By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Bob Jones says he always knew he wanted to be a businessman, even if he wasn’t quite sure how that idea would play out.
Jones can remember being a businessman, or more appropriately a business-boy, from the young age of eight, when his father owned the Red & White Grocery Store in Hammond.
“My dad would give me things that he couldn’t sell from the store, like grapefruits, or produce that wasn’t selling. I took it and set up a stand on the side of the road, and would sell it to make some money,” he said. “The truth is, he was probably trying to get rid of me, but it actually got me interested in business.”
By the time Jones was 11 or 12, he and a young friend opened a sno-ball stand that got his business spirit going better than ever.
When Jones entered Southeastern Louisiana University, he knew he would be a businessman in some form or fashion, although he wasn’t quite sure what direction that might take.
“From those early years into college, I was business oriented. I liked the idea of giving myself the chance to make money and to be my own boss,” he said.
Jones finished college with a business and accounting degree, continuing to work full-time at the NASA Computer Complex in Slidell, a job he started in his final two years of school. When employees there needed their taxes done at the beginning of each year, Jones started doing taxes as another part-time job.
“The business just grew-and-grew, and then one day someone asked if I kept business books, so I started doing that too,” he said.
Jones finally opened his own business in 1972 here in Slidell with Bob Jones Income Tax, which was later changed to the current name of Bob Jones Accounting. This year the business will celebrate 40 years in Slidell, in its familiar location on Seventh Street, just a block off Gause Boulevard. Even at the age of 68, Jones still comes to the office every day, even though his daughter, Robyn, is now running the office.
“Robyn has been here with me for four years, and she is a Certified Public Accountant,” Jones said. “I still enjoy coming here and working, but it’s been great having my daughter working here with me, and this place will be hers one day when I’m finished.”
Jones said that one big decision he made in his early years was important to the rapid growth he enjoyed. That “decision” was to get the first computer for a small business in Slidell, leading to Jones becoming the first person to use floppy discs here.
“When I was just getting started, I was fortunate to have worked during college at the NASA Computer Complex. That taught me a lot about computers at a time when they were just coming onto the scene,” he said.
Jones decided he wanted to invest in a computer system to put all his files and client information in the newest form of file storage, as opposed to the old manila folders.
“I was just about to spend $40,000 to buy a computer system from the Singer Company, which shows how much they cost back then. I had a house that I had paid $20,000 for, but I thought the computers were the way of the future, and the thing I needed to invest in,” he said.
Fortunately, he had gotten a notice in the mail from another new computer company, and got a call back on that the day before he spent the $40,000. He ended up purchasing a much smaller system, that was bought for a lower cost.
“I was lucky to get a call on the other computer the day before I was ready to spend the $40,000,” he said. “Of course, I wasn’t going to spend the money since I didn’t have that much, but I would have been deep in debt if I would have done that.”
Jones said it was his early confidence in computers that put him a leg up on the competition, since he began to produce a nice profit and loss printout for businesses, unlike most former companies who had to hand write or type the reports.
“Every business needed P&L printouts for the bank and we could produce them so quickly and neatly,” he said. “It was a huge help for us to grow in the early years.”
On that subject, Jones continues to remain very up-to-date with his computer knowledge, even as he has joined the “older generation,” as he called it.
“There is a whole world on the computer and even though people get older, they need to learn how to get on the Internet or e-mail at the very least,” he said. “I’m not the sharpest computer person in the world, but I can do the basics, and keep learning enough to be able to use one.”
When Jones looks back on his 40 years, he summed it all up with the word “fantastic” since he has built hundreds of personal relationships over the years.
“Even though we grew, when people came to us, they became like family members,” he said. “I have personal relationships with them and their families, and that’s what has kept people coming back here.”