Sunday, February 06, 2011

Say Hello to Shalom Klein: The Brainchild Behind 'Jewish B2B Networking' (w/ 12,000 Members in 8 Mo.) Merits An Introduction

Shalom Klein is a human conduit. And a bit of a wunderkind.

Now just 22, in June 2010 he started Jewish B2B Networking, an organization dedicated to facilitating interaction among small business owners/personnel and prospective clients, as well as job seekers (despite the name, the group is openly non-sectarian).

Barely 8 months later, JB2BN has 12,000 members, hosts events in the Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis areas and has begun publishing a magazine--Jewish Business News--with a monthly distribution of 15,000 copies.

And something I really admire about Shalom is that while he has put the networking group, magazine and their accompanying websites together as a way to connect people in mass, he still effusively spends every day introducing dozens of individuals to each other, in person or via e-mail. While I can't help but be impressed by the volume, I sense that he derives his greatest satisfaction from each and every connection that he makes.

Says Shalom, once an aspiring Rabbi who realized that his calling involved a different form of outreach, "I'm a people person. I enjoy meeting a lot of different people, and it gives me great pleasure to connect someone to somebody else for their mutual benefit, or even just to expand the network of people that will eventually result in someone getting a new job or a new customer."

Like me, Shalom grew up and currently resides in Skokie, IL. After attending Yeshivas (Jewish institutions of higher learning) in Israel, New York and Detroit, he returned home to help his father Moshe expand his Skokie accounting practice (MK&A, Ltd.).

"I never thought I'd end up in the family business," reflects Shalom, the Director of Business Services for MK&A. "But with my father's focus on serving small businesses, it really appeals to my passion for networking and for helping people & companies get their financial house in order.

"Together we developed a small business model that our clients love, where we become their business office and handle their bookkeeping, accounting and taxes for under $99 each month, with no hourly fees."

As he proudly helped his father's firm grow substantially, Shalom was noticing how many contacts he not only was making, but sharing. "Business owners were asking me to connect them to payroll processors, I was introducing architects to lawyers, and could perceive the potential power of this massive network of people I was building."

He began Jewish B2B Networking primarily with his own contacts and in response to a need he saw within the communities with which he was most familiar.

"From my perspective, there was a lack of attention being paid to the underemployed in the Jewish community, not just people out-of-work, but those barely getting by and particularly small business people who were really struggling."

With frequent events often attended by well over 100 people, a website with a member directory in the thousands plus over 150 job listings, its sister magazine and another affiliate, Business Networking Initiative, JB2BN has expanded rapidly and impressively. And as proven by my having met Pooja Gugnani--a professional organizer of Indian descent who I recently profiled on Seth Saith--the organization is entirely ecumenical.

"We encourage anybody to register and create a profile on our website, interact online and off, avail themselves of our job board and attend events," expresses Shalom, who estimates non-Jews comprise roughly 40% of the audience at most events, with that percentage likely to grow. "This isn't a religious thing; it's about business and jobs, two things that unite almost everyone."

The next Jewish B2B Networking event in the Chicagoland area will be held on Tuesday, February 22 at 5:30pm at GCG Financial in Bannockburn. Further details can be found on JewishB2Bnetworking.com and pre-registration is recommended.

I found the event I attended to be exceptionally well-organized, with a structured networking session to begin, a guest speaker and time for open networking. According to Shalom, this is pretty much par for the course.

While he is quite justifiably pleased with how his initiatives have mushroomed, Shalom Klein professes to harbor no aspirations to be "the next Mark Zuckerberg" nor that the trappings of success will ever be what bring him the greatest satisfaction. This isn't hard for me to believe, especially in witnessing his easy smile widen with pride in relaying that--as we were talking--a woman for whom he'd provided an introduction had just emailed him news of landing a new job.

Feb. 2011 issue of Jewish Business News.
Click image to read online.

"There's no doubt that she's very appreciative, and when she in turn has a chance to help someone else, that will make me even happier," imparts Shalom, who succinctly suggests that the key to effective networking is simply an eagerness to help other people.

Soon heading to Washington, DC to meet with several members of Illinois' Congressional delegation, for whom tackling unemployment is a paramount issue, Shalom concludes by conveying how his Orthodox Jewish faith and abiding passion for networking intertwine. 

"I have always practiced an age-old lesson that is a principal in the Torah: The highest form of charity is helping someone earn a living on their own.

To that, and to all that Shalom Klein is doing, Seth Saith, "Amen."

2 comments:

Karen said...

Shalom is truly a networker of the heart! He does his work for all the right reasons and is someone I am pleased to work with! Thanks for helping to spread his reach.
Karen Gutman, JVS Detroit kgutman@jvsdet.org

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