From Profit to Purpose — A Life-Changing Proposition

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When starting a business or a new idea, anybody who has been there before will ask you one fundamental question…”How will you monetize this”? That question lands a crushing blow to the over 80% of businesses that fail to monetize enough to be around after the first year. If you are like me and really could not answer this question, it would be easy to get very discouraged.

But what if you want to be around longer than a year? You want to leave a legacy and bigger than yourself? To make it so that no quantifiable amount could measure your impact? After all, who doesn’t want this in some way or shape in their life? For me, the shift from short term to long term thinking really took place when I shifted from thoughts of profit to thoughts of fulfilling my purpose. Now I can measure success with a whole new set of metrics, none of which are related to dollars.

To find out the way for me to make my most profit, I reflected on the word Nia-the 5th day of Kwanzaa. It wasn’t until I started thinking about purposely doing things that I could start getting the best returns on the time I have been investing in RB. Being a CEO and constantly driving for innovative ideas is it’s easiest when every idea exists in harmonyNia suggests (from my reading) that the highest form of personal purpose is in social purpose. This ultimately means that when you have personal agenda that translates itself into a vocation and commitment which involves and benefits the community, you have reached the highest form of purpose. From this principle, the Right Before Foundation (L3C) was born. 

Something special about social enterprise is that it doesn’t take a sophisticated business plan to address your market. Sometimes when you’re working, you just get into that zone. You know… the one where you crush out a few hours of work straight and leave your desk feeling like a world beater? It’s times like THIS where the sky really IS the limit. These are the times where being your own boss, CEO, or executive is an amazing experience. Other times (most times) it’s not as easy to get excited about what you’re doing. It’s easier sitting there thinking “I don’t know what to do, or where to start, so I’ll just continue to do nothing”.

This is not to say that a shift to a non-profit focus completely absolves the business aspect of operations. There is still a need to prove long term sustainability and to build something that is not completely reliant on others. For this very reason, I implemented a very seldom used business convention- the L3C. Something special about this business structure is that it allows you to focus in a charitable capacity, while still bringing in a modest income/profit. When people ask me “what dollar amount would you need to be happy”, I can simply reply “i can only hope that my value will be reflected in the value I have in the lives of others.”

Don’t start a company unless its an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession. -Mark Cuban

I called my brother Rashaad a few weeks ago and uncharacteristically I was ready to give it up. “It’s not possible to do everything well”. It’s probably been about two months since a quality piece was written, consulting is getting more difficult, and time is getting more limited. I am an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs build businesses that make money, right? Research suggests human beings enter a state of optimal enjoyment when we’re highly engaged in an activity. If something is too hard, we fail. If it’s too easy, we’re uninterested. The key is finding a balance and pursuing opportunities that offer consistent growth and that align with your passion. I can almost guarantee that if you dig deep with you will find what you are looking for. 


Kenneth Duncan is the founder of Right Before and a regular contributor. He focuses on the education of financial literacy in underprivileged communities.

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