Of all the insights my father shared with me during the two decades I worked under him, one of the most memorable took place early in my career, during a somewhat stern warning he delivered to me over a customer communication breakdown.

While running a small Ford dealership 30 miles from my dad, one of my customers, frustrated that I hadn’t returned his phone call soon enough, contacted him to vent his concerns. After reiterating his expectation that there should be nothing more important in my day than a customer who needs my attention, my dad shared something that surprised me.

“You need to understand that the purpose of a business is not to make money,” he said.

To a business major/economics minor in college, that sure was news to me, especially since “maximizing shareholder value” was the golden rule of my education.

But my father went on to say…

“There’s no question that earning a profit is important–we won’t be in business very long without it. But never forget that any business exists first and foremost for one purpose–to create value.”

As my dad explained, everything else—including making money—is a byproduct. It’s the outcome–the fruit, not the root–of generating superior customer value. He then went on to make his emphatic point that, when it comes to value, being responsive to customers ranks #1.

Conversation over–I got the point.
And in the 30+ years since he shared that lesson, my brothers and I have strived to run our business by it.