Last week two of my friends invited me to participate with them in a local March for Our Lives event being held Saturday.
If you are tuned into the news and politics of today, you know that marches were held to support gun control to keep people, especially our children, safe from being victims of mass murderers. Hundreds of thousands of individuals marched on Washington, DC, and in hundreds of other cities to bring attention to this issue.
To my friends’ invitation, I replied no. I couldn’t / wouldn’t go. But maybe not for the reasons you might think.
It’s not that I don’t believe in peaceful protests – because I do. I remember being inspired by the civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s. I participated in peaceful protests over the VietNam War when I was in college. I even (metaphorically) burned my bra!
But no, I did not attend the March for Our Lives. Here’s why.
- Because as a smart business owner, I know it can be the kiss of death to publicly display one’s politics.
- Because I am first, and foremost, a business owner who already knows she is having a positive influence on a population of people without injecting my political and personal beliefs into my work.
- And because I feel I need to lead by example to those of you who read and embrace the work I do in advocacy, and want to create and grow good, strong practices of your own.
Support for my refusal to be publicly political:
Suppose I told you I am pro-life. If you are also a pro-lifer, then you would cheer. But if you are pro-choice, you would cluck in disgust.
Now, instead, suppose I told you I am pro-choice. That changes things! If you are pro-life you would begin to question whether my leadership is all you thought it was, while pro-choice believers would just smile and agree.
In all cases, everyone would pass judgment. Everyone would side with me or against me. I would lose respect. And that affects my ability to do business with and lead you.
Bottom line – I will not tell you which side of that issue I believe in, because I don’t want you passing judgment on my ability to lead advocates based on a belief that isn’t related to advocacy anyway. APHA could lose members. Workshop attendance would decline. I could lose book sales. And ultimately, it would be patients who paid the biggest price for my wish to be public because fewer people would become patient advocates.
So – is it worth it for me to share my political beliefs? No. Absolutely not.
Real Life: Late last year, the owner of Papa John’s Pizza very publicly disagreed with NFL players who, protesting police brutality, took a knee during the National Anthem before football games. Ultimately he was forced to step down from his position as CEO, and he lost the NFL contract for his business.
He owned a pizza business, ferheavensake! Why would he take a political stand against anything at all? His protest never changed anything. His opinion is not valued by those who are working against police brutality. Yet, he lost his position, many customers, and his NFL contract. Do you think he thought his public stance was worth it?
In general, for small businesses, people don’t separate us as individuals from our companies. I can’t be “just Trisha” without also being the director of APHA, or a certification board member, or the author of business books for patient advocates. And you can’t be “just you” without being your advocacy business too.
No small business can afford to lose half its customers. Unless you have decided your advocacy is only intended to help Trump supporters, or pro-choicers, or dreamer supporters, or climate-deniers, or people who believe we should all have access to AR-15s – then STOP.
For you to be so publicly political actually becomes selfish – because patients need you, and if you politicize your beliefs to the detriment of your business then you won’t be available to help them when their need-time comes.
Where does this come from?
My concerns were sparked a few days ago when I visited Twitter for the first time in months*, where I saw advocates discussing political issues. I watched as one took one side of a debate, publicly supporting a candidate who is well known for his stance on a specific issue. Another was retweeting (sharing) very one-sided posts about a political issue.
I am also sure that some of you, in person, make your politics and beliefs clear to the detriment of your business. That may happen at church, or at a cocktail party, or from your bumper sticker, or Chamber or BNI meeting, or at bridge club or anywhere else.
I’m being very clear today. Unless you are a political lobbyist, you need to stop sharing your political opinions publicly if you want to succeed in your own business.
- In general, for small businesses, people don’t separate us as individuals from our companies.
- The internet never forgets. Your statements will be “out there” forever.
- None of us can afford to lose the respect of half the population that needs us. No small business can afford to lose half its customers. Unless you have decided your advocacy is only intended to help people who believe as you do, then you are setting yourself up to fail.
- It’s selfish – because patients need you, and if you politicize your beliefs to the detriment of your business then you won’t be available to help them when their need-time comes.
Health and patient advocates are not political. We help everyone. Our passion for our work is not limited to people who believe one thing or another. Therefore, to maximize our abilities to help patient-clients, and to minimize the possibility that they will decide against doing business with us, we need to remain publicly apolitical.
*I love Twitter! But I don’t trust myself to keep my very strong opinions to myself any more – so I rarely visit and no longer tweet.