When I hear people say that, it reminds me of bees. Their only reason of existence is to collect honey (ok, pollen).
Of course I can’t hold still and have to talk about my truth: that there is more to business than making money. That it is a vehicle to increase the wellbeing of everyone connected to the business (the employees, the clients, the suppliers, our planet).
The argument comes back: “Maybe. But without money none of these other things can be done. So it all comes back to money. Therefore the only reason to be in business is to make money.”
It took a while until I realised that the opposite is just as true: “Without committed employees, delighted clients, dependable suppliers; and in fact a healthy planet, money cannot be earned. Money would have no meaning at all.”
Does that mean the only reason to be in business is to fix the world? No. Making money is vitally important. The better any business does that, the better it can serve its employees, clients and the planet.
What it does mean is that we have a choice as business owners about where we put our focus. Just chasing the Dollars without any concern for the wellbeing of others cannot work long-term. At the same time, running a business without focus on the bottom line is doomed for failure.
The solution: a truly sustainable business. It keeps the different elements in balance: people, planet and profits. None is more important than the other, none is less important. They have to be kept in harmony and balance.
So for anyone with strong environmental or social passion, I recommend getting someone on your team who comes from the mindset: The only reason to be in business is to make money. As long as there is mutual respect for each other’s position, it significantly enhances your chances of building a great business.
For those that are not convinced, I just want to go back to the bees. Imagine bees deciding to collect pollen just for themselves without sharing it. The colony would die within a few days. They are in fact performing a social role beyond their immediate mission. And environmentally? Without bees, no flowers would be pollinated, no seeds would develop, and no flowers would be there. The bees would die.
So even with a single minded goal of collecting pollen, bees are perfectly sustainable, looking out for people, planet and pollen. The only difference is that we can think about what we are doing and can make conscious choices.
I would say the only reason to be in business is to balance the wellbeing of people, planet and profits. Any imbalance might work short-term, but it will always result in failure, either as an individual, a business or a race.