A few weeks ago, I did an interview with a lovely young lady from M5 Communications for the Nova Scotia Come to Life initiative. I’ve posted the interview in it’s entirety below. (To see the original, simply follow this link.)
Hailing from the hometown of the heroic Sidney Crosby, Richard Black’s introductory line of choice is: “I knew Sid the Kid; I used to bully him on the playground.” Of course, Black is quick to admit the story doesn’t check out: he’s 10 years Sidney’s senior.
But, that’s just the type of guy Rich Black is – friendly, conversational, droll; a social being; the type of guy that immediately puts you at ease with his pleasant and relaxed demeanor.
That’s probably why networking comes as second nature to him. Lucky for him. In his line of work, networking is key to success. At least, it has been the key to Black’s success.
Richard Black operates his own web and graphic design company in Dartmouth. When he’s not busy building corporate identities from scratch, designing websites or putting together the myriad pieces of the Web 2.0 puzzle for his clients (and training them in how to use it), he’s networking with peers and potential customers – constantly staying on top of the scene; continually evolving his business.
“There’s a fine balance between networking as much as possible to ensure business development unfolds and actually sitting in front of the computer and producing tangible results,” says Black. “And both aspects of the business (development and production of high quality collateral) are equally important.”
In fact, Black finds so much value in networking that he developed his own informal group, called Dartnet. When it began in January 2009, Dartnet comprised a few dedicated members who met weekly over breakfast. Today, Dartnet meets monthly and has expanded its membership ten-fold. In fact, this January more than 40 people celebrated the first anniversary of Dartnet as they informally chatted about the industry to which they all have intimate ties.
Certainly, Black’s tie to the design industry is an intimate one. The Cole Harbour native studied at NSCAD University for a few years and then attended the New Brunswick Community College where he concentrated in animation and design. From there, he landed a gig producing animation for a CBC show. Today he heads up Rich Graphics from his home office.
Rich Graphics is a small design studio that offers cohesive design solutions for both print and web applications. Black designs for a multitude of media, including: brand identities, graphic design for print, web design and development, social media and web hosting. His clients include small- to medium-sized businesses, most of whom are local.
“Local small- and medium-size businesses have always been my target audience,” explains Black, as he reflects on the entrepreneurial dream he has made a reality. “We have a vibrant business community here in Nova Scotia. I try to stay true to my roots; support the local community as much as possible.”
Most recently, he developed the website for the Governor General’s community spirit award. But he has also worked for many clients across diverse sectors.
Black finds clients by doing what he does best: socializing, mingling at professional networking events or chatting via social media.
And positive word of mouth from his uber-satisfied clients doesn’t hurt, either.
It’s no wonder this people-person has a passion for new media: he lives and breathes social interaction every day of his life. Black explains, “Social media is part of what I sell. I’ve set up custom Facebook pages and coinciding Twitter backgrounds for clients; then I show them how to work it all.”
And soon, he will embark on a speaking tour focusing on social media and how to use it corporately. He will be sharing his insights and experiences with Nova Scotia’s business community.
Regarding social media, Black says “I think people are innately social creatures, and that’s why they’re taking through Facebook and Twitter – not just in their personal lives, but in the workplace as well.
“I believe that interaction through the Net will continue to prosper. It’s an extension of networking.” And, of course, from Black’s perspective, networking is paramount.
“With social media taking flight in the business world, connecting with new clients and learning from peers becomes much easier,” he says. “And I’m lucky to be operating my business in a province that is really on-board with emerging technologies.”
Black says running a business in Nova Scotia has some definite advantages. “One of my favourite parts of operating here is the reciprocal friendliness between competitors. We learn from each other and help each other out – it’s friendlier here than in the big, densely-populated cities that have more vendors than work,” he explains.
“My competitors are more like mentors than opponents,” adds Black. “And often, I’m able to collaborate with people in the industry – writers, designers, PR specialists – to deliver high-caliber pieces for large-scale projects.”
Though Black currently operates the business alone, he hopes to one day expand. “Sure, I’d like to employ some people,” he says matter-of-factly. But for now, producing quality results for clients and continuing to connect with his peers and potential clients is at the top of Richard Black’s priority list.
It’s a job he does well. Whether hosting breakfast networking opportunities through Dartnet, presenting on the latest design industry happenings, or meeting clients over coffee, he’s always staying connected.
Black writes a blog, too. And as it turns out (evidenced by blog posts and photos), he may have joked about bullying Sidney Crosby on his hometown schoolyard, but he really does know Olympic snowboarder Sarah Conrad, who he used to snowboard with behind Cole Harbour Place as a young man.
And that’s certainly not surprising for this well-connected social butterfly, for it’s this knack for relationship building and design work makes Rich Black the kind of guy he is.