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10 Teaching Your Business to Manage Itself

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.

14 There Can Be No Real Commitment Until You Surrender All Doubt

mirandiki via Flickr CC

There can be no life, passion or purpose in a business that lacks commitment. It’s just too hard otherwise. I’ve stated here before that I believe commitment or failure to commit is one of the central themes of our lives.

It is what drives us forward and drives us away. It is what provides us with passion and fuels our greatest fears. It is what guides us to take a road less traveled or herds us on to the deeply rutted path.

As it turns out I’ve written an entire book around this idea because I think it’s such an important topic for our times. (The book will be out in the fall from Portfolio.)

Commitment is one of those very tricky words. It gets a great deal of play in the worlds of sports, romance and business alike. It’s a word that’s often linked to achievement, but I believe it’s a word that is greatly misunderstood.

Commitment isn’t about projects or events; it’s a long-term game. In fact, it may really be a lifelong game, but it’s not the kind of game that’s portrayed in movies. It’s not about being committed to something no matter what. It’s not about staying committed even to only one thing.

It’s about searching for the deeper meaning of your life and bringing what you find in that to every moment that you can.

I am committed to my wife, but when I tell her I love her, what I’m really telling her is that I’m committed to figuring out how to love her even when I struggle doing so.

I am committed to my business, but when I say that I’m not saying that I’m committed to growing it to some size or stature. What I’m really saying is that I’m committed to the idea that I can help small business owners find their purpose and passion through my words and my work even when I’m not sure what my next move should be.

See, commitment isn’t about the grind it’s about clarity, control and consent.

In order to possess the kind of commitment that will serve you, serve those around you and ultimately serve your business, you must be crystal clear about what you believe and why and you must put those beliefs into action in every decision.

In order to possess the kind of commitment that will serve you, serve those around you and ultimately serve your business, you must develop a sense of control about where you are headed but release a great deal of control about how you’ll arrive there.

In order to possess the kind of commitment that will serve you, serve those around you and ultimately serve your business, you must give yourself permission to learn and grow and evolve with the help of others.

Until your sense of commitment is infused with these three things there will always be uncertainty.

And mostly, there can be no real commitment until you surrender all doubt.

36 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.