The Single Greatest Factor of Success in Business

There are so many important ideas and concepts in business. Things like strategy, purpose, and passion are integral to success, but none of it really matters without one ingredient – and that’s clarity.

Image Derek Keats via Flickr CC

Clarity is that strong and unwavering sense that our daily choices are grounded in an authentic sense of purpose. Clarity is how we create a sketch of something worth asking others to complete. Clarity forces us to form the right questions.

Without clarity everything we do is either an attempt to gain it or a stab at the hope that we are moving in the right direction.

Almost every business I’ve ever worked with, including my own, struggles with this idea. But, until we are really clear and inspired by why we do what we do, whom we do it for and how to do it with complete and utter honesty – little else matters.

Clarity does not emerge by simply switching on some beacon in hopes of throwing a clear and guiding light. No, it comes when we discover a rusted but sturdy lamp in the basement of an old house. Then, only through careful tinkering and polishing this lamp begins to cast a flicker of light.

And, as we continue to polish and tinker, something truly brilliant begins to evolve.

With clarity comes control. With clarity comes grace. With clarity comes joy.

Finding and keeping clarity takes work. It takes an unbending willingness to see things for what they really are. To filter decisions based on what might be best for others. To understand how to create the products and services our customers really need.

Clarity is both a feeling and a direction. It can be experienced and seen. It is at the same time perfect simplicity and obvious complexity. Clarity inspires us and those around us.

But what is it exactly?

  • Clarity is turning purpose to profit
  • Clarity is leading with stories
  • Clarity is using $50 instead of $49.99
  • Clarity is asking what to leave out
  • Clarity is meeting the whole person
  • Clarity is amplifying without hype
  • Clarity is doing more with less
  • Clarity is embracing the truth
  • Clarity is anticipating needs
  • Clarity is measuring one perfect thing
  • Clarity is forming decisions out of beliefs
  • Clarity is a potent brand promise

Clarity is the most important idea in any business.

Join Our Content Community

First Name

Last Name

Your Email (this will be your username)

Password (at least 8 characters, 1 number, 1 upper and lowercase letter)

Already a member? Log In

John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Jen

    Thanks for the post John.  Clarity is huge and as a small business person it can easily get lost in the muddle of everyday life/business.  I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s getting clear on what I want to accomplish this year.  Although much clearer, still some work to do, but the focus clarity has already brought is making a huge differenct

    • ducttape

      Awesome Jen – stay with it too!

      • Setiawan

        Hi John,
        Great read. Is clarity another perspective on strong or dogged focus to vision/goal? Without this, everything becomes blur

  • Jordan P Fowler

    And once again, one’s view of ultimate reality (random chance or purposeful design?) comes right to the forefront. Everything you do is based off of your answer to this question.

    The fundamental question I ask business owners is Why are you on the planet earth today? (Or better, Why is God allowing you to use up valuable oxygen today?)

    • ducttape

      Certainly a great accountability daily question

    • cherylpickett

      I like that line Jordan-why is God allowing you to use up valuable oxygen today? Our pastor occasionally says, we were put here to do more than take up space and suck air :-)

  • Jeff Korhan

    Once again, great headline John!

    • ducttape

      Wait, – only the headline was great? :)

  • Paul Profitt

    Having Clarity of thought is a great thing to have. But as I have just recently found out. It means nothing. Without your health.

    • ducttape

      Paul – hope the health thing turns around, but I think they go hand in hand – having clarity allows you to overcome

  • Rob

    John, having worked in a non-profit for years, it felt so much easier to align mission and clarity.  In the past few months, we have worked hard to bring that same clarity of purpose to our business and there is a real sense of freedom that emerges once that starts to happen.  Thanks for this.

    • ducttape

      Rob, I think everyone should go work for a non profit for a while – so many people are drawn to them because of the idea of mission.

  • Ryan Hanley


    This is a fantastic post.  I’d love to expand upon this article or give my own thoughts but I honestly think you killed it.  Just a great way to start my week.

    All the best in 2012 John!

    Ryan H.

    • ducttape

      Ryan – from what I can tell you’re doing many of these things already – do have a great week!

  • brentmkelly

    Great Post John.  Clarity has always been a problem of mine.  Clarity seems to be aligned with principles.  If I stay true to my principles, clarity seems to follow.   

    • ducttape

      I think it’s a number one problem for most – look at the very large organizations that can’t seem to figure it out.

  • Kip Marlow

    John, this was wonderful.  Clarity is difficult to have when you and your company is knee deep in alligators.  But if you can find it, that truly is the secret to success.  Thanks

    • ducttape

      Hey Kip, no doubt, the trick is to laugh at the alligators cuz you know what’s going to happen to them very soon :)

  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi John,


    Gaining clarity is the most difficult aspect to running a business. Getting clear on what you do and how it benefits others causes you to fight through loads of resistance. Uncomfortable, yes, but the effort made liberates you.

    Thanks for sharing your insight John.


  • San Diego Marketing

    I wish clarity comes easier, but then again if it so easy to achieve then perhaps every one will be on the same plane in this world. It would be nice to have that sense of knowing and certainty, definitely.

  • Mark Dorsten

    The only thought I would add is Clarity is being the first to to articulate what everyone else is feeling. There is an advantage to be the first place where someone finds their “hunch” in words. It creates a resonance that builds an affinity.
    Keep Thinking!
    Cozy Web

  • Kricket Harrison

    Great post.  I especially like the fact that you don’t mention FOCUS with clarity.  So often, people confuse the two.

  • John Bradberry

    Thanks John – You hit the nail on the head. The “fog of war” has nothing on the “fog of business.” Many entrepreneurs (myself included) are surprised to learn how difficult it is to cut through the fog, both internally and externally generated, and think clearly about their business purpose and direction. They bring passion by the bucket full, but are lacking clarity, which requires an ability to ‘come up for air’ and apply critical thinking skills to opportunities and problems ahead.

    Clarity is one of the precious resources available to any business leader, and it directs the use of another: time. For the seed stage startup, these are often more valuable (and more readily available) than capital.

    Thanks again – JB 

  • Chip In TX

    Eschew obfuscation…. I find that pouring clear water into the cloudy waters of corporate ambiguity a waste of good clear water. Hopefully somewhere in your corp or business is a font of clarity to work with.  I like Mark’s comment below… Not only does it build affinity towards some critical mass… it is also known as political capital. If you clarify it, they will come.

  • Jim Harshaw

    Great post! It all starts with setting goals to drive your daily actions and help block out the distractions. 

  • Salim Belhaddad

    Clarity is also about product/service packaging. As customers can figure out or imagine the purpose (and gain) of your solution, it’s a fact that the picture they draw has to be clear, logic and ongoing. This will more likely to trigger the decision to choose your solution. This can be achieved by lots of means, for instance by avoiding complicated descriptions while putting them in a specific page/documentation for the information hungry who need more time and more actions to take a decision) or by limiting the choice between 3 packs instead of 4 or 5 etc. That’s why shaping your tunnel needs to be done with clarity in mind.

  • Jim Campbell

    Quiet the voices. Be present. Find, enjoy and be with clarity. Thank you John. This post seems like it’s one of a kind!! Jim

  • Karen

    Excellent article with a lot of clarity. Any suggestions on how to convince/help clients understand the need? So many are chasing profit right now but are doing so all over the map and they can’t seem to understand why ther business is not growing. I can usual get them to see the need for clarity but I currently have a couple of clients operating out of fear.

  • cameron hansen

    Interesting. I just had this epiphany yesterday – clarity of purpose. Why am I moving in my particular direction right now when I’ve already been successful moving in another? And who do I need to engage to help me this time around? Thanks for confirming my a-ha moment! Now all i have to do is figure out what I’m having for dinner… 😎

    • ducttape

      sounds like you’ve done some good work here!

      • cameron hansen

         John, I’ve been following you for quite some time now and have enjoyed reading your books and watching your growth. And I appreciate your compliment – thanks! I agree with you that at times it seems as if one’s Phoenix rises from the ashes as often as the sun rises to veil the night.

  • Mitchell_b_Cohen

    loved the article regarding clarity

  • tjbuford

    Great post.  When I read the title my first thought was FOCUS.  But without CLARITY there is nothing to focus ON!  Thanks as always, John.  Hope everyone is having a great early start to the New Year. 

  • Doug Coffey

    Sean — Great points, so often overlooked!  People feel acknowledged when you are clear.  Thanks.

  • Robin Brown Davis

    You have no idea how perfect your timing is John. I have a breakfast appointment with a very important mentor in El Paso on Monday. After 2 years of “thrashing” clarifying is the name of the game now. By the way, El Paso is on fire with the entrepreneurial spirit! Here’s one example: Tell you friends (like Seth Godin) that you guys (and gals) need to come lecture in our far west Texas region.

    We would be very grateful not to have to drive to east Texas for our inspiration. El Paso is only 225 miles from Alpine, where Austin is over 400, Dallas is 500, and Houston more than 600. You see why we have good work ethic out in these parts. We have to work harder for what we want. 

  • Aj

    I’m not sure I’m clear on what you’re trying to say John?
    Just kidding:-)
    You’re right on… usual my master.
    When I’m clear on what I’m moving toward, or even away from, things are always easier.
    Thanks for being clear, and creating clarity for all of us.