A couple of months ago, my wife, Lisa, and I bought a new elliptical trainer for our home workout area. We’d been saving for it for several years because we believe in getting high quality (because we do use the machines — a lot). We were pleasantly surprised when, in addition to the workout equipment itself, we also received a complimentary in-home, 1-hour personal training consultation.


So, we contacted the training company, American Mobile Fitness, and set up a time for one of their trainers to come out and work with me for an hour to come up with a plan to meet my fitness goals. I set aside the time and waited with anticipation.

And he never showed.

Not only was he AWOL, but he never called to let me know he wasn’t going to make it. That kind of irks me. I have a few other commitments in my life and this felt a lot like disrespect.

A few days later, the owner of American Mobile Fitness contacted us to let us know that he had stepped in on the situation. Apparently there was some snafu with the schedule and when they discovered the problem, the trainer in question was unable to contact me because his phone wasn’t working properly.

OK. It may have been just a story, but I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

The owner definitely wanted to make it up to me and rescheduled his trainer, at my convenience, to come out to give me my hour consultation. I wanted to believe that everything would be OK. In fact, I wanted to believe that, despite our initial problems, maybe we might even set up a long-term training relationship. Yeah, everything was going to be great!

Do I have to tell how the rest of the story goes? Suffice it to say that the second visit was remarkably like the first. It didn’t happen.

So, what does this have to do with networking?

First, providing value with no expectation of return is one of the fundamentals of good networking. Keep in mind, though, just because you are providing something of value, free of charge, doesn’t mean there won’t be some costs to the recipient. These may be opportunity costs, attention, time, whatever. Make sure whatever you are providing is worth that cost.

Second, communication is everything. This is something I need to work on, too, but the more mystery you can remove from a networking relationship, the stronger it will be. Meeting someone for coffee tomorrow? Drop them a quick note to confirm. Not sure if a referral is right for a contact? Verify before you pass their name along. Running late to a meeting? Call and let them know. People like to be certain of what is going on in their lives. The more you can provide that assurance, the more they know they can trust you.

Third (and probably most important), deliver. If you promise to send someone an article, do so. If you tell them you’ll give them a call, pick up the phone. If you say you’re going to be there, show up. Saying you are going to do something and then not delivering tells that person only one thing. You can’t be trusted.

And if you can’t be trusted, you will never be worthy of the strongest connections and the most profitable network.

Photo credit: Jill Clardy