I did something a little out of character for me last night. I made a political post on Facebook. I’ve made comments and joined political debates over the years, but I have never made a political post of my own. It was scary to hit that Post button. I had said enough to offend both sides of the aisle equally. I wasn’t sure how people would react. Much to my surprise, the comments were amazingly respectful and surprisingly supportive.
I never would have made that post while I was still running the store. I didn’t believe politics and retail mixed well back then and I really don’t believe they mix well now.
There is a landmine of politics out there waiting to blow up in your face, even when you try to stay out of it.
Just look at all the people angry with FedEx when they wouldn’t discontinue their program discount with the NRA. FedEx’ stance was that this program is available to all companies regardless of their political beliefs and had nothing to do with politics, yet I read several posts of people on the left encouraging folks to boycott the shipping company.
Delta took a different approach, discontinued a special offer for flights to the NRA convention, and the Republican Governor of Georgia threatened to pull the subsidies they were offering to get a new Delta hub in Atlanta. Fortunately calmer minds prevailed and he backed down.
It is scary.
Sometimes it feels like you’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t. So when is it right to take a political stand?
- When the cause you’re standing for (or against) is perfectly aligned with your Core Values.
- When the cause you are standing for (or against) is critical to your success as a business.
That’s a pretty limited window. If the cause is aligned with your Core Values, your customer base will applaud you and become stronger. Plus, you’ll attract more people who share your values. If the cause is critical to your success, no one* is going to question your willingness to stand up and be counted.
Anything else and you run the risk of being on the wrong side of the equation. Anything else and you run the risk of alienating the people you are hoping to serve. Anything else and you run the risk of being pigeonholed into a political category you don’t necessarily belong.
In my Facebook post I shared my beliefs, some of which are heavily left-wing, some of which are heavily right-wing. I can surprisingly check several hot-button check boxes on both sides of the political spectrum.
One of my friends asked my thoughts on Citizens United, the ruling that allows corporations to pay for their own political advertisements. In the case of Citizens United, it was specifically to address whether this conservative corporation could advertise during the presidential primaries in 2008 a documentary it had produced bashing Hillary Clinton. The far-reaching affect of the ruling is that it now allows corporations to do their own political advertising.
Having been a corporation, I can understand the desire to be able to use your corporation to sway political thought, especially if the cause is critical to your success as a business. But I can see how the ruling has opened the door to wealthy people creating “corporations” purely to influence elections. That’s the quagmire that is politics.
What you need to know is that ruling does allow your business to enter the political arena. It doesn’t mean, however, that you should.
When should you, as a business or as a business owner, take a stand politically?
Only when absolutely necessary and only when the cause aligns with your Core Values and/or is critical to the success of your business.
PS *By the way, when you take a stand for a cause because it is critical to your success, be prepared for some criticism that you are only being self-serving. Well, duh. Of course you are being self-serving. It is a stupid criticism, but one that will be laid at your feet nonetheless.
PPS Don’t ever pigeonhole your friend, your neighbor, or a business because of one of his or her beliefs. My goal of my political post on FB was to show just how complex and across the spectrum we all typically are.