After a short break yesterday to announce the new book title, Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide, and the updated website, we return today to my rules.

Rich’s Rule: Never put my house or my family at risk.

I have chosen not to use the equity in my home to finance my businesses. However, it may be a viable option for some. (See Chapter 4, “Got Gas?”) I made this rule for my psychological well-being. I find great comfort in knowing that my house is paid off whenever the worst-case scenario becomes the real-life scenario. In fact, this rule allows me to take even bigger risks because I am not worried about my family’s welfare. Because I follow this rule, I sleep very peacefully at night.

Rich’s Rule: With each new business endeavor, I set limits for my investment of time and resource.

At the very beginning of each new adventure, I write down just how much time, money, and other necessary resources I am willing to invest to go forward. Although I write down all of my rules, writing down this rule makes it especially real. When I know how far I am willing to go, I have a better feel for the finances, the time, and the commitment required. Then I can really apply the “Got Gas?” chapter. I can say, “Here is what I can give. Is that enough to get this baby off the ground?”

Rich’s Rule: I always sift each idea through my four filter rules list.

Every idea I consider bootstrapping gets asked each of these questions:
• Is my idea a digital asset?
• Is it transactional in nature?
• Will I own the customer?
• Is it riding a wave?

Your questions will be your own, but always ask them. No exceptions. (See Chapter 3, “Power Tools.”)

Rich’s Rule: I will not engage in friends and family businesses.

It is not my intent to offend the many good people engaged in friends and family businesses. This is just a rule for me. I choose not to sell to friends and family. I do not want any unhealthy strings attached to my close personal relationships.

I have a few friends and extended family members who only call when they want me to join a so-called “great new business.” Personally, this gets on my nerves. I remember when I was first married and my wife and I moved into married student housing. The first people in our complex to approach us feigned friendship when all they really wanted was to sell us on a new business scheme. (Of course, we didn’t know that at first. They were just nice people.)

They said that they would love to get together and start building a friendship. We were excited that someone wanted to get to know us, so we invited them over to dinner. My wife spent hours preparing a nice meal to impress them. They enjoyed the dinner, and we enjoyed their company. But just as we finished dessert, out came the sales pitch: “We would like to share something very, very special with you…”

As I’ve gone through my rules, you’ve probably noticed that I have picked those that address each sector of my business life. These are just a few of the rules I’ve established for myself. They mean something to me. Yours will mean something to you. Take the time and find the joy that comes from creating your own set of guidelines.

Porter’s Points – Make the Rules, Live the Rules

• Review the seven basic categories of rules that Rich has outlined. Think about where you stand in your own life. Write down at least four or five guiding principles to govern how you’re going to bootstrap your business.
• Take those principles directly to your significant other. Make sure that he or she agrees and is fully invested in them. Do this with anybody whom your rules impact.
• Set boundaries. List the top five most important things to you in your life. Ask yourself: what am I willing to do to get these? What will I not do to jeopardize these? If your rules do not agree with each other, fix them!

Using my rules as an example, come up with your own set of rules – rules that are specific to you and your situation.