This is a question I have been pondering for a long time and thought I should share my point of view.
The generic answer to this question is: to make a profit. However, the purpose of the business will depend on what point of view you look at it from.
A customer will see the business as a means of providing a service or a product. Another business in the same sector will see it as a competitor. The employees and management within the business will all have different individual goals as well as the basic goals the business will set, namely to make a profit, gain greater market share, enlarge the customer base and so on. One employee may see it as a means of earning a living; with money being the sole motivator, whereas another employee may see it as a way of gaining recognition and becoming “something”.
In reality, everything is a business. Each organisation/business/company will still have to keep a track of their finances to remain liquid. For example; a charity is a business but it does not employ a profit making strategy. A school is a business but its sole aim is to educate.
A business that is selling a product or a service is always going to have a purpose of trying to make a profit, but ultimately business is more than that. The answer will depend on the individual and the business itself.
There is more than one answer.