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Can a company have soul?

People have souls. But can a company have soul?


I feel privileged to work, and to have worked, with many companies from up close. And I can assure you, YES, some companies have souls. And yes, there are huge differences between companies. Sorry to disturb the dream, but the grass is sometimes greener in other places. Perhaps you cannot measure it easily, but you can feel it when you work with them.

Companies with a soul often have much to give. Not only to their shareholders but also to the world at large. They are better able to attract and retain the best people from the market. People simply want to work for them. And as a result, they produce better returns to their shareholders.

A real company that is operating in the free market is never a charity. Profit is oxygen for every company. You need it, period. Never make the mistake that a company with a soul is a bunch of hippies, and everybody is happy. Because it is not. It would be a severe oversimplification of reality.

But every company can be so much more than just a collection of people delivering a product or a service for their clients. Creative destruction is in my view the beauty of capitalism. Companies finding better solutions and taking market share or creating new markets.

Back to your company

Now, let’s go back to your company for a minute. Start with thinking about the real purpose of your company. In essence it’s the answer to the following question: “what would the world miss if we were not around?” If you find the answer, you unlock the purpose of your company. By the way: your purpose is NOT the next mission or vision exercise. It’s fundamentally different!

Questions for reflection:

  1. What is your first intuitive reaction: does your company have a soul?
  2. Are you keeping the soul of your business alive as business leader? Do you remind your people about the purpose of your business? Is that knowledge part of the company’s DNA?
  3. Would you say your company is ‘woke’? Is it having a broader look at the business and its bigger responsibility in society?
  4. Does everyone know the purpose of your company?

It’s perfectly possible to run a profitable soulful company. I feel lucky to have worked with many of these companies over the years. Feeding the soul is in my view one of the core responsibilities of the board and executive team.


Hopefully this inspires.

Paul Donkers

Paul P.J. Donkers is a sought-after global business coach and serial entrepreneur. More about his work and projects can be found via and via

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By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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