Our business may be easy to understand, but it is infinitely more challenging to execute in a consistent, effective and profitable manner. This challenge is based on the fact that we are continually dealing with people at every point in our processes. These people represent a “grey area” that many times can defy our best efforts to qualify and control. Frustration and despair may follow if our actions are not guided by a reality-based set of principles that address the unpredictable nature of the human condition.


“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

Original Author Unknown


Your principles define your “stand” and if properly formulated and followed, will help you meet the challenges presented by the prospects, clients, recruits, candidates and contacts you deal with on a daily basis.

Over the years, the following have been labeled the “Petra Principles.” They have served me well and have withstood the test of time. Perhaps they will serve as a reference point in developing your own principles for functioning successfully in this business.

Petra Principle Number One

People do things for their reasons and not ours.

This first and most important principle underscores all the others. It is based on the psychological truth that people always act in a manner THEY view to be in THEIR best interest. Consequently, to be successful in this business, we need to understand what “they view to be in their best interest.” This requires an empathetic approach, particularly when their “view” is contrary to the reality of the situation (see TFL – 09/05 – “Dealing Effectively With Objections”). Functioning according to this principle will eliminate much of the frustration inherent in dealing with people both professionally and personally.

Petra Principle Number Two

We have a right and a responsibility to select the people and business to which we apply our resources.

We have a right to select the people and business to which we apply our resources because primary among these resources is our time and effort. These are not infinite resources and once they are expended, they can never be recovered. Therefore, it is our right to select how these resources are utilized.


Most people do not suffer from a lack of resources. Rather they suffer from a lack of focus for the resources they do possess.

Correspondingly, we have a responsibility not to waste other people’s resources (see TFL – 11/97 – “Just Say No”). This requires that we take an objective approach (standards) to evaluating our circumstances. We cannot wish ourselves to success. We must focus on the reality of the situation and in a timely and clear manner “cut the cord” when the evidence supports this decisive action.

Petra Principle Number Three

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We must make certain that our processes are designed to bring maximum value to all those involved.

Good intentions notwithstanding, our best efforts can be derailed if our processes are not designed to meet the objectives of everyone involved, including ourselves (see “Petra Principle Number One). If there is one thing we can and should control, it is our processes. Relinquishing this control to others means we are working blind while increasing the margin for error.

Do not confuse this principle with “my way or the highway.” Our processes need to be both interactive and adaptive to the specifics of the individual situation. However, once the processes are in place and agreed upon, everyone involved needs to accept their responsibility and accountability. To work in any other manner compromises the likelihood of a successful outcome and sets up a situation with no potential winners.

Petra Principle Number Four

We have a responsibility to – but not for.

We have a responsibility to provide accurate, clear and timely information to everyone involved at both ends of the decision making process. We have a responsibility to make certain they understand both the context and impact of the information on their decisions. However, we do not have a responsibility for their decisions. Just as we must accept responsibility for our decisions (see “Petra Principle Number Three”), they must accept responsibility for theirs.


The decisions they make will have a far greater impact on their lives than on ours.

In the heat of doing business, it is sometimes difficult not to project ourselves and our desires into the decision making processes of others. This is where professional detachment is required. Nevertheless, we need to be responsible for our actions and the subsequent impact of those actions on the outcomes of the process (see TFL – 02/02 – “A Fresh Perspective On Guarantees”). Maintaining this balance is the objective of this principle.

Although there are only four principles, they apply to every aspect of our business. When someone I’m dealing with needs to understand where I “stand,” I share these principles. In almost every case, they appreciate knowing that my actions are guided by a strong set of principles; principles that are consistent with their best interests.

As always, if you have questions or comments are most welcome.

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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