Smart50 Awards 2014

9 Key Person of Influence

Revenue

$3.1 million

Growth

137%

Founders

Glen Carlson, 33, Daniel Priestley, 33

Head Office

Victoria

Year Founded

2011

Employees

11

Industry

Education

Website

KeyPersonOfInfluence.com.au

There’s no exit plan and “no way” the mates, who met at high school, would sell up.For Glen Carlson and Daniel Priestley, their business, Key Person of Influence (part of their overarching Entrevo business), is a labour of love.

“Selling it would be like selling a child,” Carlson explains.

“Here’s to the men and women who died doing what they love.”

What these two love and are passionate about is Key Person of Influence, a 40 week training program for the founders of service-based businesses.

It brings together top level entrepreneurs and leaders to mentor Key Person of Influence clients over 40 weeks to help them become more visible, valuable and connected in their industries.

Carlson and Priestley spotted a gap in the market when they were working at the same event marketing company.

“We saw a huge trend which was entrepreneurs really interested in postgrad education in business which just wasn’t available,” Carlson says.

“The stuff that was available was more ‘edutainment’ rather than bona fide, solid and proven principles. So we decided to go out and do it ourselves.”

Doing it themselves has proved to be a success, with the business named as “the world’s leading personal brand accelerator” by the Huffington Post and hitting $3.1 million a year in turnover.

Carlson says the pair “always had a burning desire to be entrepreneurs” and “the idea of working for someone else long term was never the plan”.

But getting Key Person of Influence to the position it is in now was not an easy ride.

A few months after launch Carlson and Priestley were “burning through cash” and had almost no revenue.

The only option was to run an event in January despite industry “insiders” saying nobody would show up during the holidays.

“I remember talking to my mum over Christmas and her being genuinely worried about me,” Carlson says.

“It was make or break. Despite the doubters, I packed over 500 entrepreneurs into the Swinburne University campus theatre. It was one of the proudest days of my life.”

In the early days Carlson and Priestley were business partners, friends and even flatmates.

Now the pair are at opposite ends of the globe, with Priestley running Key Person of Influence’s London office.

“To be honest we don’t work that well together in the same office,” Carlson says.

“It’s like two captains in the same ship, running the company from two different sides of the world is a lot better.”

What hasn’t changed throughout the growth of the business is an emphasis on getting to know exactly what their clients want and delivering on that.

“We talk to them, go on ski trips with them, drink wine with them and discover what drives them, and what’s getting in the way of them getting what they want,” Carlson says.

“If we are excited about solving those issues, we go into brainstorm overdrive and start producing our next product or service.”

Over the next year those new products and services are likely to be technology-driven.

“While web development and marketing strategies are commoditising, we have deep trust with our existing client base and our novel approach to helping them generate influence and exposure in their industry requires a particular approach to tech that third party providers struggle to get right,” Carlson says.

“We’ve already tested demand, and we expect to at least double our revenue in the next 12 months. Game on!”

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