Richard Mullins is the Managing Director in the Middle East and Africa for Acceleration. Acceleration aims to integrate technology systems and digital marketing as well as improve customer data control. Richard has experience with publishing, agency and marketing clients, intensifying their online businesses.
What does your role as Managing Director for the Middle East and Africa entail?
I suppose like any team, it means that I am responsible for the direction of the team and making sure that we deliver against not only our business strategy and objectives, but more importantly those of our clients. The first step is making sure that we are delivering the best value available for our clients. The second is to lead strategy and innovation that will deliver a return on investment. In order to do so, we need to attract great talent and make sure that we are continually driving innovation and knowledge transfer, internally and with our clients. The third is that we need to make sure that we deliver against the highest standards across the board, in terms of delivery and service.
Being responsible for the growth and success in the Middle East and Africa, do you feel more pressure as it is an emerging marketplace?
I think it is a mixed bag, as we have the advantage of working in a more flexible environment than that of the more developed markets. In emerging markets people tend to be more innovative and entrepreneurial and this means that you have the opportunity to provide creative and fresh thinking that will be considered and tested. In the US for example, they often want the case study, so they invest in tried and tested ideas. In the developing markets you have the benefit of hindsight and seeing the mistakes of others, which allows us to deliver real value and insight.
On the other side, developing markets do not have the volume and budgets, so you have to be smart and you’re often under pressure to prove return on investment. It means that approvals take longer and you often end up competing on price instead of value. For the companies willing to invest, they are now seeing the value, not only in ROI, but in the competitive advantage.
With regards to enhancing online businesses, what key points would you say are mandatory across the board?
The key is to own your own data and track it as much as possible. It is the data and the tracking that will ultimately help determine the future strategies. Using good analytics you can determine whether you should invest in apps, mobile, social and Ecommerce.
Then, develop a 3 to 5 year strategy that looks at business requirements and expected investment. This will help to determine the company hiring and skills requirements as well as technical investments. It is amazing how many companies do not have this.
What advice would you give to other businesses wanting to branch out into the Middle East and Africa?
The best advice that I can give is to really investigate the opportunity well, and to do a course in how to kiss, bow or shake hands. In other words it is about understanding the culture and respecting it. That is what makes you successful, not just your product.
Who do you admire in your industry that others can learn from, and what do they do so well?
The people that I admire and there are many, are the people who make the magic happen. Often I am astounded by the passion and the knowledge of people working in non-management roles, who are driving real value, delivering campaigns and value that is often missed by the client. It has always been one of the reasons that I love the industry, as there are no guru’s. The internet is about being open and learning as much as possible. There are subject matter experts who I admire, however the list of subjects and people is too long for me to list.
The people who I admire most, are the clients who allow their partners to do what they do best. And the partners who know when to say no, we do not do that.
Thank you for your time, Richard. There is a lot to keep in mind when targeting different cultures.