Are there days when you think about your business and ask, "What's it all for?" There's nothing wrong with making money, but profits aren't always a good long-term driver of engagement.
A number of psychological experiments have found low correlation between making money and feeling motivated. In fact, people who feel intrinsically motivated to do their work--meaning their motivation to do the work comes from internal factors like intellectual curiosity or doing something meaningful--are three times more engaged at work.
Purpose-driven businesses make the world a better place, and they can easily make money while they do it. Ultimately, the businesses that last longest are built on purpose, not profit.
1. Meet a Social Worker Turned Entrepreneur
Many of the students who get a master's degree in social work are finding new career opportunities; consider, for example, Rebecca Kousky. Kousky graduated with a social work degree in 2006. She looked for traditional agency jobs, but none of them seemed like a good fit. After some soul-searching, she decided to think outside of the box about social work career possibilities.
Kousky read about Muhammed Yunus, who pioneered Grameen Bank and the concept of microlending. She saw the economic possibilities that starting small microlending service could offer, but her social work background gave her a bigger vision. With funding from the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Kousky launched her concept, which she called NEST. Today, NEST has connected over 2,000 artisans in 12 different countries with retailers like Lord & Taylor, Kate Spade, and American Eagle. Kousky could have stuck with traditional social work, but she felt deeply motivated to help women in developing countries become independent. Her work gave her the chance to reinvest profits in people.
2. Find Other Purposes Besides Profit
Business with purpose but no profit can't sustain itself, its workers, or its community. On the flip side, business with no purpose besides profit chooses money over people, every time. It's more than possible to make money while also accomplishing something more. Incorporate some of these ideas into your business ventures to give them a purpose while keeping them profitable:
Focus on sustainability. A cause-driven business creates value over a long period of time, providing a boost to the economy and jobs that will last. It also respects natural resources, keeping environmental impact as low as possible.
Provide good wages. Although wealth isn't a great motivator past a certain point, purpose-driven business owners reward workers with good wages and benefits. They don't just do it for altruistic reasons, either. When more consumers have discretionary funds to spend, businesses have a greater pool of potential buyers. In most industries, it's better to have more buyers than to be dependent on just a few deep-pocketed customers.
Deliver good working conditions. In addition to paying well, purpose-driven businesses provide good conditions for their workers. Preventing injury and increasing employee retention is a proven formula for keeping costs down.
Tackle societal problems. Businesses can directly tackle problems like poverty, education, or health, or they can use their profits to form partnerships with worthwhile not-for-profits working on causes that matter.
Cultivate satisfaction. The pursuit of happiness is an incredibly worthwhile cause, both for you and your employees. All of you deserve to feel good about what you do for yourselves, your customers, and your community.
You don't have to launch a microfinance venture for women in developing countries to be a deeply satisfied entrepreneur. You do, however, need to identify a greater purpose in every venture that you launch.
3. Avoid Becoming Another Bored Entrepreneur
Michael Spraggins grew his father's home improvement supplies business from 10 employees to 65 employees and $20 million in annual sales. Feeling restless, Michael tried expanding into new markets and launching another two businesses, which ended in chaos and heavy financial losses. He was looking for ways to make more money, but his ventures weren't driven by intrinsic, meaningful motives. He'd fallen prey to the entrepreneur's ultimate enemy: boredom.
Ultimately, Spraggins decided to hire a president to run his business so he could try something new. He launched not-for-profit franchising clinics and hospitals in Africa. Now, he has both a thriving business and a deeper sense of purpose through his not-for-profit. Finding purpose within your ventures doesn't just help you sleep better at night. It alleviates the entrepreneur's greatest challenge: getting bored after your business hits a tipping point. Most entrepreneurs excel at starting things, but they don't always make great managers, especially in businesses that aren't conducive to new adventures.
Find Your Purpose
Whether it's running a more purpose-driven company or satiating your wanderlust by starting a non-profit venture, find some way to immerse yourself in something that makes your life meaningful. You'll get plenty of chances to make money along the way.