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Image courtesy Flickr

Image courtesy Flickr

I’m not really one for the whole “self help” genre of personal improvement literature, but there is one book in the canon that I’ve found really helpful. The book is “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz, and all of the advice in it boils down to basic common sense.

The wisdom in this book goes far beyond the personal and extends into the professional. You alone have the power to choose how you react to any situation, and it is your reaction that determines the course of future events and your own success. We have learned business behaviors because that’s “just the way it’s done,” but that doesn’t make those behaviors right.

With that in mind and a tip of the hat to Mr. Ruiz, here are the four agreements your business needs to make with itself and with its customers.

Be impeccable with your word.

Speaking with integrity and saying only what you mean may seem antithetical to some in the realm of marketing, but it’s truly the only way. Now that customers have the same (or greater) power and influence online that brands have, all marketing has become social.

By being transparent and honest in your communication, you gain the respect and trust of your customers and peers.

Don’t take anything personally.

There will always be criticism. Mr. Ruiz states that the things people say reflect themselves. When people say nasty things about your company or products, you must take the time to reflect carefully and respond thoughtfully.

Taking criticism personally leads to wars of words and a resentment of your customers. The fact that someone took the time to comment–even negatively–demonstrates their engagement with your company. Make the most of that engagement with a thoughtful, constructive response.

Even if the situation can’t be resolved, you avoid unnecessary drama and increase your standing in the eyes of others.

Don’t make assumptions.

My grandfather was one of the heads of sales for the first national auto parts distributor, the Gibson Company. The main piece of wisdom passed on from him to me by my grandmother was “Never put your hand in the customer’s pocket.” As Mr. Ruiz puts it, finding the courage to ask questions and express what you really want leads to clear communication.

Never assume what your customers know or don’t know, what they need or don’t need. Never assume that what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. You must engage in a continual process of measurement and reevaluation so that you don’t need to guess at what to do next.

Always do your best.

Part of doing your best is acknowledging that your best will change. If you are sick, tired, or otherwise impaired, your best effort may be less than when you are at your peak.

Similarly, your business may be struggling with various issues, you may be overworked, or the projects you’re working on may not be your favorite things to do. Regardless of the task and circumstances, you need to always put forth your best effort to achieve your business goals and solve your business problems.

Doing your best ensures that you remain a trusted member of the team, and everyone pulls their weight.