Am I a profit center or a cost center?


I was having a conversation with a young executive the other evening.  He was looking for general advice on how to position his career.

My first suggestion was to try to find a profit center and work in one.
Better yet, I stated, try to be a profit center wherever he went.

Generally speaking in the business world;
A “profit center” is a department, business unit, or person who grows revenue and profits for the company.
A “cost center” is one that is an expense and therefore reduces the companies profit.

Profit centers are:

  • seen as the lifeblood of the business
  • looked at as something to be maximized
  • grow and thrive
  • a fun and rewarding environment to work
  • higher paid

Cost centers are:

  • seen as a necessary evil
  • looked at as something that needs to be minimized (or ideally removed)
  • not as much fun
  • lower paid

With this general mindset, if he could position himself, his department and his business unit as a “profit center”, he will tend to have a much more rewarding experience and career.

Thinking about this discussion in the hotel later on that evening, I wondering if this idea could be generalized further outside of the business world.

I know certain people who, nearly every time I interact with them, are:

  • are a pleasure to be with
  • fun
  • interesting
  • supportive
  • helpful
  • honest
  • etc.

I look forward to spending as much time as possible with them.  They make me a better person just being around them.

They are my personal “profit centers”.

I know others who are:

  • not trustworthy
  • annoying
  • dishonest
  • self centered & self directed
  • etc

My interactions with them are draining and exhausting.  I try to avoid them as much as possible.  If I have to interact with them, I keep the engagement as short as possible.

They are my personal “cost centers”

I wondered when others think of me, which of these categories would they place me in?

In life and in my interactions, if I’m adding more to the experience than I’m subtracting, then the world will profit and so will I.


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