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What Are Your Guiding Principles? A well-defined credo can guide you through rough entrepreneurial waters and steer your business to success.

By Brad Sugars Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Defining your beliefs and guiding principles is important to running a successful business. If you don't define your beliefs, others--be it friends, associates or the marketplace--will do it for you.

By taking ownership of your own values and defining what's important to you, you are setting up a system that will guide you through the rough waters of entrepreneurship.

Early in my career, I created a simple credo (Latin for "I believe") to define my values as an entrepreneur. This credo has proven to be a powerful and flexible guide over the course of owning and operating more than 30 different kinds of businesses.

The real value in a credo is the act and process of developing one of your own. However, you can use the 14-point outline below as a template for deciding what principles will guide you in running your business.

  1. Be Organized. Organized minds are clear, and clear minds take action towards clear objectives, so get as organized and as clear as possible in your life and business affairs. Start with your desk and work area, then with your plans and actions. Schedule a written plan of your activities and objectives and stick with it the entire day. Do this the night before and you're ahead of 90 percent of the rest of the population--including your competitors.
  2. Be Dedicated. Every day, do at least one thing you've been putting off. As the great Jim Rohn has said: "There are two types of pain you will go through in life--the pain of discipline and the pain of regret." Each moment you can decide which you'd rather experience. Successful people know that the pain of discipline is the price of their success. Start making it the price of yours.
  3. Be Confident. Feel as good as possible and achieve a sense of well-being by just being quiet and contemplative for 15 minutes every day. Also, find a way to exercise at least 15 minutes every day. Both will boost positive feelings about yourself, which translates into a confidence that is attractive to others--including new customers and clients.
  4. Be Appreciative. Tell your family, friends and business associates how much you appreciate them. Be generous with praise and compliments--and find more things people in your world are doing right, rather than doing wrong.
  5. Be Optimistic. Leave past failures in the past and focus positively on your future. If you are a glass-half-empty person, start seeing the glass as being half-full. Life--and business--is more enjoyable that way.
  6. Get Educated. Read something that improves your mind every day. Keep yourself away from unproductive people, activity and news. Become a master and an expert in your industry, and more business will flow to you over time simply on the basis of your credibility and expertise in your field.
  7. Be Thrifty. Never pay full price. Consume less and never pay more tax than absolutely necessary. Don't be in business simply for tax reasons, but always recognize that the more resources you pay out to the treasury, the less you will have to put back into your business.
  8. Be Sociable. Be charming and agreeable. Never speak badly of anyone. You never know if your next big client or customer is within earshot of something you have to say. Make it positive, and you'll never have to worry about negative consequences.
  9. Be Alert. Open yourself to new ideas, experiences and people who can teach you something new--and stay out of ruts and routines. This is one of the best ways to be aware and focused on new opportunities. Remember that some of the greatest product breakthroughs have come from people recognizing the value of interesting and unique innovations.
  10. Be Dependable. Meet all of your business, social and moral obligations punctually, honestly and honorably. If you are the "go to" person or the "go to" business, you'll never have to worry about having to generate extra leads or word-of-mouth referrals.
  11. Be Decisive. Make a decision right now. My general rule is that if I'm 80 percent certain, the extra 20 percent of my indecisiveness is a mixture of emotions based on both excitement and fear. My attitude is to let excitement win more times than not. Is it 100 percent successful every time? No. But then again, nothing ever is. All I know is that I've had a lot more fun when I've let excitement win.
  12. Be Human. Remember to experience the journey as well as the results. It's absolutely necessary to keep your attention focused on your goals, but don't miss out on all the great experiences going on around you right now. After all, when you get to your destination, you'll realize that some of the greatest lessons learned and values gained were found in the trip there.
  13. Be Tough. Demand only the highest and best standards of everyone you surround yourself with.and that includes setting, demanding and being accountable for high standards for yourself. Remember that as the leader goes, so goes the organization. And if you are truly leading, you have to be firm and consistent in setting, establishing and following your own "rules of the game."
  14. Give and You Shall Receive. Give the thing you want most and you'll be amazed at what you get in return. See all opportunities as a way to give and share and add value, and you'll see your efforts multiplied in ways you couldn't have imagined, for the greater good of you, your company and your customers.

Over time, you'll discover that to truly build up your business, you'll have to build up yourself as well. Think of your credo as guiding principles that will help steer you toward success.

Brad Sugars is the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH. As an entrepreneur, author and business coach, he has owned and operated more than two dozen companies including his main company, ActionCOACH, which has more than 1,000 offices in 34 countries.

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