Engage. It is called social media because it is social. It is not just posting content and being done with it. Engagement with those who engage with your content is critical. It is where you establish relationships and you learn about your market.
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Mullings.
Joe Mullings has been building companies and careers since 1989. He founded and is Chairman & CEO of The Mullings Group, the world’s leading search firm in the medical device industry. The Mullings Group is responsible for more than 7000 successful searches with more than 600 companies in the medical device industry and counts among its clientele Johnson & Johnson, Google, Medtronic, Abbott and Siemens. In 2020, Mr. Mullings was appointed the Chief Visionary Office of MRI, Inc., ranked 3rd among executive recruitment firms with 400 offices worldwide.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I founded my search firm The Mullings Group in January of 1992. We specialized in the medical device / healthtech industry and have dominated the space for the past three decades, doing business with a wide range of client companies, from venture capital-backed startups, to Fortune 50 multinationals around the world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I guess the funniest moment I had was when I decided to go all-in on the digital transition for my business. It was for a big contract to recruit engineers for the new partnership between Google and Johnson & Johnson, to build medical robotic devices. I decided that the only way to meet the seemingly impossible deadline was to use video to reach the critical mass of engineers needed for the project. So, I went into my home office, set up a Sony camera and spoke directly to the camera explaining what a great career move it would be to join this joint venture. I downloaded it to my laptop and ran inside of the house to show it to my wife. She watched it, looked at me and said “You look like a moron, this is terrible. Call your nephew, he is a video guy. See if he can help you because what you just did is not going to show well.”
The next morning, I, indeed, called my nephew, who was a professional filmmaker, and off we went.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
That person is Gary Vaynerchuk, otherwise known as Gary Vee. I had watched Gary’s use of the internet and social platforms to create an attention and awareness around him and his businesses. I had a chance to spend a day with Gary and his organization in New York City at VaynerMedia, and it was the platform and insight I needed to set the cornerstone of my strategy.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Funny you ask this because I just celebrated my 30th year in the business, and I still have my original business plan written in a book. I recently shared it on LinkedIn and got more than 100,000 views in two days. Interestingly, it was very close to how I have designed and executed on my business as it is today.
“Purpose driven business” to me means doing something that you are willing to die for. I sort of mean that in a very serious way. I believe the way to success is setting insanely high goals and expectations that are arguably out of reach, but then map it back to daily achievable micro-goals that are attainable.
I also believe a well thought-out “purpose driven business” is key. If you are serious about pursuing something that has not been done before and will require the best of you, it will likely become so difficult on a daily basis that if you do not absolutely love what you are doing, then you will find a conscious or subconscious way to opt-out.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes, I have a few projects going on right now:
We have Season 4 of “TrueFuture,” which is an online docu-series that features the people, place, technology and culture that are bringing incredible life-saving technologies to the world. Season 4 was our visit to Israel (also known in the tech world as “Start-Up Nation” because of the proliferation of its techpreneurs), and we highlighted the amazing technologies that come out of a country of only 8 million people.
We also just launched TMG360 Media, and I am excited about that as it is a first-of-its-kind communications and brand awareness agency, which serves the life sciences and digital healthcare industries.
We are also wrapping up a documentary that we will be entering into film festivals. We spent a few days in the Wynwood arts community of Miami, capturing its rich culture of graffiti writers and artists.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
It’s as simple as it is complicated. The best way to examine the Digital Transformation (DT) underway worldwide is by getting your head wrapped around the transition of not “what” you do, but “how” you do it.
The start of a DT can be daunting. It is often mistaken that a DT needs to be video-heavy and that is not the case. DT means looking at your business and devising a strategy that creates a chorus of voices where your potential customers are, using social platforms, email, text and a variety of communication styles that include long and short-form video, text and photos.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
All companies can benefit from a DT. In fact, it is critical that every business have a DT strategy in place. Sure, some businesses are more appropriate for a digital only approach to their business. Think of AirBnB and Amazon as examples; they would not be in business without digital. However, even a local dry cleaner can create a digital strategy to attract customers in their neighborhood by creating an Instagram story about the behind-the scenes life of a dry cleaning business, or highlighting its customers and what they do. (Clothes can offer a hint into fascinating stories.) In turn, the customers share their highlighted personas with their social media network, and the dry cleaner gains attention and awareness.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
I have been fortunate to also hold the role of Chief Vision Officer with Management Recruiters International (MRI), one of the world’s largest executive search firm organizations. The President and CEO, Bert Miller, purchased the 50-year-old company two years ago and reached out to me to help him develop the DT for the 325 offices that are part of the MRI Network. So, the task was taking a legacy, analog-minded business and architecting its DT to create a brand new category in the world of work.
It has been fantastic, seeing those offices that have embraced DT and executed on the plan have dramatically increased revenue and success in their businesses. It’s gratifying to positively impact so many businesses and lives.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
There are a few challenges. One of them is that most business leaders are not digital natives, meaning they did not grow up with the internet. Many of them associate the internet and especially social media, with their children posting “summer trip” escapades on Facebook or influencer pictures on Instagram, and therefore disregard the power of those platforms being used in the proper way for their businesses.
The second is the constant pursuit of return on investment that is the focus of most businesses today. When you embrace ROI, you should also define its short and long-term values. When creating a brand around a service or product today, it is critical to understand how consumers engage with the brand and make buying decisions based on that experience. An average product or service with a strong online brand will outperform a better product with no brand at all.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Understand that you are a communicator, not an actor nor a writer of a book. Strive to engage with your message with authenticity.
- Maintain discipline in your DT deployment. Post on your platforms every day. Make it as important as eating your meal, brushing your teeth or exercising for health. The power of compounding interest is definitely at play.
- Educate. People want to learn. Your content should strive to teach, inspire and inform your audience.
- Engage. It is called social media because it is social. It is not just posting content and being done with it. Engagement with those who engage with your content is critical. It is where you establish relationships and you learn about your market.
- Don’t fixate on ROI. It takes time to build a brand. Being overly indexed to the return on investment in your brand build and DT is the quickest way to failure.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
Be courageous enough to experiment and live out loud as you develop your brand and do not listen to others. First-movers or “category creators” will always take heavy fire. Others are confused and judgmental on those who do things differently. They also voice their insecurities as to what they cannot do. When people see something new, they filter it through their reality. They do not see things as they truly exist, they see things as they, themselves, are. Which is less than what is.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This is my own saying: “Give, give, give and be standing in plain sight when someone needs what you do.” I think that giving without the expectation of anything in return is a powerful mindset. Looking for a return on something can lead to being held hostage and limit your opportunities. It causes fixation and waiting, rather than focus and looking forward. Focus versus fixation, and moving ahead versus waiting. Think about it.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/joemullings/
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Twitter — https://twitter.com/joemullings