We're all familiar with the five-second rule. In fact, the history of the five-second rule could be traced back to Genghis Khan, who believed that food could be left on the ground for five hours and it would still be safe to eat. Of course, research has found that no matter how quickly you pick-up a piece of food from the ground, it's still going to carry bacteria with it.

While it's probably not a good idea to eat anything that has fallen to the ground, business owners can actually benefit from this 5 second rule when launching and running their small business.

Makes a good first impression

Attention spans are short. Like eight-seconds short. That's why it's necessary to grab people's attention immediately. "When a new prospect finds your web site, you have 5 seconds to convince them to stay," says David Deicke, a successful Melbourne business innovator.

"The rule applies in the physical world, also," Deicke continues. "Your printed materials may be dumped in the trash just as quickly, or a visitor to your company may browse briefly while in fact the 'no sale' decision was made in those critical first few seconds." That's because your potential customers are looking for a way to solve a problem, fulfill a need, or find something that is visually stimulating. If you don't deliver that instantly, this "clicker" is going to jump ship -- to a competitor.

Think of it this way. You just made a homemade pizza with arugula and prosciutto. It looks and smells amazing. It may even be one of your best dishes and is going to solve that craving you've been having for pizza. The decision has already been made to eat that pizza, even if you dropped it when taking it off the grill you're not going to toss it and put in a frozen pizza instead. No disrespect to frozen pizza, but the effort and deliciousness of that gourmet pizza definitely makes a better impression, and in fact, calls a person to action.

Helps you focus and overcome self-doubt

If there is one person who championed that five-second rule for business owners it's leadership expert and motivational speaker Mel Robbins. "Because of the way your brain is wired, when your thoughts and feelings are at war, when there is a discourse between what you know you should be doing and what you feel like doing, your feelings are always going to win," argues Robbins. "If you don't feel like doing it, you won't do it- that's why you need the 5 Second Rule." Robbins developed the five-second rule in order to take action when she didn't want to. She also uses the rule to help her focus and overcome those feelings of self-doubt. If you need motivation -- watch Robbins TED talk vids.

While speaking at 2016's Xerocon in San Francisco, Robbins said that, "Most small business owners wake up, look at their phone and start panicking. You want to grow your business, you've got to put the phone down, you've got to get up... you've got to sit down with a notebook and spend five minutes and think about what you are going to get done today that will help you expand your business."

She suggests that instead of panicking when the alarm goes-off first thing in the morning, apply the five-second rule. "Five, four, three, two, one, do it. Get up."

As for self-doubt, "The moment you feel yourself doubting yourself, push it out of your head," Robbins said. "Five, four, three, two, one. Your self-doubt has no place in your business."

There's actually some sound science behind this thought-process. People don't put every single decision through a risk-benefit filter. Instead, we rely on cognitive shortcuts called heuristics to help with our daily lives, which is why the five-second rule is so popular.

"It's a way of making a very quick decision with whatever data is available," says William K. Hallman, an experimental psychologist and a professor at the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University. As a business owner, you can't be afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo. However, you want to make sure that business risks, are calculated risks.

Robbins final words of advice are this; "If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea."

Embraces uncleanness

Even though the five-second rule isn't exactly sanitary, germs can be good. According to the hygiene hypothesis, exposure to germs and certain infections can assist the immune system in defeating these microbes more easily in the future.

But, how does this apply to your small business?

In short, don't run away from negativity like bad reviews or PR disasters. That's just the nature of running a small business. Instead, accept the fact that there will be negative reviews and if you learn how to respond appropriately you'll be able to make your business healthier and stronger.

There is a great interview between Oprah Winfrey and Brené Brown where Winfrey gives insight into how she has dealt with "the haters."

There will be times when you have to respond. The most effective ways to respond to negativity is to use tools like Hootsuite or Google Alerts that notify you whenever your brand is mentioned online. You also need to respond to every review, don't take it personally, hold yourself accountable, and learn from the experience.

When you have a troubled spot in your business, see if you are holding a place-card where you can invite the Five-Second Rule to help you.

Published on: Dec 10, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.