Let’s start with the one-liner – what is your company? What do you sell?
Ineke McMahon: My company is Path to Promotion, It’s an online career development academy to help people reach their full potential.
Tell us your origin story.
Ineke McMahon: The Path to Promotion was started by two female founders – Ineke McMahon with two decades of executive recruitment experience and Amber Renae, digital e-learning expert, ex-TV presenter, and personal branding expert. Our signature course Success Accelerator is a six-step process that is guaranteed to ignite your career process, taking lessons learned from twenty years of interviewing CEOs and Board members, and people that are the best in their industry. All successful leaders have similar habits and stories, regardless of industry or sector. This was the basis of the first course.
We launched in September of 2019 and immediately signed some major corporate names as well as some government departments. We have been interviewed by Forbes and the New York Post. Our graduates are reporting incredible numbers in terms of increased engagement, better relationships with their hiring managers and some have even been promoted already! The first sale is always a big moment! I would say getting picked up by a major government department as part of their official emerging leader’s program was also a big win.
Ineke McMahon: Yes, we did. We surveyed almost 5000 people to learn what they would want in a career development course. We spent several years developing the content, and then ran a number of “test” courses with people from first-year graduates to CEOs to test the material. This was filmed and then the material refined.
We then filmed and edited the content, created the workbooks, and launched the business. It took over three years to do this. In terms of capital, Amber and I invested in the business personally.
Was this an area for which you had passion before you started the business, or did you see a need and move to serve it?
Ineke McMahon: Yes. As an executive recruiter, I often had people contacting me for advice on how to ascend into the c-suite or more senior roles. I found that the advice that I was giving as a career strategist was working, and people were moving up the corporate ladder and I was really passionate about seeing this information reach a wider audience. I was also regularly being asked to speak at events, and have been a passionate advocate for diversity my whole career. It’s wonderful to see it all finally come to fruition.
How has the business evolved over time?
Ineke McMahon: Yes, about five years ago when I started thinking about building the course, my plan was specifically to help women and minority groups to get ahead but decided as we progressed to make the course gender-neutral. We have a lot of senior men enrolled now!
How did you grow? Tell us about a moment, or moments, in the early days that were “big moments” for the business. What moved the needle substantially?
Ineke McMahon: The first sale is always a big moment! I would say getting picked up by a major government department as part of their official emerging leader’s program was also a big win.
Every successful small business owner has to navigate the world of expansion. And choosing how to expand is just as important as choosing how NOT to expand. Tell us about forks in the road on your journey.
Ineke McMahon: The best part about our business is that it is so easily scalable because it is online. Online learning is such a growth area and we are so excited to be a part of it. Because all of our courses are “Do at your own pace” it means that people can invest in their learning and development at times that suit them. We have had to add to our staff to cope with the technical “backend” of the courses, so that has been easier to do than some other businesses.
As you’ve grown, you’ve undoubtedly had to delegate. How did you tackle that challenge?
Ineke McMahon: Given that my corporate background had seen me managing very large teams in the past, it wasn’t as difficult as I found it earlier on in my career. Actually, going from working at a corporate to running our own business was much harder at the start without the support that I was used to! I actually had to invest in my own skills (particularly in the technical and IT space) and undertook a lot of courses myself!
You know the axiom – no risk, no reward. Tell us about a time you took a big risk. Did it pay off? Did it fail? Or you had a completely different outcome than expected?
Ineke McMahon: This whole business has been a huge risk. Leaving a corporate role with a huge salary to work on this business for years without an income has been a huge challenge, but one that is now paying off. I count it as “investing in myself” as Warren Buffett often says. I also have two small children who are three and a half and two years old, so it has been a VERY busy few years! It has meant being up at nights and sacrificing a lot of sleep!
Do you/did you have a co-founder or did you go at it alone? Tell us about that decision, and how that affected you as a leader.
Ineke McMahon: Yes, I do, my co-founder is Amber Renae. We have been friends for a long time and I have enjoyed watching her success in building e-courses in her space. It was a natural fit for us. We work really well together and also challenge each other almost every day!
Have you ever considered taking on additional partners, venture funding, or bank money to grow the company, or have you always bootstrapped?
Ineke McMahon: We have always bootstrapped!
Tell us about some of your sacrifices along your small business journey.
Ineke McMahon: The biggest sacrifice has been walking away from the big corporate salary to build this business. It was a very difficult adjustment!
What is the most gratifying thing about what you do?
Ineke McMahon: When our graduates call to say that they’ve just got a salary raise, or a promotion, or have been selected to go on a special project. That’s why we do this and it’s just as rewarding EVERY time.
Ineke McMahon: I have so many leaders that I admire. I love Shawn Achor and Simon Sinek particularly. This is probably because I find their teachings so in line with what I do, and also that they are about helping people become better – which is what we do too!
What is a secret weapon that you have that would surprise people?
Ineke McMahon: My secret weapon is hard work but it’s not a secret!!! I am one of the hardest workers that I know. I have gotten to where I am by constantly working as hard as I can, by investing in my skills every year and doing the over and above things that most people don’t do. I will always forfeit fun for development. Even as a young person, I did full-time work and full-time university when many of my friends were still living at home and having fun. I will say, that definitely prepared me for motherhood – i.e having NO SPARE time. One of my previous bosses sent me this quote from a Will Smith interview a few years ago and said” This is you Ineke”. I loved that. Here is the quote:
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things – you might have it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there are two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple, right? You’re not going to out-work me. It’s such a simple, basic concept. The majority of people who aren’t getting the places they want or aren’t achieving the things that they want in this business is strictly based on hustle. It’s strictly based on being out-worked; it’s strictly based on missing crucial opportunities. I say all the time if you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready.”
If not for this business, what would you be doing as a career right now?
Ineke McMahon: Definitely still executive recruitment – It is the best job in the world because you get to learn every single day. When you are taking a brief for a job you are learning all about a company and what they are trying to achieve, their strategy, and challenges. Then you get to interview ten or more people who are at the top of their game in their field and learn what they did, how they did it, how they made decisions, how they measured results etc. Not a day goes by when you don’t learn something amazing. My perfect scenario is to do both!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ineke McMahon: I would love to see the Path to Promotion continue to scale internationally and reach more people across the globe. I’d love to see a huge community of ambitious professionals accelerating their career success, networking with each other, and providing support to each other. I’d also love to be doing one or two exec roles a quarter just to keep my hand in it!
Finish this sentence: “I would not be standing here today if not for ____”*
Ineke McMahon: My husband, with two small children (and one with major health issues), he has been my rock. There were so many nights where we would put the kids to bed then I would be up all night writing content, working with our editors, etc. He is amazing. But the answer to that would also be… “I would not be standing here today if not for the willingness to work hard, do more, and challenge myself constantly.”
What’s one piece of advice that you would give your 18-year-old self?
Ineke McMahon: I think I would tell my 18-year-old self to relax a bit more! Definitely TRAVEL more as I think that will be something of a major luxury in years to come. Who knows what is going to happen in this post COVID world?