Nobody is an island, and no business can succeed if its leaders close themselves off from the outside world. There may be a huge array of digital opportunities for connection, but none of them will matter, and none of them will endure if you can’t forge durable bonds with your clients, colleagues, peers, and partners.

In the fitness industry, a direct, face-to-face personal connection is often key to building and extending your network. A million blog posts and emails can’t replace the connection you can create with just a couple of minutes of sincere one-on-one conversation with someone who can see in your eyes that you mean every word you say. Everyone you meet is a potential connection, so you should be ready to make a strong impression every time.

But more important than the act of connection is understanding the purpose behind that interaction. As a coach and entrepreneur (if you’re a coach you’ll always be an entrepreneur), you’re responsible for defining and broadcasting your brand to the world. A purposeful interaction is one key to defining your brand in the minds of your connections before they can define it for themselves.

Every person you meet isn’t an opportunity to make a sale, but they do represent opportunities to make your brand known and desired on your terms. You should never be afraid to proudly explain who you are, what you do, and why it all matters to yourself and to the world at large.

The people you meet will become part of your network, and they can represent potential clients, colleagues, business partners, or mentors. Keep an open mind when meeting new people, because some people can’t or won’t be pigeonholed into the role you think they should have in your professional life. You defined yourself to your new connections, so allow your connections the chance to define themselves to you. You might find that the role they’ve chosen for themselves offers far more than the role you thought they’d take when you first met them.

As you build your network, it’s important to regularly engage with it. This is one area in which digital tools and social media can be a great benefit. It’s far easier to maintain an active line of communication with hundreds or thousands of people through frequent Facebook and LinkedIn posts and messages than it is with phone calls and coffee meetings — and in a busy world, it’s far more accessible for all parties to have regular digital communications than rare face-to-face contact. Let your network know what you’re up to, and show them you’re interested in their news as well.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your network for help. Steve Jobs once said, “I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help.” If you’ve established mutual trust and respect with the people in your network, you’ll be amazed at how willing they’ll be to give you advice, refer a new client to you, or even lend a hand to help handle a tough problem. Give your network a reason to remember you at the start, and it’ll become much easier for you to find what you need from that network later on.

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