Courtney McLellan, from stock trader to legacy creator, on putting fate into your own hands
People of Charlotte, please meet Courtney McLellan, a woman who only sees obstacles as challenges to overcome. When I first met Courtney, she was an accomplished stock trader who was on an impressive career path. Recognizing family was her number one priority, she made a daring career change that led to a legacy for her children. Courtney has accomplished a feat that most only dream of while remaining humble yet deservingly proud. Now let's get to know her story...
Over six years ago, you made a monumental career move. What motivated the change?
Family is really important to me. It’s everything. I began to see my career as stock trader in a different light, realizing that I had hit the glass-ceiling and decided to rearrange my priorities. I was away from home, my children, my husband, and even myself, a lot.
I wanted to give my family more opportunities to be a family, to be present with one another, to have choices.
Speaking of family, your son played a pivotal role in your career reevaluation. How so?
When you become a parent it’s no longer just about you. My husband, Andrew, and I have two children—an older daughter and a younger son. While our daughter is quietly confident, amazingly artistic, and independent, it’s a bit of a different story for our son. After he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, I knew I had to make sure his financial future was secure while offering him the best teachers and therapists now. He is the sweetest, most joyous child. I was once asked if I could change his diagnosis, would I? I would, but not for me. I love him just the way he is. He is perfect. I would only change his diagnosis for him, to give him more opportunity.
You are very grounded and humble despite all of your accomplishments (we will get there in a sec). Was there ever a time when you were a dreamer?
Ha. Yes! But a serious one. I attended University of North Carolina School of the Arts as a full-time resident during my 11th and 12th grade years. While there, I continued my studies and commitment to becoming a ballerina—it was my dream for as long as I could remember. Looking back, the experience gave me the foundation for the work ethic and discipline that remains very present today. I went on to perform professionally for a brief time, and then enrolled at Indiana University to further my studies in ballet. One day, I woke up and realized I just wanted a normal life. I left ballet to finish college, earning a B.S. in English and then a M.A. in English. For those of you wondering about what you do with an English degree, my answer is anything! Literally. And that’s how I ended up becoming a stock trader to where I am today!
Speaking of dreaming, you say you are living your dream job now! We are so happy for you since this can often be a lifelong quest for many people. What was your quest like?
An opportunity was presented to me by a friend to join a company that was moving away from traditional retail into direct sales. The financial analyst inside of me looked at the company strategically; I then made one of the best decisions of my life! This all came together after a four-year spiritual journey, so my head and heart were in a place of peace, ready to accept a new challenge. This business also would allow me to leave a legacy (and a sellable business) for my children.
For two years I worked hard, really hard, continuing my existing career while also building this new business. One day I approached my husband and we both agreed that it was time for me to hang up my stock trader hat and give my all to the business that was growing exponentially. The opportunity was more real than I ever imagined and was no longer a side job. It’s actually exceeded my expectations 1000%, and my husband would quickly agree. He was able to leave his full-time position with an architecture firm and now only does design work that he feels passionate about. In addition, he was able to fulfill a dream of his own and obtained his master's degree in poetry from Queens University.
So what is this amazing job of yours?
I am now in an elite group of top earners, with a team of over 1,200 people in North America and Australia, with North America’s number one skincare brand, Rodan + Fields. The company has generated $1.5 billion in revenue and has a goal of becoming the #1 skincare brand in the world one day.
For the first time in my career, no one is limiting what I can do or the goals that I set. I have an unbelievable support system which includes the company’s Founders, Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields. Despite all of their successes (they developed Proactiv too), they are two of the most humble, down-to-earth women I know. And I try to model their example with the women and men on my team. When someone joins my team, I am passionate about helping them achieve their goals. Since I work closely with corporate, I can offer valuable insight and training that comes directly from leadership.
Successful people often have strong mindsets and personal mantras. What are some of yours that have propelled you to the top of this skin-care company?
I never wanted to be content and take the safe route. I truly believe I can do anything.
Truly. It’s self-liberating when you really take hold of this mindset and then inspire others to do the same. I believe in putting fate into your own hands, not someone else’s. Eliminate external barriers. Don’t worry about what other people think. And I believe in myself, always.
Any outcomes or opportunities that you didn’t expect with your career move?
Girlfriends! Having worked in a male-dominated industry as a stock trader, I missed out on time with girlfriends. I love having so many supportive relationships with like-minded, goal-oriented women who make reward trips even more rewarding. They are like family.
Through Rodan + Fields Prescription for Change Foundation, I have had the opportunity to give back to some of the most impoverished people in our country. Most recently, I was invited to participate in their Change Maker Trip to the Bronx, a multi-day immersive service experience where you can truly make a difference in the lives of others. Each school year, I organize a coat drive for the Charlotte community, collecting hundreds of coats to be taken directly into schools and into the hands of children. The Founders of Rodan + Fields really focus on giving back.
And the reward trips to Italy, London, France, and Spain (this summer) have been first-class. I have gotten to know Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields through these amazing trips. They inspire me so much. On one of the trips, we spent the afternoon with Christie Brinkley and her daughter. In England, Earl Spencer invited us to spend the day at his house, and R+F even closed Westminster Abbey for one of our private events. It’s been amazing!
Any misconceptions about your business?
Oh yeah. Most people think it all comes easy. No, it takes a lot of hard work to do big things, just like any other opportunity. You need to have drive, grit, and perseverance to strategically reach your personal goals. I set mine high. I love the challenge. You definitely meet a lot of naysayers and you can’t let them get inside your head.
How has your life come full circle?
I grew up dancing on a stage, then sat behind a desk for 15 years, and now I’m back on stage, being celebrated and celebrating others for all of our accomplishments and hard work—I’m dancing again, but this time, in my heart of hearts. I am on the stage that was meant for me.
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