It’s very easy to complicate things. This is especially true in business, where we tend to make even the simplest of activities much harder than they have to be. We can so easily get hung up on over analyzing data and implementing complex processes that we oftentimes forget the essential rules of running a good business.

Because of this realization, I live by and advise business owners across the country to follow what I call the “Four Rules of Business.” I believe that if a business and the people in it can follow these guidelines, they will be in the top 10 percent in their industry, and definitely ahead of their competition.

Rule #1: Be on time, every time. I have no idea why we find it so hard to arrive on time these days, but I’m seeing more and more people show up late and then simply apologize, as if that makes it all better. Being on time is the simplest of responsibilities. When you are consistently tardy, it shows others that you are unreliable and lack consideration and respect for their time and the commitment you made.

Rule #2: Do what you say you will do. One of the quickest ways to lose trust is to tell someone you’ll do something and then not follow through. Businesses are constantly guilty of this because people overcommit, don’t follow up or simply don’t care. Next time you tell someone you’ll do something, be sure that you can do it — or don’t say it. If you find yourself unable to do what you promised, immediately connect with the person to whom you made the promise and discuss it with them. Do not just ignore it —you’re the one that loses, not them.

Rule #3: Finish what you start. Yeah, sort of like the last rule but with a twist. How many half-read books do you have? This one deals with a powerful edge called consistent execution. We all have started something then stopped to work on something else, only to find ourselves with even more work piling up. I say, “If you touch it, finish it.” Power through the distractions of doing the small things before the big things and finish. Just finish.

Rule #4: Say and mean, “Please” and “Thank you.” This is my favorite rule. As a society, we have lost many of the common courtesies that create loyalty between us. You, like me, have walked into a store and heard, “Welcome to (fill in the blank)” or left a store with someone saying, “Thank you for coming in today,” all without ever making eye contact or looking in your general direction. It’s not enough to say the words. You have to mean them, too.

Four rules. Seems easy. It’s not. But I’m betting that if you write these down and refer to them often, you will soon recognize your own improvement and before long will be operating in that top 10 percent of businesses — and the top 10 percent of people, for that matter.

Andy Bailey is lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra and serves as the entrepreneur organization’s global membership director. Visit his blog at for more business and leadership insight.

This story was originally published in The Tennessean.