Purpose Before Profit

Last week my colleague told me a story of her elderly mother who proudly called her because for once she had not succumbed to the pressure of one of those utility company telemarketer sales people we all know and love. Score one for mum!

However, it led to another story about how her mum had already switched utility companies three times in the past year with all the cost and hassle involved, because the people on the phone had been so persistent. My colleague contacted one of these sales people, shared her thoughts about the company and its practices and asked them if they were proud of themselves and the job done? The sales person (to their credit) admitted that it wasn’t their finest performance and promptly cancelled the intended transfer. Crisis averted.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s just a sales person doing their job, needing to support themselves and/or their family. Everybody needs to make a living and as the saying goes, you simply can’t have it all.

Or can you? Is it really that hard for businesses and individuals to put purpose before profit in this day and age? Jack Welch once said that the “the world’s dumbest idea” is that a company exists to create a profit for its shareholders. This approach leads companies to operate with short-term thinking; and focus everyone’s efforts in the business on reducing costs and increasing prices rather than on understanding how they can create ongoing value for their customers and our societies.

Chasing the mighty dollar for expectant shareholders can be exhausting and make people feel that they always have to be on the lookout for that next opportunity to meet those challenging monthly/weekly/daily targets. After a while, customers become numbers, profit options or paychecks with arms and legs. Just thinking about it makes me feel sad and frustrated.

Instead, organisations can choose trust over control and put purpose before profit; removing all the wasteful processes, meetings and machinery they create to chase and count the dollar and focus their people’s efforts in building the right products to delight their customers. Believe me, if you do that, the profit will come as a result.

With the whole team aligned to purpose, the dynamics change. People are more productive, collaborative and creative. And what would make you feel better than knowing not only are you putting money in the bank, but you’re also inspiring people, adding value where it matters most and creating hope where there was none?

Furthermore, if you have a purpose beyond making heaps of cash for yourself and others, it’s much easier for everyone involved to connect and add value to that. Believe it or not, most people around us work for something else besides money, it’s best to give them the option to buy into that.

And finally, putting purpose before profit fosters loyalty both from your customers and current/future employees. Being aligned to a purpose is no longer just a nice-to-have, it’s becoming a selection criteria for when we choose our next product or our next job, regardless of whether it’s a startup or Google-sized enterprise.

If you’re still not convinced that purpose trumps profit every time, I heard of a telemarketing position that just opened up….

Written by Gilbert Kruidenier
Blog Comments

I absolutely love this and agree with it however achieving this with some companies is like turning the Queen Mary in a little backyard swimming pool. The right outcome starts from the top and when the top believe in this process and this change in the customer everything else will fall into place. I’d like to compare successful companies to successful sporting teams successful sporting teams aren’t always the ones that win the premiership every year however they’re the ones with a large fan base that the teams that connect with the fans the customer and give them some belief that they play a role in the teams culture growth and success. We have sporting teams the chase the dollar they go out they signed the largest player thinking that they will fill the grandstand and they may anyone however a lot of the times those players come with baggage they come with an attitude and an ego far bigger than the culture of the club and year 2 A couple of other players drop off maybe there is a change in the management because of this particular player the fan start to lose interest because everything is about this player before you know it the culture absolutely changes. However when clubs invest in the right players build them up from the ground up show them nothing else matters except their culture very similar to organisations and companies success will follow.

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Hi Anthony, sorry for my late reply, I was busy finding a good sports metaphor of my own, which is always a tricky thing as I know nothing of most sports. However, I used to practice kung fu for a bit and as I got better at it and our school grew, I realised i did not like our sigung (boss-man teacher of teachers) at all. He has mad skill though, so some of his mannerism we just had to accept to tap into the awesomeness. My solution was to just lean towards the teachers that were perhaps less awesome, but much more engaging and I soon started teaching new recruits copying their style and not the sigung’s, changing the school from the inside out. Sure, some really good talent left, but others took less notice and we still had a good time, we kept it basic and you could train 5 days a week for peanuts. Then I moved to Australia (was in the Netherlands before) and found it so hard to find a similar club. It seemed to be all about the dollars and certificates and exams that should have been free. And the kung fu? Well, let’s say that surely not everybody was kung fu fighting :). Anyone who has been a fighter will tell you that not fighting any more leaves an empty space that’s hard to fill and I would love to start again, but not like that. Looking back on that experience, I learned that even though the organisation’s leadership of my Dutch school wasn’t great, there were lots of people around that I could work with and learn from, we didn’t care about dollars (euros), we were trying to get good and took the good with the bad while we focused on changing the school from the inside out in small but meaningful ways for the love of the sport. As much as you can ever love getting punched and pay a few bucks a month for the privilege that is.

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