Commitment is not measured by how strongly you feel about something, but by what you are willing to give up.
At one extreme there are causes and beliefs and people that folks are willing to give up their life for. At the other extreme sometimes you’re not willing to give up your seat on the couch for something. We often hear talk of pursuing your dream relentlessly as if commitment is the only thing you need for success. But I’ve pointed out before that crazy people are committed too (pun intended). If you’re old enough (or a long time reader) you’ll know where this picture is from and why I chose it.
I believe the problem is not the level of commitment, but the mis-match of commitment. The relative (rather than absolute) level of commitment.
Some businesses require more commitment than others. It’s often a function of context. If you’re in startup mode, or if there’s a lot of uncertainty in your market, then the level of commitment needed to succeed is likely to be high. If you’re executing on a plan that’s been working well for a while, then maybe you don’t need to give up so many weekends to keep things going – it requires less commitment.
What you give up may be more important than how much.
We’ve all heard about successful companies that get complacent – their plan has been working so well they’re no longer willing to give up the old ways of doing things. Then another company comes along and eats their lunch. In these cases the successful company maybe more willing to give money and even time to the problem. It’s just that what’s needed is to give up something else: old habits. Here you can measure commitment by willingness to give up old ideas and practices; not by willingness to give up money or nights and weekends.
This is why we say to startups when getting out there with an MVP, “Find those early adopters.” They are more willing to give up some of the niceties and features that less committed (more mainstream) customers will require. You can deal with them later: after you’ve found a business model that can scale.
Business partners and especially co-founders need to match their level of commitment: to each other and to the requirements of the company. If they assume a willingness to give up equivalent levels of money or time and that proves not to be the case, it’s a recipe for trouble. This is why investors encourage founders to have a vesting schedule. If things change and someone’s level of commitment to the company wanes, then their compensation (in the form of stock) should as well.