Networking = addition + multiplication

Math Fooij on the success of Maastricht Open Coffee

“I make sheep into people.” This is a quote Math Fooij occasionally uses as part of his elevator pitch during Open Coffee Maastricht. “Because,” he explains to his audience, “the strength of networking lies in your ability to be reproducible.” And what is the value of the quote? It certainly gets people’s attention. And our attention has been drawn: Who is Math? What does he do? And why is his formula the secret ingredient of Maastricht’s Open Coffee, an event that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year?

Math is owner at Avytos, a company specialising in business development. Or as Math describes it himself, ‘an approach to personal and commercial growth by deliberately opting to temporarily let go of the reins. To create the space you need to reconsider and reposition an excellent product or an ideal service. All with the eventual goal of creating added value to a business or an entrepreneur.’ Without proper communication, business development doesn’t stand a chance, so Math regularly also organises (communication) training. He is also part of the lecturing staff at Syntra in Hasselt.

About Open Coffee

Every month, together with a group of other self-employed entrepreneurs, Math organises an Open Coffee session. Maastricht Open Coffee is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. “Open Coffee is a worldwide network concept that originated in London. The founder of Skype organised informal meetings in London to help bring together financial backers and entrepreneurs, to encourage entrepreneurship. The idea spread all over the world, including to the Netherlands. The first Open Coffee in Maastricht was held in 2009. The aim of the sessions is to offer a meeting place, and to forge new links.”

5 years in charge

Math first came across Open Coffee in 2014, and together with Jan Poolen and Yvonne Hoogstraten took over the baton for the organisation in Maastricht. “I was familiar with the concept, having attended a number of Open Coffee sessions in Hasselt and Maastricht, together with Jan. When we heard that the person responsible for organising the Maastricht Open Coffee event at the time was leaving, we quickly stepped up.”

Clean sweep

“The concept of an Open Coffee is relatively simple. The sessions are generally held in the morning. While enjoying a cup of coffee, you can expand your network. Five years ago, we added our own personal touch and to be honest, that is exactly why the Maastricht variant is so successful.”

Growth

So what is the secret? “Networking is fun and it can generate new business and new customers, but that is not our aim. Indeed: an Open Coffee session only occasionally actually results in extra work or new customers. More important – and that is why people are so keen to attend – are the opportunities and tips offered during the meetings, to boost your growth. Because if you grow, so your business grows, too.”

All very interesting, but how do you grow by drinking coffee with other people? “Networking appears simple: have a chat, exchange business cards, and then move on to the next person. But have you really left an impression, or really made a new contact? No. We believe that success lies in your ability to be reproducible, for others. It depends on the impression you make as an individual. Your story and the person you must be remembered by the people you have talked to, so they tell your story for you, next time. That is why every meeting is slightly different. The central focus is personal growth.”

Life skills

“There is plenty of space for free networking during the Open Coffee sessions. But there is also a ‘managed’ element. In groups and in 1-on-1 meetings, you are put to work. With speed dating, for example, elevator pitches or colour networking (groups are created according to colours and the groups then work together on a particular assignment, ed.). At Open Coffee Maastricht, you never find yourself on your own, and you acquire a new set of life skills and knowledge. After all, true networking is about addition and multiplication, and it all comes for the bargain basement price of just 5 euros. Half of the money raised goes to the Toon Hermans Huis Maastricht,” added Math.

Cross border

Open Coffee in Maastricht, as its name suggests, is open to everyone. “It makes no difference whether you are an entrepreneur, a civil servant, a student, an asylum seeker, a jobseeker, Dutch or Belgian. The important thing is you come with an open mind. Open Coffee in Maastricht is above all hallmarked by its international character. “That is not only thanks to the occasional presence of Belgian and German visitors, or the fact that we are located close to the Belgian border,” explained Math. “During every meeting, we try to offer the participants the tools they need to cross their own borders, too. And to put themselves on the map in a manner that clearly stands out.”

More information

For more information about Open Coffee Maastricht, visit www.ocmaastricht.nl, or drop in and see for yourself. Please feel free. Every third Friday of the month from 8.30 AM to 11.30 AM. Always at an interesting location in or around Maastricht.