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

Dan McComb interview – Co-Founder of Biznik.com

Dan McComb is Co-founder of Biznik, an online business networking community built around member hosted events.

Josh: Dan, how do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Dan McComb: Business networking is making things happen for other people so that they’ll make things happen for you. In that order (most people get it backwards). Business networking is particularly important to indie biz, because when you’re small, collaboration is a much surer path to success than competition.

Josh: Can you share a couple of ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Dan McComb: The single most important tip I can give is this: Stop thinking about what you need, and start thinking about what people you meet need. If you can help the people you meet, whether it’s online or face to face, it’s only a matter of time before they start helping you.

So spend a little time every day finding ways to connect other people. Hardly anyone does this, by the way. It’s actually quite difficult to reframe the world this way – we’re all programmed to figure out what’s in it for ourselves in almost every situation.

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

Dan McComb: First, be authentic. What you think of as your biggest weakness could turn out to be your biggest strength. Business networking is like dating – it’s tempting to try and present yourself in a radiant light, but often that translates into dumbing down what’s really cool about yourself or putting on an act that isn’t really you.

Trying to be someone you’re not is a really bad idea. Here’s why: because if they like you, you’re stuck trying to be someone you’re not, which won’t last long and will likely end badly. And if they don’t, well, they might have liked you if you’d simply been yourself!

Secondly, think of business networking more as an opportunity to get to know people than an opportunity to sell yourself and your services. If you can get to know someone, you can start to make things happen for them. And when you make things happen for them, they are likely to make things happen for you.

Third, don’t take yourself or your business too seriously (unless that’s who you really are!). I want to run screaming out of the room when I meet people at events who approach business networking like a serious task. Business should be fun, and business networking should be really fun.

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Dan McComb: My biggest networking success was meeting John Adair, who is Biznik’s lead incredibly talented Rails developer, at a Biznik event. At the time I was writing all of the code for Biznik myself, in my spare time, and I knew that I needed to find someone better than me who could take things to the next level.

We liked each other right away when we met, and we had coffee a few days later, which ultimately led to us deciding to work together. That’s also how we hooked up with our attorney, Danny Bronski, and our business consultant, Karrie Kohlhaas. So for us, the big business networking success has been a lot about finding the talent we needed to continue growing the business.

Josh: Dan, you are the Co-founder of Biznik. Can you tell us a bit about it, as well as what makes it stand out from other types of resources in the marketplace?

Dan McComb: We created Biznik as networking for a new generation of business people who are interested in taking their lifestyle, sense of self and priorities into business, as opposed to checking them at the office door.

Biznik is a community that is focused like a laser beam on what we call “indie professionals” – entrepreneurs, consultants, anyone who is self-employed or starting a business. Biznik’s flavor is decidedly urban and progressive. It’s business networking for the creative class.

Technology wise, we wanted to build an online social network that recognizes face-to-face events are still the best way to build trust. So we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into creating Biznik’s events tools, which allow any member to create events in their community (and keep 100 percent of the fee they set, if any). We have fantastic localization features that I haven’t seen on any other business networking site.

And our Action Menu user interface is something we’re extremely proud of – it allows you to communicate and interact with other members without leaving whatever page you’re on, which vastly improves the user experience of the website.

But the biggest thing that stands out is our commitment to being an open network. Basic membership will always be free, and you don’t just get some token features at that level. We’ve got two paid levels with additional features, but all our members’ profiles are available to anyone viewing the site, which means they’re fully indexed on Google, which means we’re driving traffic to our members’ profiles 24 hours a day.

Virtually every indie business person’s biggest problem is getting noticed, so our privacy setting is very simple: on or off. Sites like LinkedIn have to deal with the fact that half of their members are just as concerned with being invisible as being visible (think someone who is looking for a job but doesn’t want their boss to know, for example) which makes for a very confusing and complicated permissions system. By staying focused on this niche, we’ve been able to eliminate complexity and to create a very simple, powerful and low-cost platform for networking.

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