When I went into business for myself over a dozen years ago after spending decades as a corporate executive, I knew pretty quickly that I needed help building my business. I needed some "rules of the road." I also needed perspective and equanimity that I simply did not have. I knew how to do what I had done, but I wasn't sure how to do what I was about to do. In 2003, I attended a workshop in New York City conducted by business coach Chris Barrow. Chris was making a name for himself in the U.K. as a coach to dentists and was embarking on a gig in the U.S., helping executive coaches build their practices.

In the middle of his two-day workshop, he mentioned two people whose names at the time were not familiar to me, but who have since become sources of inspiration and wisdom. One was Michael Gerber (author of The E Myth, a GREAT book for entrepreneurs); the other was Dan Sullivan. Dan's firm in Toronto, Strategic Coach, works with entrepreneurs on issues ranging from "strategy creation" to "work/life balance," from "developing intellectual capital" to "creating and implementing exit strategies."

I decided in 2004 to work with Strategic Coach and did so for two years. The lessons I learned still resonate. Many of them were simple to understand but not easy to live by. One of the most profound was what Dan called his "Four Rules of Referability" for an entrepreneur. Here they are along with my take:

Show up on time – How many of us make punctuality a priority? Being late is being rude. When we have a meeting with another person and show up late, we're saying that our time is more important than theirs. We're implying that we'll show up when it's convenient for us, but that the other person should be there at our "beck and call."

I've seen entire companies waste millions of dollars because no one is ever on time. Schedules are established but never adhered to. In addition to being rude, it's wasteful, undisciplined, and sloppy. How do YOU perform on this dimension?

Do what you say you'll do – This one is all about the "C" word: COMMITMENT! How many of us make our commitments with a great deal of forethought? How many of us keep our commitments rigorously and religiously once they're made? Not many of us!! I certainly don't to the degree I should, but I'm better now than I used to be because I work with clients on this issue A LOT! A couple of examples:

John promised his daughter that he'd be at her 4 pm soccer game, but something important came up at work, so he didn't show. He convinced himself that he'd get "daddy points" for making the promise. What he got was "Daddy doesn't care" points and "Daddy's a hypocrite" points. Far better to couch the promise in the following language: "I will be there if my work allows it. I don't want to make you a promise I can't keep." John would be much better off surprising his daughter on occasion by showing up without the promise as a precursor.

As Sales VP of his Company, Frank committed to an annual revenue plan of $100 million. He didn't hit the number, and he had a multitude of excuses for not doing so. He created the impression that he regarded himself as a victim of his circumstances. Leaders who are victims eventually become unemployed victims!

Plans are commitments. One of my client companies actually changed what they used to call "operating plans." They now refer to them as "operating commitments." It has made a difference. People now talk about "making their commitments" instead of "making their plan."

Achieving commitments are part of the foundation of discipline. My definition of that word is as follows: "Discipline is doing WHAT needs to be done, WHEN it needs to be done, the WAY it needs to be done, EVERY TIME!"

Finish what you start – How many of us lose interest and drop the ball? We generate a ton of enthusiasm at the beginning of a project only to lose interest, fold under the pressure of a tight completion date, or don't have the "chops" to overcome unanticipated obstacles.

Retired NBA and Hall of Fame player Karl Malone earned the nickname "The Mailman" because he DELIVERED. The Navy's Blue Angels invoke the term "locked-in" to describe a teammate who delivers predictably superior performance.

If you want to earn respect and credibility, you simply must finish what you start.

Say "please" and "thank you" – Where have our manners gone? How often do we hear or use these expressions in a heartfelt way? How do YOU do?

A couple of years ago, one of my clients had just brought a billion dollar project very successfully over the finish line. I had also worked long and hard over a three-year period in support of that effort. At the lavish celebration dinner the company hosted at the project's completion, he cornered me and said the following: "Rand, look at me in the eyes. I want you to know how much your support has meant to me during the last three years. We could not have accomplished what we did without you. Thank you from the bottom of my very humble heart."

Now THERE is a thank you!! It took my breath away. If you are really grateful, express it in a way that conveys that emotion. Not a perfunctory "thanks," but a "look into my eyes so I can convey deep, sincere gratitude."

Oh yes … "please" never hurts either.

Copyright 2014 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com