Peter Drucker had a different view. Creating profit didn't seem to him to be the main goal of an enterprise. While advocating for Not-for-profit organizations, Drucker observed that there are obvious limitations to making continuous profit-making business models. According to him, to be responsible and relevant in the society, a business model could make profit that is equal to its cost of capital. However, if the goal of the business model is to create a customer, that could possibly provide a sustainable model for existence of a business.
Taking this argument a notch further, FT columnist Michael Skapinker suggests that, like leaders and people, business indeed is in the business of gaining respect:
Some are lucky enough to fulfil the highest of Maslow’s [top need from his psychology theory of the hierarchy of needs], self-actualization, at work. All sorts of people find true fulfilment at work – software developers, recording artists, even auditors. But it is a lot to ask from a job. Others, perhaps most people, hope for work that is reasonably interesting, and indulge their true passions – singing, hiking, wine-tasting – on the weekends.[Emphasis added.]
The best businesses are good at providing a sense of belonging. But belonging can be transient. Businesses succumb to competition and disappear. Or technological innovation makes them redundant. No doubt the photographic darkroom was a companionable place to work; so was a travel agency. There is less need for them now.
I suspect it is Maslow’s second highest need – respect – that people most crave from work: respect not just from their colleagues but from the world [...] and it gets us closer to what business is for: making profits and serving customers by doing something we can be proud of.