Taking a Political Stand as a Business

Last week I published a post asking what happens if we allow personal convictions to spill over into our businesses. A few people admitted to wondering the same thing, but I didn’t get the conversation with other small and micro business owners I was hoping to get. (psst.. head over to the Facebook Page if you’d like to get the conversation started.)  Still questioning, I decided to see what, if anything was out there already on the subject.

In a CNBC article discussing young entrepreneurs and the mix of business with politics there were some, like interior design firm owner Jenna Sheingold, who are open about their political viewpoints. Sheingold says:

“It’s something I had to discuss with my husband and close friend of mine. They both voiced concerns that being very outward with my political views, I would lose clients or not have clients. And I told them I have a choice with whom I work with and the values of people I work with.”

Not all of the under 35 business owners align with Sheingold’s policy however, and opt instead to keep politics out of their businesses. This is even though a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey small business survey shows the younger demographic tends to be more disenchanted with the government than older business owners. It’s good to note, that although some of these youthful entrepreneurs claim to eschew politics, they may only be picking their political battles. For example, one such business owner in the article claimed his business was apolitical but went on to explain that they were open about their belief in environmental issues like climate change and clean water.

Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have made very public statements about the current administration’s DACA repeal and before that the immigration ban.  On the other side of the coin, companies like Hobby Lobby (who are also openly religious), New Balance and NASCAR have openly shown support of the administration.  While these are all big businesses and corporations, there are and have been plenty of small businesses taking sides on social media or making their viewpoints known in some way within their establishments.

Is this a new development? Hardly.

I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter how far back in history you go, there were businesses openly supporting causes and politics that they believed in.  I certainly remember local businesses in the small town I grew up in placing signs and posters regarding candidates and issues that would be decided at town hall meetings on doors, windows and next to cash registers. As politically charged as 2017 is, this mixing of business and beliefs is nothing new. What may be new is how individuals respond.

I can’t ever recall my parents refusing to buy products from our local Mom & Pop store simply because their beliefs differed from those of the owners. Oh, I’m relatively sure there were some folks that did, but when you only have one store, one gas station, etc in town, you most likely didn’t feel the owners beliefs were deal-breakers. Today, taking a stand can come with consequences.

Decisions made as a business owner are rarely easy, but this one, as to whether to let your personal convictions spill over and possibly influence how you do business is particularly difficult. There are ‘experts’ out there on both sides of the coin. Some will practically yell at you to keep those personal things under wraps or risk losing business and business credibility.  Others will preach that doing business in today’s social media influenced arena requires being true to who you are, which means taking a stand for those things you feel strongly about.

Did I find answers in my ‘research’?  Not exactly, but I did come to a few of my own conclusions which I’ll share with you in part three of this post next week.