A business is only alive to the extent that there is commitment.

This can be said of the individual elements of any business – the products, the services, the people, the customers, the culture, the story, the brand – but it is the collective attainment of commitment that is the ultimate marker of success.

joiseyshowaa via Flickr

This quality is elusive, nameless in most businesses, and manifests itself in things like strategy, culture and customer. There is no one thing that activates commitment, no one idea or mission statement, but it is intentional and you can feel it in the people, ideas, processes and stories of a company that has it.


In order to bring something like commitment to life you must first know how to define it, understand how to use it to bring order out of chaos and how to nurture and grow it with every action and interaction.

The thing you must understand about commitment though, is that it cannot be made, it can only be generated, just as a tree cannot be made, it can only come from the careful nurturing of a seed.

I’ll go as far as to suggest the search for this thing I call commitment is the central theme of our lives as well as the one timeless way of creating a business that is fully alive.

Businesses that enjoy commitment most radiate through a collection of definable characteristics that exist both internally and externally. These same characteristics exist in every business to some extent, but it’s the level of intentional manifestation that acts as a potent measure of the degree of commitment one company enjoys over another.

These guiding characteristics come to life as patterns and they define the business through actions taken over and over again by the people that execute strategy, express culture and co-create customer experiences.

So, my first question to you as you contemplate the validity of this idea. Are you committed to what you’re doing? Don’t be afraid to answer – not at all – it may be the best answer. But, if the answer is anything less than “hell yes” – reconsider everything you’re doing.

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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.
  • John, I think most small business owners are committed to their business simply because most of them have committed their life savings to the endeavor. I think that when committment meets passion, then that is the point that a business starts to prosper. I guess in this day, there could be some businesses where the commitment has faded as the toll of the downturn has taken its bite out of the owner’s passion to do what needs to be done.

    • I’m going to talk about this tons over the next year but it’s more than just passion too. It’s commitment to an idea and commitment to execution that everyone can see and feel.

      John Jantsch
      Sent from my Duct Tape phone

      • Carmen Sognonvi

        Gasp! Do I hear the rumblings of a new book coming together, John? If so… yay!

        I think you’re onto something here. Commitment is definitely critical if you want to create something important and long-lasting. 

        But it’s easy for commitment to waver. What do you do when you hit those bumps in the road? I look forward to reading your advice on that!

        • Carmen, more like the full on charge of a new book – thanks for noticing – this topic has so many layers. it’s going to be fun to explore.

    • I agree: an owner may be committed to having a small business, but are they committed to what it takes to succeed in that small business? Are they committed to listening to criticism? Are they committed to going a new direction with their business because it is the right thing to do? Money is a good indicator of someone’s commitment but I don’t think it its the strongest. I still find it interesting how people fear public speaking more that death: some people would much rather give their money than having to become a spokesperson for their own business.

    • Great post.  Thanks to   @chrisbrogan:twitter  for pointing me to it.

      It brings to mind two things for me…

      1. A long time ago when I worked on the Mercedes-Benz advertising account, Bruce McCall wrote a great headline for the introduction of the new 500 SL roadster, and it remains in my head:  “With engineering genius, much can be achieved… but with engineering genius fired by passion, anything can be achieved.”  Neither genius nor passion equate to commitment, but maybe the three make another golden triangle of sorts.

      2. What I always tell to new hires and staff is that I can only ask two things of them.  First, I want them to care about what they’re doing.  Because if they don’t, it will show; but if they do care, they will generally jump through hoops, over walls and beyond even their own expectations to achieve excellence.  Secondly, I ask them to be happy.  Generally, because I want them to be.  But also selfishly, because if people are not happy, they just won’t care.    

      • I’ll thanks Chris too!

        That second point really gets to the heart of what this post slipped past most – commitment that I’m talking about is your own commitment and your ability to generate commitment of this kind in others.

        It’s easy to say I’m committed, look at my passion for what I’m doing, but if you can’t get happy staff committed enough to care and happy customers committed enough to evangelize, your passion may be for naught.

        • Yup.  That’s not commitment.  That’s leadership. 🙂

  • Terrific post, John.  I think you’re on to something here with the concept of commitment.  While I think you make a pretty broad and bold statement by asserting that commitment “is the central theme of our lives,” I do agree that commitment issues resonate through business circles like a persistent siren. 

    Some business people – owners, suppliers, service providers, etc. – have it, and they “get it” and they dedicate and re-dedicate themselves every day to what they’re doing.  Some simply don’t. And for those folks, it doesn’t mean they can’t be successful, but it does take a sort of central ingredient out of success’ enjoyment.  Like sitting down to a big milk shake and having used powdered ice cream substitute instead of the real thing.

    What’s astonishing to me is how many of us in business can stay committed but lose the original inspiration or mission or what have you.  I think if you can keep a clear picture of both the starting point and the intended outcome, you can almost stay committed without having to try.

    Thanks for this cool train of thought.
    Nader Ashway

    Blog:  http://www.marketingthingy.wordpress.com
    Twitter:  @nashway:disqus

    • Nader – I do make a broad and bold statement, but I stand behind this idea of commitment being a central theme in our lives – and I’ll talk way more about it soon, but think about everything that you do that shapes your life in the quest of your dreams – it starts and ends with commitment – and often not just your own commitment, but your ability to generate it in others as well.

  • Renee

    For me and my small business it is sometimes that sense of commitment that gets me thru. I made a personal decision to see this business thru and while at times it can be exhausting at all moments it is rewarding.

    • It’s interesting but I intended to communicate two points about commitment here – one that you need to commit – and everyone seemed to get that, but equally important is this notion that you must also be able to generate commitment in other – that point escaped most.

  • Al Pittampalli

    Commitment is one of the strongest forces in the universe. It’s terrifying to commit, but the human spirit is so strong, that once we truly decide that we’re all in…look out world!

    • It can be terrifying for some to commit and in fact some never do, but that’s one of the points of this post – if you don’t, you’ll never fully be alive.

  • I read a quote on commitment and wanted to share here.

     “If you make the unconditional commitment to reach your most important
    goals, if the strength of your decision is sufficient, you will find the
    way and the power to achieve your goals.” –Robert Conklin”. 

    • Great – thanks for sharing.

  • Business is not only making profits. It also depends on following the way of honesty, ethical & fulfilling commitments. If you are successful in a small business by the honest way, it will give satisfaction & you will be successful at large level too. Never underestimate anyone.

  • Make sure your employees have a sense of ownership and you’ll secure a level of desired commitment.

  • John, I also agree with Stephen, I think most small business owners don’t have a choice but to be committed because they’re so invested in the business.  It’s their job and livelihood.  What separates success & growth from just being in business is  “commitment & passion.”  This is a good “wake-up” call for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses who need to ask themselves “how committed am I and am I really willing to put in what it will take to take my business to new levels?”  I’d love to re-post this article at WejungoNetwork.com.  Could I please get your permission to do so?
    -Susie Japs

    • Oh, I don’t know I still run across lots of folks that are doing it because it’s the best job they could get, that’s not commitment in my book.

      And, sure you may post this on your network Susie