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Almost every thing we do in life has rules and guidelines. Follow the rules and, for the most part, we get consistent results. We may not win every time, but, each failure teaches us something about ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.

The next question is how many rules are there? In a business relationship, there are four categories of rules:

My Rules: These are the rules I use to manage my business and create a confidece zone where decidsions can be make quickly and effectively. These rules determine what I will do and why, how far I will go in a negotiation and when I will walk away. They also define my expectations for profit and loss in any financial transaction.

Your Rules: These are the rules and guidelines you use to manage your business. They define everything about the business and your relationship to the circumstances you will encounter and how you will deal with each demand. They define your expectations for the business both financially and personally.

Our Rules: These are the rules we agree upon if we decide to do business together. They define the compromises we are willing to make by setting aside some of our personal rules and guidelines in favor of creating a working relationship. They also define, as clearly as possible, the expectations for the end result and, if things don’t work out, how the relationship will end amicably.

Their Rules: Almost everything we do in business has some kind of regulation either for taxes, management, environmental concerns and so forth. These are generally created by various governing bodies who, whether we like it or not, have some influence over the quality of our lives, business or otherwise. We need to understand these rules to the best of our ability to determine just how much they will impact our business relationship.

Everything in life is a negotiation of some kind. There are situations which impact us and force us to act, often without all the information we need to make a clear, effective decision. Fortunately, these tend to be few and far between.

When getting into any kind of business relationship, however, its essential to understand the rules of the game in order to manage the potential for risk or loss. This starts with your own rules, which define how you want to be treated, how you intend to grow as a professional and the level of honesty you expect from those with whom you do business.

Having a clear set of personal rules and guidelines can help you “read the table” to better understand the rules of those with whom you interact and decide whether you want to continue the relationship or move on.

If you don’t understand the rules of the game, don’t play until you do.

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