Emma Koehn – www.smartcompany.com.au
Gold Coast entrepreneur Jack Corbett went into the Shark Tank this week with a calculated plan, but he didn’t anticipate his more “colourful past” would be what really caught the interest of the sharks.
Corbett and Ryan Tuckwood, fellow co-founder of ethical sales training and recruitment business ISR Training, had no doubt as to their goals for the show. From the start, they wanted to secure the investment support of Andrew Banks, Steve Baxter and Glen Richards in order to expand their user base and head towards millions in revenue.
However, it was when Janine Allis asked Corbett to share details of his background that the panel’s interest kicked up a notch.
Corbett outlined his tough upbringing, including a history of drug addiction in his family, his father’s years in prison and life growing up in community housing in Britain. The investors were immediately interested in what this showed about his resilience and commitment.
“They seemed to tap into that colourful past, but it wasn’t something I would usually share,” Corbett tells SmartCompany.
“It was probably a bit of a double edged sword — on one side I felt kind of vulnerable, that I was admitting to things that don’t create the vision of a successful person, but I walked out feeling like a weight had been taken off my shoulders.”
Corbett and Tuckwood also walked out with a three-way, $187,000 investment from Baxter, Richards and Banks for a combined 30% stake in the business, after Corbett negotiated with the trio to reach an agreement where all three would lend their expertise to ISR Training going forward.
Janine Allis, Steve Baxter, Glen Richards and Andrew Banks all made the founders investment offers, but Corbett went back to Baxter, Richards and Banks and convinced them to work together on the project.
“The idea of bringing on as many minds as possible is what we wanted,” Corbett says.
The due diligence process has been successfully completed. The three sharks will take their ownership stakes later this month and have already come on board to consult with Corbett and Tuckwood.
The aim of ISR Training is straightforward: to provide ethical sales training to staff across industries, using the founder’s SWISH method (Selling With Integrity and Selling Honestly). The operation also looks to place well-trained sales staff with companies in need.
The concept was born out of the duo’s experiences in the world of selling in Australia. Both British expats, Corbett moved to Australia in 2013 and met Tuckwood while playing footy together. Tuckwood was having some challenges at the time, “sleeping on a bathroom floor on a lilo”, and Corbett says there were similarities between them.
They later worked together in sales, but after Corbett left the business where they worked, Tuckwood stayed behind to see “a sales style that didn’t sit well with me” being employed by the new management.
The duo started discussing the situation and did a search for sales training companies in Australia. They found there were surprisingly few firms focusing on the area worldwide and started toying with the idea of using their experience to create a training program for others.
“We believe this is the highest consuming generation ever — they love to buy stuff, they hate being sold to. You can sell without lying,” Corbett says.
At the time of filming Shark Tank, ISR Training was about to crack the $1 million revenue mark and the founders told the sharks their venture was on track to become a $14 million business.
Corbett and Tuckwood say their goal for the next 12 months is to grow their client base from 100 businesses to 1000, focusing on expanding beyond the Gold Coast. This client number would set ISR Training up to be a $16 million company, Corbett says.
At the moment, it’s still a complete novelty that the likes of Glen Richards will call the founders up just to check in on their progress.
However, the duo have displayed a clear business vision to the sharks: they want to help more young Australians into jobs by teaching them how to sell while also being honest.
“You need to be truly, emotionally invested in what you’re representing,” Corbett says.
“If you don’t love it and really, genuinely believe you’re solving a community problem, then it’s tough [to build your business].”