Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Businessman takes networking to extreme

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Potomac resident Yanik Silver maintains a list of things he wants to do during his lifetime.

Among them: Climb Mt. Everest, go on an African safari, raft the Colorado River, fly to the moon, scuba dive the great barrier reef in Australia, visit every continent, and Rollerblade through Paris at night.

While he hasn’t crossed off everything on his list, at 34, he already has check marks next to quite a few. This is due in part to Maverick Business Adventures, an exclusive club for successful entrepreneurs that takes an extreme-adventure approach to business networking retreats.

Silver, a successful Potomac Internet entrepreneur, started the group as a way to marry two of his passions – extreme adventures and business.

‘‘I’ve always been into these crazy adventures, and at the same time, not a lot of my friends were able to come along,” he said. ‘‘I thought it would be great to create a club for people like me, successful entrepreneurs, who wanted to do all these things but put them on their someday-maybe list but never got around to it.”

Silver has participated in Spain’s running of the bulls, gone Bungee jumping, and recently signed up to travel into space with Virgin Galactic, a company seeking to make private space travel available to the public.

Silver started his first Internet business — a site geared to help businesses generate sales — in 2000 after getting the idea at 3 a.m., jumping out of bed and registering the domain name ‘‘I started teaching other people how to sell their expertise,” Silver said. Eight years later, Silver has expanded his presence on the Web and also conducts business seminars, all in all, raking in about $3 million a year.

However, Silver’s original plan was to work in his family’s business, a medical sales company started by his father after the family came to the United States from Russia in 1976. Silver said he had helped his father with the business since he was 14.

His adventurous nature may have had something to do with his desire to start his own business, he said. ‘‘I think the adventurous quality has served me in all aspects,” Silver said. ‘‘I’m not just trying to blaze my own trail with my own business – it goes beyond that.”

Silver designed Maverick Business Adventures for businessmen and women with a similar adventurous quality, with one catch — it’s open only to entrepreneurs with a minimum business gross revenue of $1 million, or a personal income of $250,000 per year. Members must also be willing to share their business experience, refer other members, and cannot, according to Silver, have a big ego.

But the trips aren’t all play and no work – entrepreneurs get a chance to network with each other and learn about each other’s businesses in between adventures through structured workshops. Take, for example, the first trip Silver organized – off-road racing in Mexico. ‘‘We’d drive these big dune buggies in the morning, stop at the next destination, shower, and do a business session,” Silver said.

Participants get a valuable opportunity to network with a wide array of business professionals, said Chris Zavadowski, a resident of Centreville, Va. and friend of Silver’s who attended the most recent adventure trip in Las Vegas.

Zavadowski is the owner of an online marketing and publishing business, and also the associate producer of Children of Eden, a show slated for Broadway. During the Las Vegas trip, he got a chance to float at zero gravity and fly a jet during simulated combat in the sky.

Zavadowski said the adventure trip complemented his personality as an entrepreneur. ‘‘One of the reasons I like theater is there’s always something different to be had in that world – and also online, with a new Web site, there’s always something new to be created,” Zavadowski said. ‘‘I always get bored. This meshes well with that – it’s a new experience.”

The group has already gone on two adventures, and two more are slated for later this year.

So what does Silver take out of the adventures into his business? He says he’s constantly encouraged to ‘‘think big.”

‘‘It’s definitely not for every entrepreneur or CEO,” Silver said. ‘‘As I say, it’s for everyone who wants to live life to the fullest and is willing to give back and share what’s working for them.”