New Mensch chronicle on
the purpose of business.
Companies make things happen. Put people to work. Create new opportunities, prosperity and progress. They do it of course, for the money but the derived effect for the rest of society is not to be sniffed at. The question is, could all the energy and dynamism business creates be used to achieve more?
It’s something many businesses speculate over these days. The everyday term that gets banded about is “purpose”. Companies that have shown their worth inevitably reach a point when they look up from the bottom line and wonder – what’s the point of it all? Most would like to contribute to the society they’re a part of. Define a higher purpose, that’s just as meaningful for the companies’ staff as it is for customers, employees, partners and wider society. But it suddenly becomes a little difficult. Big fancy statements collide with banalities when businesses attempt to define any purpose beyond the highest possible profit.
And it’s totally understandable. Businesses are born with an ambition to earn money. It’s deeply embedded in their nature and culture to think optimization and profit. Buy cheap, sell expensive. Everything a company does revolves around the companies’ interests. Which is why it is incredibly difficult to define a higher purpose. Because the very nature of a higher purpose is about how a company can contribute to the community.
But, it’s not so crazy as it sounds. The idea is actually as old as humanity itself. The beauty is, modern companies depend on the community around them as much as our long lost ancestors did. And just like them, the key to this is to contribute a bit more than that which is in your own interest.
A higher purpose, therefore, has to benefit others than the company itself. For the same reasons, the purpose can’t be about the companies’ wonderful product – because, of course the purpose then becomes nothing more than publicity.
So, it’s about having a purpose that becomes a higher purpose. Companies that contribute to society become a part of it. The business-minded can look forward to the rewards: Loyal customers, motivated staff, goodwill from the authorities, trusting partners, better press coverage.
Not to mention, that moment when one’s head hits the pillow and you ask yourself, what you got out of life – and find the answer, what you put in.