Any successful business owner knows that shortcuts to a rewarding, successful life simply do not exist. Conversely, the disciplines, rituals, and daily habits that a business person follows form the basis on how they establish their health, parenting and business lifestyles. These guidelines in the hands of committed people will lead them to create a simple set of rules to guide their decision-making in all areas of life.

Think for a moment about your core values. If you could form hard and fast rules based on these values, you could learn from mistakes rather than simply making a mental note not to repeat them in the future. One of my favorite quotes is, “People rarely make the same mistake twice; they usually make it 20 to 30 times.” Because this is true for many business owners, every hiccup in the course of doing business can become an opportunity to create and modify a rule from which decisions are made. Creating operations manuals for each area of your business – employees, marketing, vendor relations, etc. – is the best way to keep track of the rules used to make decisions.

But where do you start?  Ask yourself three pivotal questions:

  • Exactly who are my best customers?
  • What very specific way do we sell to them?
  • How is our product best delivered?

Use these questions as a springboard to deliberately add simplicity, probability, and leverage to your business, your life, and your future. Create a set of rules to answer each question, then modify them as incidents arrive that reveal your weaknesses. In the long run, these rules will act as a buffer between your business and the impact of setbacks your company will inevitably encounter, from hiring the wrong kinds of employees to impending litigation.

At this point you may be wondering how strict you should be about your rules because you enjoy a little flexibility from time to time as well as the risk-taking which can be common among entrepreneurs. If you stray from the rules you make based on your values and experience, you can easily throw off the harmony you have created in your home and business life. Only make exceptions under very rare circumstances for very good reasons, because only when the rules are clearly defined can true creativity and success be realized.

business finishing school

While this can all sound very somber and unbending, remember that you should take your business seriously, but not take yourself too seriously. Combining this concept with rules-based decision-making will liberate you from frustration and sleepless nights because successful people have fun; and having fun, while making money is the holy grail.


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Richard_Sapio_profile-e14249909042671-150x150Rick Sapio has been involved in more than 100 companies, as either a founder, investor, owner, or operator, over the past 30 years. Rick has realized that by using a principle-centered business approach, one can radically increase the success of virtually any business. For the past 22 years, he has been CEO of a financial services/healthcare holding company. Go to to learn more about his 12 Foundational Principles of Business.