I’m a political being and a news junkie. Can’t help it. It’s in my blood – literally – because both my father and grandfather (Dad’s father) were journalists, both avidly interested in politics. In fact, Grampa’s beat was Congress for Gannett Press in Washington, DC. (Reginald F. Torrey)
See? I come by it naturally.
Which is why the news of last week, the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s actions, is painful to me.
Now – do NOT get me wrong. It’s not painful because I do, or do not, disagree with it! That’s not it at all.
It’s painful because, as a business owner, I know it’s in my own best interest, and in the best interest of my business, to keep my opinions to myself. That is NOT easy for me!
I meet many other advocates with political interest, too. I believe the reason is, that at our core, with very specific ideas about what is right vs what is wrong, leads us to intense interest, especially during these past few years. Thus, today’s topic and reminder.
I’ve written about this before – the need for us as practice owners and business people to keep our politics to ourselves. Becoming publicly vocal about one’s beliefs on politically controversial issues can lead to a loss of business.
I’ve taken heat for this recommendation, too! Readers have disagreed, saying it’s their duty to be vocal. And while I understand their reasoning, and I respect them and their opinions, I will continue to state emphatically KEEP POLITICAL CONTROVERSY OUT OF YOUR PRACTICE.
I actually have a little more history on my side since the last time I went out on this keep-your-political-opinions-to-yourself limb. There have been a few examples of business people mixing their political beliefs with their businesses that prove my point about the business damage that can be done:
- Papa John – for whom the pizza company is named – took sides in the kneel-vs-don’t kneel politics of the NFL. He was ousted from his own company, and Papa Johns is still trying to regain market share.
- Many people who support gay marriage will no longer eat at Chick-fil-A.
- Hobby Lobby made news by refusing to offer birth control to its female employees, citing the Bible. Many customers stopped shopping there because they believe in the separation of church and state.
None of those results will come as any surprise to you because you heard about them on the news.
But, what may come as some surprise to you that there are actually thousands of other businesses that are just as political and support / donate to candidates and issues you may not agree with. But because they have not publicly taken sides on political issues, you don’t even know you disagree. You keep doing business with them because you don’t know.
We, as advocates, aren’t selling fast food or craft supplies. What we are trying to “sell” is peace-of-mind. In this day and age, politics and peace-of-mind don’t belong in the same sentence (unless your sentence describes why they don’t go together!) Trying to combine them can lead to a loss of business.
So it is my recommendation – and I will stick solidly to it – that as long as you are a business owner, keep your political opinions from going public. Period.
That’s not to say you can’t have specific beliefs, and it doesn’t even mean you can’t share them in circles where you know it’s “safe” to discuss them. But leave them out of letters to the editor, or social media, or in a response on a blog post, or anywhere else where the public can find them, so they won’t come back to bite you in the business backside. Why take that chance?
How do I draw the line? As I said, I am avidly fascinated by politics! It’s like sport to me to get into discussions with people I do or do not agree with. (Honestly, it’s a good way to understand what makes others tick.) I have very specific ideas of who is right, and who is wrong, on any given issue.
So here is how I draw MY lines:
I’m OK with in-person conversations as long as they are respectful. There’s nothing public about that.
I was very active on Twitter until mid-2015 when the presidential race began to heat up and I had nothing nice to say about certain candidates. I stopped posting on Twitter except occasionally to say something about advocacy. I just don’t trust myself to heed “the line” that should not be crossed. Too tempting.
That said, I have a personal Facebook page that I post political thought to on a regular basis – but only with a very protected group of friends. The page uses a different name (not my public name). On that page, I can express myself without too much fear of it becoming fodder for someone who wanted to make mincemeat of me or my business.
As I said – I’ve taken heat for this advice before. I’ll likely spark disagreement again. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
We have jobs to do for our clients. Politics and controversial issues should not be part of the mix.
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