StaffConnect's server maintenance has concluded. For further status updates, click here.

Rinco van Rijn | Industry Feature

January 11, 2024

Tell us more about your company and your journey, what led you to this industry, and how you first get started building your business.

As the owner of Discover Projects and self-employed, I help organizations unlock the full business and societal potential of their events and trade shows. I do this through advising, guidance, and execution in the areas of event strategy, strategic event marketing, coaching, and building brand experience centers, particularly for companies in a business-to-business environment. 

The problem: Many companies find it challenging to demonstrate the real value of their events and trade shows.

The solution: Apply a strategic event approach to gain better insights into what role and value your events play in your organization to support your business growth.

How I help: Together with the organization, I develop and implement a strategic vision and policy for events and trade show participation that seamlessly align with the company's organizational objectives and ambitions. This translates into better results (event ROI), lower costs, higher quality and impact, and a uniform working process between teams responsible for events. I do this by sharing my 25 years of international corporate knowledge and experience in strategy, marketing, and live communication.

I started my business end of 2021 after working for over 25 years in corporate and midsized companies in various marketing manager roles, where I also was responsible for live communication. Worked for companies like BASF, Philips, and Signify. In 2021 I was part of a reorganizational structure at Signify and had to decide what I wanted to do next in my career. In my last position I was Head of Global Events and Sponsorships and very much liked this role of being a strategic and operational expert in my field of events. Helping the company to grow and interact and engage with its target audiences through the use of events, conferences, trade shows, and sponsorships.

I found my calling and decided to start as a self-entrepreneur in doing what I like most. Helping other organizations build successful and accountable events and trade shows by sharing my experience and knowledge.

In the summer of 2021, I prepared my new business, developed a website and brand identity, decided which services to offer, redesigned my LinkedIn profile, talked to my network, and registered on many freelance and interim platforms. I was ready to go and in December 2021 I won my first assignment as a freelance event manager to organize a 3-day conference for my client.

If you could go back and do it over again from the beginning, what would you have done differently?

This is a nice question. I think the problem with many starting businesses is that they don’t position themselves well and have no focus on what target audiences or clients they want to serve. The same applied to me. I offered too many services, had no real focus on what distinctive value I could offer, and was therefore often seen as an event manager. One of the many in the industry and a lot of competition. Although I am strategic and tactical. But if companies compare you to other freelance event managers they just look at your hourly rate and not what real value you deliver. On top, I was relying too much on my network. 

Now I only focus on a few strategic services where I can add my value without competition. This is helping me to grow my business in the right direction. You learn by doing.

What has been the biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?

My biggest challenge was that I had to go out in the field. Asking for projects, calling and meeting frequently with my network without getting direct projects, and building a new network. I wasn't used to this and thought they would find me irritating. But gradually I learned that you just need to do it. Be visible, write and share inspiring and relevant content, go to networking events, contact your network frequently, give keynotes, lectures, or Masterclasses, and position yourself over and over again to build your authority. Especially when you need to create the demand. Don’t give up, believe in what you do, and make sure you are top of mind. Your network is busy and has many other priorities. They don’t think about you all day. By calling, meeting, and giving useful information in return it happens that a potential project pops up. Your network is the most important asset. Cherish and extend it. There is no better reference than your network.

What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

The most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur include a strong vision, resilience, adaptability, effective communication skills, exceptional organizational skills, listening, and asking the right questions to help your clients with their challenges. Furthermore, a successful entrepreneur should have a deep understanding of their industry and customer needs. Additionally, you should have a strong work ethic, be willing to take calculated risks, touch base with peers, and possess a deep passion for your work to innovate and excel in your field.

What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?

As a marketeer, I would say that it is important to first draft your company brand positioning, message, and target audience and know what value you offer to your target audience with your products and services. Know what drives them and what challenges they face and act on it. Don’t hesitate to ask for help with peers or bring in specialists where needed. You are not alone. Focus, focus, and focus and find the niche to stand out. If this is clear you can start. Other important factors are your expertise and knowledge. As a consultant, these are my primary assets. Staying updated with the latest trends, techniques, and knowledge in my field is crucial. Continuous learning, research, and professional development help me to keep offering valuable advice and guidance to clients and stay ahead of the game.

As said before building a strong network of industry contacts and maintaining strong relationships with clients is vital. You need to be result-oriented and delivering measurable results helps in building credibility and in getting referrals.

The last factors that I would like to highlight are your integrity and reliability. Building trust with clients is fundamental. This means being honest, transparent, and ethical in all projects.

How do you feel the use of technology has helped the growth of your business?

Technology and digital tools are part of my professional work for a data-driven event approach. Furthermore, I use AI for brainstorming and ideation for content creation, translations in various languages and to summarize large documents. The knowledge of experiential technologies like VR, AR, XR, and 3D technologies helps me to better advise my clients in creating impactful experiences with their events or brand experience centers. You must follow the latest trends in event design and experience.

What are some helpful tips for first-time and aspiring entrepreneurs in the industry?

Apart from what I already shared as tips. Make sure you have a passion that you radiate. Believe in yourself and have the drive to continually seek improvement to be the best in your field and go the extra mile for your best clients.  Run your business based on intrinsic motivation, and stay close to yourself.