Forward to Normal with Rich Mulholland

Rich Mulholland_TEDxCapeTown_Intersections of Change

In the wake of the pandemic, many businesses have had to face an unimaginable scenario: adapt or die. The second virtual conversation of our 10-part digital series tackles this very idea. How can businesses adapt during this pandemic?

Richard Mulholland is no stranger to the TEDxCapeTown stage. He shared his ideas with the TEDx audience in 2018, with a talk entitled: Steps vs Leaps. He’s an accomplished speaker with innovative ideas on how to move your business “forward to normal” during this pandemic. 

Within the first 24-hours of the lockdown being announced in South Africa, his business went from slaying the world of eventing and presenting to earning a net income of zero. But in just two weeks, they were at the top of their game once more. During his insightful conversation, Rich shared the five valuable steps he’s currently using to help his business move forward.

*Disclaimer: Each step below has been paraphrased from the recording of Rich Mulholland’s presentation.

Step 1 - Know your nemesis: 

Identifying the enemy is the first step on your list. As the owner of a renowned presentation company, this meant attacking the mindset that businesses needed to cancel their events. Shifting your focus and adjusting your business in small ways can continue to help serve your clients; Rich credits this idea of ‘atomic adjacency’ to Matt Symms’ coined term One-Step Adjacency. They believe this enables you to have the agility and immediate responsiveness in any abruptly changing environment. 

Many entrepreneurs are having to deal with the side effects of COVID-19, but Rich says, “every problem that exists in the world creates a market for new solutions.” As an entrepreneur, waiting out the storm could prove fatal to your business. Instead, find the problem and fill the gap. 

Step 2 - Narrow the field

Once you’ve gained clarity on what you’re up against, it’s time to narrow the field. Rich uses the example of a four-horse race: “there needs to be a two-horse race - you versus the best of the other four.” 

Separate yourself from the crowd. Many of his competitors were offering services to take their client's conferences online, but Rich was giving these tools and tips away for free. For many of his clients, the hard part wasn’t creating online events but making sure they weren’t terrible when they got there. 

By providing them with tools and making it easy for them to go online, clients would realise that running a sleek and sophisticated conference was more complicated than they thought. This ensured that they would come back to the experts - Rich and his team - who provided them with the tips in the first place. 

“Solve a problem to somebody else, and then sell that problem.” 


Step 3 - Give them a reason to believe

“In any area that lacks an expert, whoever puts up their hand first and says: “I’m the expert.” Everyone’s going to believe them.”

You need to convince your potential customers that you’re the best person to help them, even if that means jumping off the cliff and building a parachute on the way down. For Rich, this meant making sure that everyone thought he was an expert in the online event field, even though he was still figuring it out as he went along. 

You don’t have to be a level 8 expert in the topic you’re talking about, but you do need to know a little more than your clients. So while your clients are at a level 2, make sure you’re at level 3. 

Another tip for making sure people believe in you? Narrow your conversation. While it’s great to share knowledge about various topics, make sure you’re narrowing your conversation so that it amplifies your voice on this topic. 

“I want to be known for one thing really really loudly, rather than lots of things really quiet.”


Step 4 - Give people a reason to engage with you

Once you’ve given potential clients a reason to believe in your expertise, the next step is to make sure they engage with you. One of the questions you need to ask yourself is: why should clients talk to you further? Once clients understand why they’re engaging with you, they’ll know what they need to buy from you. 

“If you don’t know what you want to buy from them, then all of this is noise, not signal.”

For Rich, this meant asking questions to potential clients and finding solutions for their problems/ questions. Eventually, this led to creating a different kind of support that would help make client’s online events better. By doing this, his company was able to solve a problem that competitors weren’t solving.

"We were throwing spaghetti at the roof, seeing what would land [until we knew what the market wanted]."

Step 5 - Double Down

Once you’ve figured out what people want, it’s time to double down on this. You don’t need to offer multiple products. It’s okay to be a one-trick pony, but make sure that it’s a good trick. 

Once Rich and his team figured out their “good trick”, they doubled down on this offering. 

After 23 years of running his presentation business, by the 19th of May, they were offering 100% new products tailored to the current problems their clients were facing with online events. 

When it comes to business, it’s not about going back to normal, but trying to challenge yourself to go “forward to normal.” Remember, future-you is watching and will hold you accountable for the decisions you're making during this time. Make decisions that future-you would be proud of. 

Missed this amazing conversation with Richard? Don't worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out the video we’ve put together, and don’t forget to visit our event page for more details on our upcoming events.