Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Interview with Dan Hoffman – President & CEO, M5 Networks

As President and CEO of M5 Networks, one of America’s leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers for small and midsized businesses, Dan Hoffman has redefined the business phone system market by replacing traditional phone systems and phone company arrangements with an outsourced VOIP solution that businesses truly trust.

Personable, approachable and a true visionary, Hoffman was named one of 18 nationwide winners of the 2006 Best Bosses Award by Winning Workplaces, a nationally known clearinghouse for best practices in workplace excellence and innovative people practices, and FORTUNE Small Business.

He is a much sought after speaker on the topic of Voice over IP and its related issues. He often shares his experiences as an entrepreneur with those who are looking to follow in his footsteps.

It’s my distinct pleasure to bring you Dan Hoffman…

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Dan Hoffman: Business Networking is NOT about accumulating a pile of cards, or a big outlook contacts file, or a long list of people on LinkedIn. It is about actual, quality relationships.

A relationship is a potential transaction, in which one side might get something from the other. These might be crucial vendors (plumbers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.), teachers, friends, peers, potential customers, actual customers, potential employees, actual employees, etc.

So, the point is to (1) to understand what that transaction might be and then (2) constantly upgrade your network with the best people to fulfill that transaction. Always be looking for great possible doctors… before you need them.

My network has been crucial to my ability to run a business. Crucial. It is part of my very ability to do my job, and the people have to be there before I need them.

Josh: Can you share one or two ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Dan Hoffman: Categorize your outlook contacts. Go for FEWER not more, throw out people you don’t really know. Then, ask yourself what’s missing in my network? Do I have an employment lawyer? Do I have peers that do my similar role (i.e. head of marketing, head of technology) or are knowledgeable in my industry? Then go out and fill them.

Josh: How can someone make the type of positive impression that leads to being remembered after the event or initial meeting?

Dan Hoffman: People remember emotional moments. So don’t be afraid to go there. Ask personal or controversial questions. What are you working on at work? Why do you hate your boss?