When people we know die, the feeling of sadness we experience is often joined by other emotions, including regret. Who hasn’t regretted not talking more with their grandparents about their childhoods, their first loves, their heartaches, their triumphs?

Hearing about their experiences not only bonds us more closely to the people we love and admire, but it provides us with second-hand life experiences that can guide us when we happen upon similar situations.

As valuable as this guidance is in your personal life, it can be just as important in your business life. That’s why veterans in any industry are important. These people can offer valuable insights based on their years of experience.

The fitness industry lost a lot of valuable insights over the last two months with the deaths of three industry veterans who each had a hand in shaping the fitness industry: Jack LaLanne, Dale Dibble and Tim Richards.

LaLanne was the best known of the three, but this former club owner, author and TV fitness personality would undoubtedly agree that Dale Dibble, former co-owner of Cedardale Health & Fitness and co-founder of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), and Tim Richards, owner of the Orchard Hills Athletic Club and co-founder of IHRSA, also were important people to the fitness industry.

Both Dibble and Richards shared LaLanne’s enthusiasm for fitness and for making people healthier. They both grew their one club from a tennis facility to a large multipurpose facility at a time when they didn’t have many examples to follow. They became the examples. They weathered the ups and downs of their local economies and the national economy. They survived competitors. They changed with the times. These men were seasoned and had lessons to share. And what’s most important is that they loved to share that knowledge with anyone who asked.

The industry is full of veterans like these. Their experiences are invaluable. And for the most part, they are from a generation that is open about sharing because along with being businesspeople, they are fitness people. Their main goal is to work with others to get people fit, and their secondary goal is to make money. That’s a bit different from some newer club operators whose main goal is to make money with the side result of possibly making some people fit. (Although the latter group possesses valuable business knowledge the industry must tap into.)

If your main goal is to bring fitness and a healthy lifestyle to as many people as you possibly can, you must get to know some of these veterans and soak up all the knowledge they are willing to share. We’ve run a few articles in which we’ve tapped into the wisdom of veterans, but perhaps the best way to gain from their experience is to call one, ask for their advice or even ask them to mentor you. Industry roundtable groups also are wonderful opportunities to learn from the experience of veteran operators. And, of course, conferences allow you to network with these people.

So stop isolating yourself and take advantage of the knowledge and experience this industry’s veterans are so willing to offer. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even be able to teach them a few new tricks.