Rock-and-roll roadie turned entrepreneur Richard Mulholland knows first hand the impact that memorable presentations can make. That is why he works with executives and speakers around the world, helping them deliver unforgettable presentations that activate audience members and generate income.
He’s the founder of presentation powerhouse Missing Link and has written three books; Legacide, Boredom Slayer, and Story Seller.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Richard Mulholland: When I left school I went into the world of Rock n Roll. I was a lighting designer and operator and had the chance to operate lights for artists such as Iron Maiden, Roxette, Chris Isaacs and many more. In the off-season I worked in conferences for big companies, trying to make their CEO’s feel like rock stars themselves. It quickly became apparent that I was a cure for the wrong disease – you can’t fix a bad presentation with great lights. So at 22 I started a presentation powerhouse, Missing Link.
My earliest inspiration was my boss at Gearhouse, Ofer Lapid. He took his work seriously, but not himself. He taught me early to put my team first (on one tour my pay was stolen while I was working – he didn’t question me, he just paid me again), I also saw him kick a client out of the office for being rude to one of the team.
When I wanted to move from the road to the office, he told me that he thought I was wasting my talent, but let me do it anyway. He asked me what I wanted to do in the office and I told him that I wasn’t sure yet. He said, “Cool, set up in the boardroom for a few months and let me know when you do.” Incredible.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Richard Mulholland: There are a few.. Mistake one is that we confuse leadership for management. To me the difference between a leader and a manager is your ability to communicate. A leader can draw a picture in the minds of their teams that their teams want to turn into a reality. We’re taught that to lead is to listen, and while that is an important skill, great leaders lead loud.
Mistake two is that we sometimes believe that entrepreneurship is a job title – it’s not. It’s just the label we got when we started our business. When we see entrepreneurship as the job, then the job is to start more businesses. We glorify the serial entrepreneur when often the greats are the ones that build one business and grow it well. I used to see myself as an entrepreneur and it led me down a path of shallow distraction. I now understand that I am a presentation and speaking specialist. I want to go deep in this craft. I want Olympic gold in this craft. I encourage more entrepreneurs to give themselves a better title.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Richard Mulholland: The pandemic has been massively positive for our business. I believe that human tragedy aside we will reflect on this as the greatest technological accelerator that our generation has witnessed. It has simultaneously halved the time it takes to conduct meetings (now 30-minutes) and has made them a lot easier to schedule. More than that though, the move to online meetings has meant that the geographical anchor has been lifted – we work with companies all over the world as they are no longer limited to locales. What a time to be alive!
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Richard Mulholland: I said earlier that when I started I was a cure for the wrong disease, you don’t fix a bad presentation with great lights. Well, you don’t fix a bad presentation with great slides either. You write a great talk before you design it before you deliver it. Ovations are earned in the preparation and not just the presentation. Many of our competitors fall in the slide design, or speaker coaching space – these are both great, but lipstick on a big if we don’t get the content strategy right first.
Oh, and like my old boss Ofer, we take what we do seriously – but not ourselves. Presentations shouldn’t be boring – so we make sure that we’re not either. Oh, and we tattoo our clients.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Richard Mulholland: My primary success was realizing that I’m NOT strong in dealing with day-to-day staff issues. I tend to err on being blunt. When I was younger I believed that people needed to toughen up and take it, now I realize that while occasionally that may be true, there are other people better equipped to deal with our people in a better way. As such, I appointed a CEO and stepped down from that role myself. My job now is to create our companies’ vision and evangelize it internally, then externally (ideally in that order). You don’t have to be in charge to lead the charge.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Richard Mulholland: Building a personal brand is hard. Building the brand if the dragon is easy. The dragon is the problem my customers face that I (we) can help them slay. Getting people to care about me is not easy, if I can get them to care about the dragon – and the hidden treasure it protects – that we can solve for them, then my personal brand grows by association. It’s worth noting that I don’t believe having a strong outwardly- facing personal brand is a prerequisite for business leaders, but I do believe that the ones that do have an unfair advantage over those that don’t.
How would you define “leadership”?
Richard Mulholland: I touched on this earlier, but search google for managers, and you’ll find sad stock pictures of smiling people in suits patting each other on the back. Search for leaders, and you will find people standing behind a podium with their fists in the air. Think of a great world leader and I’ll point you to a speech they gave that changed lives. To lead is to speak. I believe that it is very possible to lead without authority (and we should all aspire to this), but it’s near impossible to lead without finding our voice.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Richard Mulholland: Stop taking advice from older entrepreneurs. Forty-six-year-old me would talk to you about work-life balance, but if 26-year-old me had listened to that, I wouldn’t have been asked to do this interview.
One bit of advice I’m always happy to give is this. When it comes to starting a business, yesterday would have been easier, tomorrow will be harder. Don’t wait for the perfect storm, there will be storms for sure – but none of them are perfect.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Richard Mulholland: I have two.
- One: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
- Two: “There are two pathways to wealth – the hard path is to want more, the easy path is to need less.”
I’m hell-bent on living a less-to-the-power-of more life, and comparing that life to others would be a recipe for discontentment.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Richard Mulholland for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Richard Mulholland or his company, you can do it through his – Company Website
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