We caught up with Mike Korbel, former President at Centaman, who joined Jonas through acquisition in 2010. He is currently VP, Attractions under Jonas Ticketing. In our conversation, we talk about his career progression from his time with Centaman to eventually joining Jonas and managing multiple companies within the Australian portfolio.
All right, Mike, thanks very much for taking the time to meet with us today. So you joined Jonas Software through the acquisition of Centaman back in 2010.
Can you walk us through your background prior to joining Jonas?
I started at Centaman in the late 90s right before the dot com business was booming. Centaman is a venue management platform, so ticketing and point of sale for zoos and aquariums.
I actually joined through being a Centaman customer. I joined the founder and opened up his office out of Melbourne, Australia. He was looking to expand and so that seemed exciting. So we then opened a New Zealand office and ultimately he retired and so I was involved in a management buy-in/buyout. We bought out the founder along with private equity firm ANZ Capital.
At that time, I’d actually moved over to the United States. We were starting to expand and around about that time in 2008-09 our private equity firm wanted out. We still wanted to do more things with the business.
We met with a couple of different parties and we’d come across Jonas. Barry and Jeff McKee were the CEO and CFO at the time. They were in Australia looking at another acquisition and we liked what they had to say and we were able to work a deal out that kept the private equity backers happy. That was how we became the first Australian acquisition of the Jonas Group.
That’s great. We had no idea that you were originally a customer of Centaman prior to joining the company, so that’s quite fascinating as well.
Can you describe your career progression since joining Jonas?
Since joining Jonas, the CFO from Jonas headquarters, moved over to Australia to help grow the Australian portfolio that had a couple of acquisitions and as that portfolio grew, created room for me to move up and start running, first of all, the Centaman business, as well as then looking for other acquisition opportunities within the attraction space. And so I think we completed our first acquisition of Outbound Software in 2015, and that was a great eye opener.
It was my first acquisition from that side of the table. I found that was great. We started with something that was in my expertise and it was ticketing software, same business, same industry, same clientele. That was pretty comforting. And since then, through that acquisition, we met some people at XLerant which is a budgeting software company, and we acquired them in 2018.
All of a sudden I found myself running a portfolio of three companies, and that was really exciting.
So at Jonas, we often talk about our ABCs as differentiators.
We have autonomy, our decentralized operating model. We have our Buy-and-Hold Forever. So we never sell, which allows us to invest for the long term and then our culture of sharing best practices. Learning from the Joneses or CSI family of software companies.
How has your experience aligned with these three differentiators?
I sort of was touching on that before, best practices sessions here at Jonas, I think I’ve been to 13 Jonas Software Universities or variations of such, which is conferences, best practice sharing presentations that you have to both give and sit in.
That was one of the exciting things about when I was running the acquisition of XLerant was that I was able to actually take those best practices and apply them to software I really didn’t know anything about. So I certainly see that there’s a lot of opportunity within that. Again, within my portfolio, I now have GuestVision, which is cosmetology and school and enterprise software for salons and again, an area that is not my entire background or where I’ve put my whole life’s work. So certainly all of those best practices and all of that in terms of managing and into vertical market software is really being key.
And look, Autonomy is amazing and it is what it says on the tin. My boss is in Brisbane, Australia. He lets me run the business using all the tools and things that I’ve been given and make the decisions for that.
So you now oversee multiple companies. You mentioned you started with managing Centaman and then now taking on another couple of companies, in addition now to looking at potential new acquisitions for Jonas.
So what’s it like being on the other side of the table now and talking to other companies from an acquisition point of view?
I like it, and one of the things that kept me in Centaman and made me excited about Centaman at the start is it’s a complete attraction management system. So you spend a lot of time going into zoos and water parks and automating parts of their business.
In a lot of the solutions that we have within Jonas are very detailed in there about what value can you add to the business? How can you help them be more efficient? So you really get to do that, you really have to get involved and analyze and learn all of these different businesses.
From M&A, that’s really what you have to do as well to ensure that you can decide if it’s a good fit for the Jonas family, if it’s going to make sense and if it’s going to be something that’s either a great business, or there’s certain areas that we can help improve and help add value to.
So a lot of it’s about aligning with learning different businesses, and so I certainly love doing that.
Let’s face it, being part of a company that gets acquired can be pretty stressful. Having gone through it yourself, what advice or message would you give to the employees of a company that is about to join Jonas?
I would investigate Jonas and look at what they do.
The acquisitions that we’re doing, we’re looking for companies that have successful companies and successful people. The Jonas family creates opportunities for you to grow within there, so that’s certainly very exciting.
Something that I felt was important when we were selling Centaman into the Jonas scene is it gave us an opportunity to get bigger. And then the other big one, I think, for employees is really to understand that we don’t change the culture of any of the businesses that we go into. We work on applying best practices and making them more efficient. But even within my portfolio, I’ve got businesses that are completely remote businesses that everybody puts a tie on and goes to an office, businesses where you can bring your dog to work.
All of those things are all different, and they’re not things that we go about and seek to change. We don’t combine the businesses or do those things because it changes what made them great and why we wanted to acquire them in the first place.
I’d say that’s amazing feedback.
My last question is what gets you excited about the future of Jonas?
For me personally, I like the growth story and the fact that every year we seem to do more and more acquisitions, so that excites me personally. I’m excited about it because I think the model works.
Buy and hold, it has a long term approach, and sometimes the quick fix is not the right solution when you’re trying to look at what’s going to happen in three or four years. But I said because the model has proven to work and because there are constant opportunities in growth and through acquisition as well as through investment, that excites me and it makes me want to keep being part of it as somebody who was acquired through Jonas and is still here twelve years later.
Thank you Mike Korbel for sharing your story with us. Looking for a successful career like Mike’s? Learn how you can join the family at Jonas Software by visiting our career opportunities page.