Purpose needs profit

The general assumption is that purpose and profit are diametrically opposed. It is like light and dark. Good and evil.

The truth is, purpose and profit are symbiotic. They are each optimized when they work together.

Is purpose too good?

It’s easy to arrive at the perception that purpose is good. It is a word that conjures feelings of altruism. It represents meaning and aspirations. But could those feelings be holding it back from reaching it’s full potential?

In order for the idea of purpose to grow, it needs to step outside the world of not-for-profits. Business needs to see that purpose leads to profit.

This is a critical point. Businesses will continue to have foundations and charitable programs. These are good things that should continue. But if we relegate purpose to this realm, it will never reach its full potential. It will always be that nice thing that a company does that really doesn’t directly relate to the financial viability of the organization.

Getting some street cred

The problem is that purpose has a bit of an inferiority complex. Nobody says, "Purpose makes the world go round.” It’s money that gets credited. Add to that the fact that purpose enjoys being associated with all the good qualities that causes it to get lumped in with not-for-profit efforts. For example, I define a Big Audacious Meaning as that thing that an organization does to make a difference in a life, a community, or the world. It’s easy to see how it could get put in the same box as all the corporate social responsibility efforts. They both have noble intents. But purpose has way more potential for measurably adding to the financial success of an organization.


Purpose needs street cred. Accountants need to see the difference it makes in the numbers. Leaders need to view it as a measurable strategy for building high-quality, sustainable and expanding returns.

Purpose needs to have an unassailable connection to the top and bottom lines. Only then will it be viewed as a critical asset and not just a nice thing to do.

Yes, purpose needs profit. It transforms credibility, changing purpose from an expenditure to an investment with calculated returns. Ultimately, they are both better when they are together. There’s no struggle for which should get priority. Because they become inextricably tied.

Profit justifies purpose. And purpose leads to profit.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.

PurposeDan Salva