Have you ever encountered a business where everything just felt in place? The experience was perfect -the products, the people, the brand, everything worked in seemingly effortless fashion. You made an odd request; it was greeted with a smile. You went to try a new feature; it was right where it should be. You walked in, sat down and felt right at home.

Teaching Your Business to Manage ItselfBuilding a business can seem a bit like a giant set of Legos scattered all over the room. There are countless bits and parts and pieces that might fit together or they might not, but the game appears to be locked in composing these fragments in a manner that verges on what seems like some kind of normal.

But here’s the thing. Normal is a trap. Normal is the business you ran from to start this business. Normal is the last three businesses that choked and spurted and collapsed under the weight of management. Normal is a poor imitation.

Businesses that run so smoothly as to seem self manage aren’t normal. In fact, they are terribly counter intuitive, but terribly simple it turns out. The key is a tremendous focus on three things only – clarity, culture and community.


Until you can get excruciatingly clear about the one thing your business really does that no one else does and, perhaps more importantly, the handful of high payoff behaviors that you the owner of said business must to spend as much time as possible immersed in, you will have a very difficult time practicing anything that looks or feels like art.

Until you can feel why you do what you do and use that as your guide the road ahead will always seem uncharted.

When you are clear about the one thing everything just gets so simple. You don’t even have to think about decisions anymore because you have the perfect filter and the filter runs the business.

If clarity for your business means earning a referral from 100% of your customers everyone know what to ask, how to greet a customer and who owns the result.


If a business is to mange itself a culture of ownership should be the sole objective. This must come at the expense of hierarchy and the assertion of autonomy. Every business, regardless of size has a culture. The only question really is whether or not it serves the business and the people that come to work there.

I’ve worked with business owners for years now and in my experience control, or the inability to give over control, is the greatest threat to business growth. Until a business can extend trust to those around him and give up control, there will be little more than constriction and contraction.

This means that you must also be able to communicate your sense of clarity and package it in a set of core values that when practiced in action become the road map for culture and the mantra for “this is who we are.”


There was a time when community meant only customer. Today the customer is the community and that includes its customers, employees, mentors, vendors, advisors and even competitors all conspiring to advance and influence the business ecosystem.

When there is a clear picture about what the business stands for and the people that fill in that picture are given the freedom to manage their outcomes, the creation of a strong, vibrant and supporting community is a natural outcome.

A fully alive, self-managed business is little more than the sum of these parts orchestrated with total purpose.

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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.
  • Rob Mulder

    Great post, John! So simple, yet we always try to do things the hard way. Once again your post reveals your philosophy.. keep it simple.

  • AJ Perisho

    Great post John!
    I didn’t know business owners were normal?
    Maybe in the beginning, but it never lasts 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your insight 🙂

  • Thanks for the post, John! The 3 Cs: Clarity, Culture & Community. Simple and clear. I’ll remember this!

    •  I like the idea of 3C. I have a problems with first C – clarity:/ But im working on that;)

      • Thanks Pozycjonowanie Gynia! It’s definitely easy to get sidetracked,  and it’s something I’m working on too!

  • Clarity, like adding a filter to axe all distractions…

  • Great post, thanks for all the great ideas. I will sure keep these in mind!!

  • Maria Pergolino

    Hey John, I agree and disagree.  I agree that normal shouldn’t be the norm, especially if trying to grow quickly.  And that fast growing companies need to manage themselves because they need to focus more on growth than on the day to day.  That said, processes are critical- whether you are being normal or not.  Process often serves as the foundation, similar to culture, needing to be in place so that employees can achieve and over achieve.  

    We clearly see this with our small business customers implementing marketing automation systems.  I’m not saying that marketing automation is the solution, but some process necessary.  You see a bit about what I mean in this quick infographic, which shows that process has clearly been part of the success mix, regard of solutions.  http://spark.marketo.com/marketing-automation/toolkits/marketing-automation/marketing-automation-infographic.php.  

    • Thanks Maria – I don’t think we disagree too much here – it’s the I have to run my business like everyone else in my industry part that I’ve after.

  • 4311

    Zulma Valdivia

    Great post, I like the concept of the 3 c’s.