By Narelle Coulter
Heads turn when John McMahon roars into the carpark of the Waterman Business Centre in Narre Warren on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
John is bald, covered in tattoos, wears black jeans and sleeveless black hoodies and has piercings in both ears.
His love of motorcycles and his plain talking, no-bullshit attitude has helped him build a successful business turning around the lives of troubled teenage boys and their families.
John, aka The Rev, is the founder of Motov8, a business that takes him into schools around the country to give motovational talks to boys aged 11-17.
Driven by his own troubled background, John is now expanding Motov8 to include seminars, workshops, one on one coaching, a clothing line and a book.
Motov8 was born nine years ago when John was working as a chaplain for the MotoGP and World Super Bikes.
He had also been involved in a company called California Superbike School which taught people how to corner motorcycles and go fast from a scientific point of view.
“Sitting there on Phillip Island it dawned on me the very same principles a professional racer draws on to not only stay on track but win apply in real life.“
John was employed as chaplain at Kambrya College at the time and was looking for something different where he could have a greater influence on the lives of disengaged teenagers.
He left Kambrya, took a part time chaplaincy role at Berwick Primary School, and devoted his spare time to launching Motov8.
“I’d been kicked out of two high schools as a teenager so I had no idea about business,“ he cheerfully admits.
“I needed to learn how to put a website together, how to market, I didn’t have the money to brand all my stuff to the point where I wanted to but I was very secure in my brand.
“I was Mr Motov8 long before I had the cars and bikes and clothing, but I had a vision to have that stuff and use it and leverage it and grow my business.“
John’s story is integral to his business success.
Born in Belfast, he moved to Berwick with his family when he was 11.
“Everyone loved my accent and I had a crowd of people around me but after my accent disappeared people started treating me differently. I was teased because I was fat. They called me McFat.
“I’m actually not bitter about that, I’m sort of glad it happened because it took me on my journey.“
Kicked out of school for skipping class, stealing and graffiti he got a job as an apprentice pastry chef.
After night shift, he would sleep then catch a train to Dandenong where he hooked up with a gang.
“There was lot of fighting, theft, lots of destruction of property.
“At 18 I was a mess. I was a liar, a thief and everything was catching up with me.“
A failed suicide attempt was the low point until a youth leader took John under his wing, giving him the time and attention his own father had failed to provide.
His mentor encourage John to speak to a youth group.
“At end of it in the car on the way home he said ’Mate, I’ve spoken with hundreds of kids and young people but you are going to speak with thousands’. No one had ever said anything to me like that other than my mum telling me she loved me.
“That was 26 years ago and I can’t tell you how many thousands of young people I have spoken to now.“
John knew he had a product that could solve a problem, he just had to convince schools that his seminars were value for money.
“I needed to learn how to deliver my value proposition to schools. Schools are very big on data. I had to basically say to them you can spend this money on me now, which might seems a lot, or you can spend 10 or 15 times that amount over the life of their education.“
John tells teenage boys his story, grabbing their attention with his appearance, his shoot from the hip style and his Harley and racing bikes which are all part of his finely calibrated presentations.
“I zig when everyone else is zagging. I’m disruptive, I’m memorable and I’m authentic.
“I wanted to help young males make smarter, more informed choices. The lack of social and emotional intelligence are the two big deficits in young people’s lives. Most young males can’t shake someone’s hand properly and look them in the eye. Over connected and out of balance and parents are lost as to what to do.“
John also wants to inspire boys to be entreprenurs. No one taught him about entreprensurship when he was a kid and he wants others to be inspired by his unorthodox professional journey to pursue their dreams too.
And those who inspire him? He nominates Richard Branson, Tony Robbins and Grant Cardone.
John has big goals for Motov8. He wants it to be a household name in Australia and admires the brand reach of Red Bull and Virgin.
Last month he met with a PR agency in Sydeny hoping to lift his personal profile. He admires the media work of Michael Carr-Gregg but would like to be an alternative voice in the child psychology space.
John is dictating a book, with the typically confronting title Screw You. He hopes the book will be out by July.
“It’s given me a great laugh because I never imagined myself as an author,“ he said, grinning.
His clothing range will be officially launched at Melbourne’s Ego Expo this month.
He wants to expand his seminars and his brand to NZ, the UK and US.
“I want to be known for helping young guys turn their lives around and the lives of others around.“