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Making A Profit Is Like Breathing

Updated: May 28


A friend of mine, Andy, says that for a business, making a profit is like breathing.

Andy is wise. The phrase “making a profit is like breathing” implies that for a business to survive and thrive, it needs to make a profit just like a human needs to breathe to stay alive. Profit is an essential component of a successful business, just as breathing is essential for life. Without profit, a business cannot sustain its operations, pay its expenses, or invest in growth opportunities. Just as humans cannot survive without oxygen, businesses cannot survive without profit.

Sometimes, when entrepreneurs position their business as a mission, they minimize this need for profit. They do this to their detriment.

Doing your business as mission (BAM) involves four bottom lines, often called the “4P’s”. These four bottom lines are:

  1. Profit - Generating a profit is essential for any business, including BAMs. Profit is necessary to ensure financial sustainability, fund expansion, and growth, and honor all its financial obligations.

  2. People - BAM seeks to have a positive impact on people, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the community. This includes providing fair wages, safe working conditions, and promoting social responsibility. This positive impact allows BAM entrepreneurs to leverage those relationships for more and more positive impact.

  3. Planet - BAM seeks to minimize its environmental impact and promote sustainability by implementing environmentally friendly practices, reducing waste and carbon emissions, and promoting sustainable resource use.

  4. Purpose - BAM seeks to fulfill a greater purpose beyond just making a profit. This purpose includes excellence, loving our neighbors, and always being prepared to share the Hope that lies within us.

By balancing these four bottom lines, a BAM seeks to create a sustainable and impactful business that benefits all stakeholders, including investors, employees, customers, and the community.

Entrepreneurs who seek to operate their business as mission but give more attention to Purpose, Planet, and People, than to Profit, are courting disaster. When the only goal of a business is to achieve some social impact, it becomes easy to minimize the need for a profit.

Never forget this: In order to sustain your business over the long term, nothing must take priority over making a profit so that your purpose, people, and planet impact continues.

Achieving business as mission is step two in my Cultivating Impact 6-Step Method for Succession Planning. In order to have an excellent business, you must honor your financial obligations. When social entrepreneurs get their social good out in front of making a financial profit, the business is not sustainable.

Questions to ask for this conversation:

How does our business make money?

Who are the most profitable customers? Are we devoting our resources to them?

What other customers fit this same profile?

What are our most profitable products/services? How can we strengthen them?

Keep breathing and making a profit!

Harry T. Jones

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