Chapter 3

Why Profit Is Not a Purpose

To have no set purpose in one’s life is harlotry of the will.

—Stephen MacKenna

In February 2012, former Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith announced, via a scathing op-ed for the New York Times, that he was resigning after 12 years at Goldman because “the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.”

Smith wrote, “Not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.”


Smith’s op-ed about Goldman Sachs was the Times most e-mailed article for several days in a row. Goldman saw $2.15 billion of its market value wiped out as a result of the letter.

Double ouch.

Smith’s op-ed went viral because it confirmed what people had long suspected about Goldman and other brokers: they didn’t care about the clients; they cared only about the money.

How Overemphasizing Profit Erodes Your Bottom Line

When leaders believe that their sole purpose is to produce profit, they view their customers as “its.” Customers are no longer human beings; they are anonymous targets and prospects whose sole purpose is to help the company make money.

Smith described a culture very much like this at Goldman, where leaders routinely referred to ...

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