Proposition: What Is the Purpose of Business?


At times I refer to business as the ultimate adult sandbox. It is a playground. Oh, I know we all work so that we can collect a paycheck to pay for the nice house, car, and clothes, and feed the family. But we should work not only for the paycheck but for the fun we can have earning the paycheck.

What? You say that you're not having fun? Oh say it isn't so!

Early in my professional life I remember hearing the CEO of the company I worked for tell us more than once, "If you're not having fun in your job then you should find something else to do." Now I am sure there are people who will say, "Easier said than done." Sure, in the post-credit crisis economic reality we live in today, it is hard to find a job. But perhaps the difficulty is that you don't really enjoy what you do.

I have always been able to find something amusing about even the dullest part of any job I've ever had. Not that it was jokes-a-minute; there were periods of sheer drudgery (and repeat after me: "I hate drudgery"). But despite the drudgery, with a little bit of effort I could find something fun about what I was doing. In a lot of ways it’s what they call attitude.

If you're working as a manager, you have a long list of conflicting goals. But no matter how you pile things up, there's always a task that is paramount. According to Peter Drucker, the first function of management is to put economic performance first. Drucker acknowledges that this may have great non-economic results—employee happiness, the contribution to the welfare of the community, and so on—but the bottom line is the bottom line. Management fails worst when it fails to produce economic results.

One of my favorite Drucker quotations is, “The purpose of an enterprise is to create wealth.” Drucker goes on to talk about creating economic wealth, but I have to say that without some joy along the way, wealth has little value.

So what is the purpose of business? Fundamentally, it's to create wealth:  economic wealth in balance with emotional wealth.

How is your emotional wealth today?

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