The nihilism of profit-driven companies

One time in a typical meeting in a typical small company, a business consultant said this, “the company had the same profit last year as it did the year before but twice as much revenue. If the company is growing, but profits are staying the same, then what’s the point?” What’s the point indeed?

If I create a company with the sole purpose of generating profit and nothing more, there is in fact to point to it at all. The people who are there are only there for a paycheck. Those angling for promotions are looking to improve their resume. And of course, those who own the company are only wanting to maximize profits. Nothing more. All of the actions of the company are hollow of anything meaningful. There’s no compassionate mission to improve humanity. There’s no drive to innovate in some area that could ease suffering or advance society in some way. Its existence is to be a machine designed to churn out bigger numbers. All those who work there are as cogs in that machine that generates more and more profits but nothing else. They aren’t rallying behind a leader’s passionate vision. They know they are there to put in their time, collect the pay, and that’s it.

To answer the wise business consultant’s question, if I have a company that’s growing, but profits are equal, in many situations this isn’t a problem. If I have created a company to do something meaningful, to manifest my passion, then the point of growing–in spite of flat profits–is that I’m fulfilling my destiny and my passion is flourishing. If my purpose is unfolding with the growth of my organization, then I’m not concerned about flat profits. There is still in fact a point.

If I’m passionate about making software to improve outcomes of those in treatment facilities because I care deeply about helping people with addictions and my company doubles in size but profits stay the same, then I would certainly be excited because I’m helping that many more people. The extra difficulties are worth it because I’m having an impact on something meaningful for me. However, if the soulless, pointless purpose of generating more profit isn’t occurring and yet the organization is growing and expanding, then yes, I suppose there’s no point.

When Viktor Frankl was in the death camps and realized that those without meaning were perishing sooner than those who summoned meaning in each day, he created for himself a way to survive that rose above the despair and genocide that surrounded him. How long do you think he would have survived if all he was concerned with was whether or not he would ever have his jewelry returned to him?

Nihilism is the rejection of all religious and moral principles, a belief that there is no purpose for anything. With that as your position, then all there is left is accumulation of wealth. I doubt very seriously that the owner of this company would call himself a nihilist. Nevertheless, a business consultant came in and convinced the owner that the problem with his company is x, y, and z without ever considering that the problem with the company is that the owner hasn’t imbued the company with what he values, with what he feels his purpose is. I know for a fact that the owner is passionate about things that are far different than what the business consultant has convinced him his company should be about. The owner has abandoned his passions, what is meaningful for him, and accepted that his business should be about being the sort of company that can generate more profits doing something he really doesn’t care about. What could be more important than generating more profits?

That’s the nihilism of building a profit-driven company.

Ian Felton has more than 20 years of professional experience writing software for organizations such as NASA, Mayo Clinic, Thomson Reuters, and many more. He is the author of The Coding Samurai : The Way of the Computer Warrior. His blog, The Coder Counselor, explores technology through the lens of psychology. Ian is also a published author of haibun, a prosemetric Japanese form of writing, mainly centered on travel and journeys to far-off places. In addition to bass guitar, writing and wildlife photography, his interests include practicing meditation, Chinese, and Chinese martial arts. Ian is completing his master’s degree in counseling and psychological services. You can connect with him on Twitter @psychcoder.

© 2018 The Coder Counselor All Rights Reserved.
Theme by hiero