Three Degrees of Commitment

Today I threw a small party for some fellow record collectors. I private messaged a few people, put up posts on Facebook groups, reminded folks. Six said yes, three showed up. The ones who didn’t were absolutely sure they were coming until they copped out at the last minute, or didn’t reply. The ones who came felt some sense of commitment attend. They wanted to spend time with friends, make new ones, enjoy libations, and leave with piles of records they really desired.

Things happen with a sense of urgency. Without it, there’s no commitment.

The same is true in business. If two companies are going to work together, there must be a sense of commitment to make the project worthwhile. The greater the commitment, the more likely the success.

I’ve seen many companies form professional alliances with the hope that a worthwhile collection of talents will translate into new businesses. Very few alliances work unless all parties are actively engaged.

Commitment is a matter of degree, and the intensity determines whether it’s a good use of your resources, or a waste of time.

The three degrees of commitment are:

1. Must have. That could include, “I must have five new clients this week or I can’t make payroll.” or “I must lose 20 pounds by May or I can’t fit into the prom tux.” Must-haves get all the attention and resources. If these things don’t happen, there will be a crisis.

2. Want to have. That could include, “I want to double the size of my business through acquisitions, so I’ll spend about 20% of my time searching for possible companies.” or “I want to have my family over for Thanksgiving, so I’ll buy new furniture in September.” If these things don’t happen, there will be regrets (and probably recriminations) later.

3. Nice to have. The less urgent, and usually flights of fancy. “It would be nice to have some more customer appreciation activities.” or “It would be nice to have some new landscaping, like my neighbors across the street.” If these things don’t happen, there will be almost no repercussions or regrets.

If a project is going to succeed, it must have at least one party determined to have a “must have” and the other a “must have”, or at very least a “want to have”. There must be investments of time and money, with goals determined, for success.

So I leave you with one question: are you wasting your “must have” and “want to have” time on “nice to have” people? Today I learned more about who are “must have” friends and who fall into the “nice to have” category.

Completely committed people help you enjoy life more. They’re your real partners in success.

Jim Shulman is the founder of Elsinore Business Associates, a coaching firm that specializes in working with smart, successful, and dissatisfied entrepreneurs. For almost twenty years he has coached financial advisors, attorneys, CPAs, and other business owners, whose services range from auto restoration to personal care products for fundamentalist Christian women. Jim offers a complimentary fifteen minute discussion; contact him at or Twitter @jim_shulman