I keep hearing people say they want to do business with companies that put people over profits.

I don’t.

If a company isn’t profitable, then it isn’t sustainable.

Show me a company that doesn’t prioritize profitability — or a nonprofit that isn’t dialing for dollars — and I’ll show you a struggling or failed business. (And the Gates Foundation doesn’t count. That’s a totally different business model.)

I want to see people and profits.

People and profits

Listen: I get it. I once called the corporate offices of a financial institution to cancel a credit card because of the company’s predatory lending practices. Those practices didn’t affect me. They kept repeating that point as I said “cancel the card.” They really didn’t get it.

I also prefer to do business with companies that value their employees. Actually, I have a rather considerable checklist of items that I would like to see companies emphasize in their business practices and their customer engagement. Ethics. Quality benefits, like flex time, vacation time, family leave, and sick days. Supply-chain controls to ensure that all vendors are following a company’s guidelines for doing business. Common sense.

It’s not people vs. profits.

It can’t be an either / or proposition.

Here’s how to put people first.

You can’t put people over profits, but you can put people first. Make them priority number one in your path to profitability. Create policies that value your employees and reward their contributions. Train them to excel at their jobs and mentor them toward their next career move. Make your workforce want to be your best brand ambassadors.

People and profits work best when you don’t discount either.