Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

Invite Serendipity With Strategy An entrepreneur suggests that strangers who extend an offer to meet over coffee should be sure to clarify a purpose.

By Jurgen Appelo Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

REUTERS | Richard Chung

Almost every day, people ask me to meet for coffee, lunch or a drink without clarifying their intent.

"Hi, Jurgen, I saw you're visiting my city," they will say. "Can we meet? Maybe we can develop some opportunities. I'm a reader of your blog."

My skeptical mind then wonders if they intend to sell their products or services to me. But my kinder side acknowledges that many people are simply inexperienced at maximizing potential with minimal effort.

Related: How Much Should You Give Away for Free During a Coffee Meeting?

Here's the standard email reply that I use in such cases:


Thanks for your invitation to have a coffee/drink/lunch/dinner together. I appreciate that very much. However, due to overwhelming demand for my available time, I must decline, for now.

What is missing from your kind invitation (from my perspective) is a clear why.

I get a lot of requests from people to 'discuss ideas,' 'share experiences' or 'explore opportunities' with me in a one-on-one setting, without clarifying an obvious purpose or intent.

I must stress that I am all in favor of discussing ideas, sharing experiences and exploring opportunities, but I already do a tremendous amount of that during dozens of conferences, workshops and company events all year long, with hundreds of people.

There is no need for me to schedule a separate conversation because I'm almost drowning in the noise of ideas, experiences, and opportunities. What I need is more clarity, not more conversation. Focus instead of divergence.

Therefore, what I seek in every personal invitation is an answer to two questions:

1. What is the suggested value for you?
2. What is the suggested value for me?

When you can offer me more clarity on that, I may prioritize your value offer over others.

If you prefer to leave it simply to an exchange of ideas, experiences or opportunities, then I'll happily engage during the next conference, workshop or business event where we meet.

Thanks again for your offer. Hope to stay connected!


Related: 3 Reasons Why That 'Free Consultation' Is a Losing Strategy for Entrepreneurs

Usually, people don't know how to answer to this. Either they cannot formulate what they're looking for or they don't really know how it will be valuable for me. It's also possible they find my rejection offensive, even though I wrote it in the kindest possible way. Well sorry, a reality check is not intended to be pleasant, is it?

Some people complain and say that I should allow some serendipity in my daily life and I agree. But there are smarter and more effective ways to invite unexpected opportunities. In the time I could have had one cup of coffee with a random person, I now wrote an entire article for the readers of Entrepreneur.com.

I have no idea what may come out of this, but I do know that I won't be writing for YourLocalCoffeeBar.com. Serendipity is best invited strategically, not randomly.

Related: Stranger Danger: 3 Good Reasons to Reject a LinkedIn Connection Request

Jurgen Appelo

Writer, Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO of Happy Melly

Jurgen Appelo is CEO of the business network Happy Melly. He is an entrepreneur, speaker, illustrator and blogger and the author of Managing for Happiness.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

Did OpenAI steal Scarlett Johansson's voice? 5 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs in The AI Era

Did OpenAI steal Scarlett Johansson's voice? OpenAI has since paused the "Sky" voice feature, but Johansson argues that this is no coincidence. In response, Johansson delivers a masterclass for entrepreneurs on navigating the AI era successfully.

Business News

Apple iPhone 7 Users May Be Owed a Slice of a $35 Million Settlement — Here's How to Claim Your Share

Previous (and current, no judgment) iPhone 7 users may be entitled to up to $349. The deadline to file a claim is June 3.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.


How Corporate Investment Helps Startups Deploy Technology Faster Than Ever

Financial resources, strategic alignment, access to expertise, market validation and operational support make this deployment possible.