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Profit with a purpose

Tom Wall Published on 30 August 2010

Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen every TV network focus a lot of its new programming on reality shows. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and I’m not a huge fan of most reality shows. But in the past couple of years, I’ll admit that I’ve come to enjoy some of the reality-based shows on the “Big 3” networks. The ones that have caught my attention recently are Extreme Home Makeover, Undercover Boss, and The Biggest Loser. I don’t have time to watch all of them, but I’ll admit that my DVR is set to record Undercover Boss whenever it’s on!

In every one of these shows, the main characters reach out to ordinary people who are struggling to fulfill a dream, get back on their feet or regain control of their lives. Sure, some of these shows have been criticized for the way they “overdo” the assistance they provide. And I’ll admit, I tend to agree sometimes. But generally speaking, these shows set out to give the underdog an opportunity that wouldn’t usually be available to them.

Now let’s not fool ourselves as to why these shows exist in the first place. The networks have created these popular shows in order to capture better ratings. And good ratings mean more money. These for-profit networks have figured out that people like you and me will tune in on a regular basis to see people’s lives change as a result of the generosity of complete strangers. And as far as I’m concerned, I think that’s absolutely great! Unfortunately many people believe that once a profit motive “creeps in,” there’s something impure and wrong with the endeavor, even when the outcome of pursuing profit results in helping others.

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But isn’t that the real reason my company, your company and every other company exists? It’s to help others. As soon as we cease to help others, our value disappears and we’re no longer needed. Yet somehow, the “profit part” makes a lot of people uneasy and they tend to believe that “good works” and “for-profit” are independent and mutually exclusive of each other. Too often, many people think that only government agencies and not-for-profit organizations are truly able to help those in need. And then … network television steps in, organizes some “do-gooder” programming and helps individuals, families and even communities pull themselves up by their bootstraps and strive for an opportunity that seemed out of reach, without the help of the government or a charity.

The truth is, companies that aren’t healthy and that don’t post a profit every quarter are typically weak and struggle to exist in order to fully help their customers, employees and community. And if companies aren’t able to sustain themselves and their employees (and their employees’ families), neither the companies nor their employees have any money to pay taxes into the government or make contributions to local charities. Think about it: How much money will bankrupt companies and individuals pay in taxes this year to support our government? And how much money will unemployed and bankrupt individuals donate to worthy causes?

Few organizations can do the amount of good that healthy, for-profit businesses can. And that’s one of the reasons I absolutely love business.

I sincerely believe that true “do-gooding” starts in the workplace. Not only does work provide for our essential financial needs, but it also allows us to strive to accomplish worthy endeavors and experience the satisfaction of doing something well.

I’ve been criticized for placing too much importance on the “soft stuff” when it comes to leading people. But when you see how many people get choked-up in these reality shows because someone finally acknowledged and appreciated the work that they do, you tend to understand the enormous impact that a job, co-workers and a boss make on a person’s life.

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Honestly, how many waking hours do you and your team spend at work each day? Chances are, you spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your family and friends. These connections and interactions are especially important to those who come in to work every day and want to be recognized for their contributions.

So how much good are you planning to do with your business? No, you don’t have to build someone a new house or go “undercover” to figure out what you need to do differently. In fact, you probably already know what you need to do to start connecting better with the people on your team.

In the words of the legendary Zig Ziglar, “You can get everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Most people just want to make a difference while making a good living. Hopefully working with you lets them do both. PD

Tom Wall
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