How did fCN begin?
The network of people I knew was growing and very diverse: from captains of industry to doctors, lawyers, artists, young entrepreneurs, people representing cultural institutions – even politicians.
It was then that I noticed my capacity for listening enabled me to see connections between others.
What kind of connections?
Someone I’d meet would be looking for something, or had a certain challenge. A few days or weeks later, I’d meet someone who had just the thing that person was looking for. A perfect fit. So I started linking people. Then, one day I realised I had to formalise this connecting of people. And that’s when I started the fCN.
Is it fair to say you are the linchpin between all fCN members?
Most definitely. I know all of them personally, their business, their personal interests. And I really connect with them because I see links and connections that most people don’t. Add to this the fact that I have a photographic memory and am supported worldwide by all the co-founders and a great team, and you can imagine the power of the fCN!
You’re clearly a ‘people person’. Where did that come from?
Both my parents were teachers and exposed me to a multitude of knowledge. Therefore, I was brought up with a broad outlook on life plus a wide range of interests. I was on a quest for knowledge in the broadest sense of the word. And I believe the best way to acquire knowledge is through meeting people. I turned meeting people and learning from them into an art form. It explains my fascination for people. I want to meet them, get to know them and learn from them. My ambition in fact is to meet as many people as possible, people with an interesting story… people with a vision.
What makes fCN different to other business networks?
It’s both an offline and online community, and when it comes to names and fame there’s no other network like it: it has quality. It’s also incredibly diverse.
Plus the culture and values within the network ensure an unprecedented goodwill factor. The result is a network that provides its members with opportunities to do business together. I don’t know the exact value of the business generated in euros, but I’m sure the impact on the Dutch GNP is significant.
And, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, what definitely sets it apart from other networks is how I can connect members to each other in a personal manner, based on my knowledge and understanding of them… I’m a good listener.
Tell us more about the online aspect.
Members of the fCN have immediate and direct access to call upon other members for knowledge, contacts, experience and skills – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Before and after a select event, where I have personally introduced members to each other, it’s interesting for them to read about each other online.
What style of networking events do you organise – and how often?
We have a major networking event twice a year: always a formal cocktail party in a unique location with entertainment and engaging speakers. We also organise smaller so-called ‘select events’ for between 20 to 50 people every month. These are bespoke occasions drawing a select group of people with the highest potential for networking. For each event, we find a unique location; places one usually doesn’t go to or can’t access. We hosted a breakfast at the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, for instance. We sat in the area where a famous painting of the ‘Amsterdam Regents’ hangs and took a photo of our group next to the painting, as if we were the ‘new Amsterdam Regents’.
It’s all in the details. Tell us about your distinctive seating policy.
For every event, I personally arrange the seating order – even the seats in a plane during trade missions. It’s essential to perfectly orchestrate who sits next to who – and why. Whether that’s people of the same nationality or a Dutch businessperson with a Chinese businessperson, it’s essential for optimising connections and business between them, as well as facilitating the sharing of their own networks. This is also what makes fCN so strong.
Tags: Merlin Melles, fCN, Founders Carbon Network, fCN Visions