While one business may be organized in departments, job titles and roles and another basically made up of only one person doing it all, every business that grows and thrives internally and externally figures out how to manage three things at all times: purpose, projects and process.

Lots of employees come into businesses hoping to rise to the ranks of management. The thing is every employee in a business is a manager of something. Lots of business owners start a business and quickly realize they must manage everything. The question is manage what?

As a customer, if you enjoyed a remarkable experience with a business there’s a very good chance that experience enjoyed the complete attention of management from three very distinct points of view – but what really made it remarkable was that it didn’t feel managed at all.

No matter how simple or complex a business may seem if it is to come to life it does so essentially orchestrating these three things – communicating purpose as strategy, delivering innovation, growth and positioning through the implementation of project after project and creating a remarkable culture and consistent customer experience through the operation of process after process.

Purpose by Mark Anderson

The cartoon above was done for me by Mark Anderson. Check out Mark’s custom cartoons and consider commissioning one for yourself.

No matter how many people actually go to work in a business, every business needs to fill the role of Purpose Manager, Project Manager and Process Manager even if all three of these roles are played by the same person.

The role of the Purpose Manager is to create and tell the story of why the business does what it does, create and keep the picture of where the business is headed and act as the filter for business decisions made in the name of the brand’s positioning.

The role of the Project Manager is to continually look to break every business innovation, question, challenge, initiative or campaign into logical projects complete with required action steps and resources.

The role of the Process Manager is to receive and implement the tasks and action steps that fall from each project plan and operate established processes that ensure trust is maintained through consistency.

No matter how complicated we want to make our businesses, this is what success comes down to.

But, this is what makes owning a business such a challenge, this is what makes managing people such a challenge, this is what makes doing a job such a challenge. Finding the places where these three roles divide and where they come back together again is the art of the business and it’s not always obvious or even natural

If you’re the sole employee you must spend some part of each day playing these distinct roles no matter that your innate talents may reside squarely in one or the other.

As you hire staff you must focus on first hiring for your weaknesses in performing or managing one or more of the three roles not on job titles or departments.

As you grow your business you must build purpose, project and process thinking into every new department, innovation and initiative.

You must also guide your entire team to approach their work in this manner and give them the tools that will allow them to embrace purpose, think in terms of projects and know when and how process that delivers purpose is the right path.

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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.
  • Leanne HoaglandSmith

    Purpose is the first place to start and why I encourage my clients to write a purpose statement answering the question: Why am I here?  Many people have not taken the time to reflect not only on their purpose, but their vision, values and current mission. What happens is the role of Captain Wing It is alive and well. Actions are sprayed all over the place with the hope and a prayer that something will stick.
    Great post, John and loved the cartoon.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

    • I don’t think the spraying is intentional really, but purpose is a great compass

  • This is appealing but an oversimplification. Major studies as revealed in “The Balanced Scorecard,” “The Power of Alignment” and my own book, “The 5 Key Success Factors: A Powerful System for Total Business Success” (available on Lulu.com) show that there are 5 things every business must manage: Strategy (Purpose), Operations (Process), People (very important), Finances (very important) and Marketing. There are perfectly logical reasons why these 5 are essential, and reducing them to 3 does not help the small business leader manage better.

    However I have deeply appreciated all of John’s valuable insights shared in recent years and wish him every success.

    • I guess my point is that you can put marketing and finance under my 3 and strategy is actually in all three – just a different way of viewing that’s all.

  • Kirbyblandino

    I’ll go with 3 rather than 5 even though it really is the same. 3 fits our buying mindset better.
     good work John.how about 1? from a marketing standpoint, with today’s empowered buyer and information overload, 3 gets  attention. easier to remember, all P’s, fulfills our need for speed and the “magic bullet” syndrome.my 2 cents (not 3, 5 or more).ps – love your expertise John and the cartoons are fantastic

  • Matt

    I agree John; Purpose, Process, Procedure is what you could boil it all down. And when you put this into a Venn diagram and you hit it in the middle, is when you will see rapped growth. 

  • Kristin Zhivago

    Funny how we like the P words.

    To me, your brand is the promise that you keep (versus the one you make – anyone can make promises; that’s “branding”), and you keep it with five tools – Product/service, People, Policy, Passion, and Processes.

    I find that most companies get the product close enough, the people are usually smart and dedicated, the passion is usually there – depends on the CEO – and the policies are good if the CEO is a kind person. The processes are where every business suffers. I can count the exceptions on the fingers of one hand (Amazon always comes first to mind). They built their whole business on processes/systems – they built the infrastructure for books, but then applied it to everything else. And the infrastructure/processes were designed to make it easy for people to buy. That was their purpose. This is a killer combination.

    I do like these three P’s – it puts the emphasis on thought leadership and action – but in managing these P’s, you also will (and must) end up managing people (implied in John’s article) and products/services. So many decisions need to be made about the product itself, such as pricing and how you package and deliver it, for example. Again, one can assume these are included in the “processes” and “projects,” but they also have to be specifically addressed.

    Kristin Zhivago

  • Excellent points John and way to break things down. Process without purpose is like monkeys working in an assembly line – you can be very efficient over time doing the wrong things. Purpose without process is a lack of execution. Documented process is also important to avoid tribal knowledge being created and lost due to employee turnover. We’ve often found that it helps us when we draw a process out and look at it with the eye of “purpose” and “project.” It help us stay on track and clean things up a bit.

    Thanks for the share. 

    • It’s funny too because you apply this to the highest level of thinking or just the routine.

  • bNurture

    Interesting. I’m curious, John, have you ever read E-myth revisited? Because Michael E. Gerber is essentially saying the same thing, except he calls the three roles : the entrepreneur (who is responsible for the vision), the manager (who is responsible for putting in place processes, and the technician (who is responsible for the technical work). I highly recommend it. 

    Great cartoon by the way. 

    • Michael is a good friend and wrote the forward to my first book so yep, very familiar with his concept – not doubt it is similar, but I like to think I’ve updated it a bit.

  • Dan

    This article provides the reader with a basic blueprint of how to create and run a successful business. I engage in these steps everyday at Trend Setting Sales and Marketing.

    John, you wrote a great article. Thank you for sharing.

  • wong fanny

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. Monster beats solo
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit,