What does it take for small businesses -- and larger companies -- to generate business success in today's competitive world?  John Janstch, well-known blogger (Duct Tape Marketing) says it's all about commitment.

We spoke with John about the insights in his latest book, THE COMMITMENT ENGINE: Making Work Worth It, which will be published by Portfolio/Penguin on October 11, 2012.

Monster: What inspired you to write a book about commitment and how does it relate to marketing?

Jantsch: I think the main thing I started out to do with this topic was try to redefine the concept of commitment with regard to business.

I've seen seemingly successful business owners who felt like their commitment to their business was sucking the life out of them. I wanted to frame commitment in terms of commitment to a higher purpose the business services.

The marketing connection flows from the fact that when businesses promote why they do what they do, the natural outcome is a customer.

Monster: What significance does the idea of commitment have for businesses that are looking to gain an edge in what is often a very competitive marketplace? 

Jantsch: The principles I use to illustrate how to build a Commitment Engine -- hunger for extreme clarity, culture of shared commitment and a ridiculous passion for community - are powerful tools in the right hands.

Monster: The book's preface begins with a quote from Albert Camus about how the detours of art can open the heart.  Where does the bottom line of business intersect with these ideas for you?

Jantsch: So often people try to find the bottom line in ideas that don't seem very business like and that's really a significant theme of this book.

Art, passion, purpose, inspiration all produce incredibly practical outcomes when applied with clear intent. For me what that quote illustrates is the notion of extreme clarity -- those one or two moments in life when you knew. The most important concept of this book is that of clarity -- personal, professional, brand and purpose.

Monster: The book includes some terms that are Buddhist or Eastern in nature -- such as the idea of learning to be present, taking time for self-reflection and creating a passion mantra. Were you concerned that these ideas might alienate some readers?

Jantsch: No, I am not worried that my point of view might turn a few people off, that's actually my intent and it's a central idea of the book. 

Authenticity is a very attractive quality in business and the only way to keep it and communicate it is to present a clear and consistent point of view and stick to it, knowing that there will be many for whom this point of view will resonates.

Monster: What exactly is a passion mantra? And why should someone do it?

Jantsch: The idea of a passion mantra is a little like a core message might be in marketing, but it's your internal life message.

When you create a phrase or concept that you can return to daily it can snap you back a bit and remind you why you do what you do, particularly when you find yourself in the midst of chaos.

Monster: You devote a chapter to Staff as Customer. Is the concept of a trusted commitment between employer and employee still feasible, given the impact of layoffs and attrition -- particularly in the last few years?  Does it still make sense for businesses to invest in their employees?

Jantsch: The concept is not only feasible it's more important than ever. Your staff is treating your customers exactly as you are treating them. So, does it make sense for a business to invest in employees, well, I guess only if it makes sense to have customers.

Where so many businesses get tripped up with the concept of investing in company culture is that they think that means buying an espresso machine.

The best investment a business owner can make in culture is to understand and communicate the higher purpose or why the business exists and find ways to amplify that in every action that impacts the staff.

Monster: There's also a section called, Staff as Owner, which advocates for creating a culture of shared ownership. Can that idea work in businesses that, by their very nature, employ a rotating door of people on a seasonal or cyclical basis?

Jantsch: Part of this has to do with mindset as well as physical ownership. Any business, particularly those that hire seasonal help, competes for the best people available and attracting people based on a higher purpose ensures you'll attract a greater of number of people that fit.

Monster: The first part of the book advocates that business owners do some soul searching about their level of commitment to their business. Is this a necessary step, before you can expect others (namely employees) to follow suit? 

Jantsch: Actually I believe it's a necessary step if you ever hope to establish a guiding vision for your business, strategy that allows your business to stand out and differentiate and focus on the priorities that will keep you on track.

It's pretty tough to give something to someone else until you possess it yourself.

Monster: Has social media -- and the openness of communication that it's generated -- changed the language of business?

Jantsch: I think it's changed a few things. Yes, I think the way we talk about business, the way we share and perhaps what we share has changed dramatically. For years I've been advocating the use of personal stories in marketing and widespread social media usage has certainly helped break down resistance to this notion as a leadership style.

Monster: You say there's a big difference between the term plans -- as in a business plan -- and planning .   Can you explain why they're so different?  

Jantsch:  So many people approach planning as though the end document is the goal.

To me it's the process of figuring out what not to do or what to leave out of the plan that is the greatest outcome of the planning process. That's why I also believe that it's essential to keep your plan alive through continual revisiting and pruning.

Monster: The book includes a Committed Handbook for training employees with seven marketing tactics. Does this document serve a similar function as a social media policy for employees?  

Jantsch: I look at it a something more essential than what typically rests as a section of an employee handbook. This is clarity training and includes why we do what we do, core beliefs, marketing proposition, key stories and even updates on numbers and current state of the business.

Monster: What three ideas from the book would you want a reader to consider and contemplate?

Jantsch:  1. Clarity is strategy. 2. Culture is clarity amplified. 3. Community is a natural outcome of clarity.

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