in a big company ever could. While I acknowledge it is still rare to have management and leadership roles in the regions, it is possible and the opportunities are growing.”
David says his regional background allows him to pull back and see things from a community perspective.
“I understand what it is like to live outside the city,” he says. “I have my own deep community roots. Helping regional communities is ingrained in me.”
David has a history of community involvement, having been an inaugural commissioner for the AFL in central Victoria, chairman of a Victorian Football League Club and holding various governance roles in primary and secondary schools.
“I’ve been active in community based sport and education for many years,” he says. “That aligns with the community ethos we have at Southern Phone. It is not a capital-city company with branches in the regions. We are a regional company employing regional people with strong links to their community.
“People who come from, and understand, the regions integrate really well. It is something I actively look for as an employer.”
David says these days people growing up in a country or coastal community can go and spread their wings but can then bring back their skills.
“The opportunities are there to live in the regions and still participate as leaders,” he says. “As CEO of Southern Phone, I am working on a national stage, mixing with government and corporate leaders, but I still get to enjoy working and living regionally.”
Southern Phone is one of Australia’s leading providers of mobile phone, home phone and broadband services.
For more information, visit Southern Phone.