Putting Profit into Perspective

Last week I spoke to a client about his company’s overall 1st quarter performance. He enthusiastically told me about his team's efforts to generate record levels of revenue and serve more clients with excellence. But then his toned changed and his voice got lower. He appeared almost embarrassed to tell me that the company’s first quarter was extremely profitable. It seemed like he was confessing a sin to his priest.

My first question to him was, “Why do you sound so down and upset? Isn’t making a profit a good thing?” He went on to explain that profitability was sort of a “four-letter word” in business now, and he did not want his team or the public to look down on his company as being greedy and only caring about making money. I was taken aback by this comment but then found myself understanding his dilemma.

As we discussed the issue more, I shared with him that profitability in and of itself is not a bad thing as long as a company keeps the priorities of Purpose, People and Progress above its priority of making a profit.

I recommended he ask himself these three questions:

  1. Purpose – Are you being faithful to your company's values and vision while earning a profit?
  2. People – Are you serving your clients, strategic partners, community and employees with integrity, respect and compassion while earning a profit?
  3. Progress – Are you positively contributing to the development of the people and communities you serve while earning a profit?

I told my client that if his answer is “Yes” to these three questions then he has nothing to be ashamed of and that he should celebrate his company’s profitability both privately and publicly!