I’m all for freedom of speech. I’m all for being active in politics.
But when it comes to being an entrepreneur, you really need to think twice before wearing your Obama button or McCain bumper sticker or any other emblem announcing your political inclinations.
Because in many circles, business and politics don’t mix, and if you are not sure when and where they do, you may be putting your business reputation and company at risk by taking too strong of a stand.
Here are some things to think about before shouting your political affiliation from the rooftops or on your company blog:
1. You could intimidate an employee. If you are the company owner and have a diverse staff, chances are not everyone on the team shares the same political views. You could create a tense corporate culture or even one of fear if you voice your politics too strongly, particularly at staff meetings. Who wants go against their boss?
2. You could lose a client. Politics - like religion - is a very personal choice and that choice can say a lot about a person. What if you top client is for a rival candidate or feels strongly about an issue but is on the opposite side as you? Who is right? Who is wrong? And what if that difference gets in the way of doing business? Sure, you might not let it, but what if they do? What if it costs you a contract?
3. You could receive bad press. If you are pro-this or anti-that, you need to think long and hard if you want your company to be behind the same issues. While it is noble to think that your company represents you, if you have clients, it also reflects on them. If you have staff, ditto. All you need is someone in your community to write a letter to the editor of your local paper denouncing you for your political views and if they can rally others who feel the same way, you’re now doing crisis management instead of focusing on your company.
4. You could receive death threats. I’m not kidding about this - it happens. I’m also not saying to hide your political affiliation because of fear of reprisals. But as a business owner, you need to realize that some people out there get very angry with people who do not agree with them, particularly about political issues. By using your company as a platform for your personal political beliefs, you could invite trouble.
5. Your candidate could lose. Hey, not every candidate wins. If you affiliate your company with a losing candidate, what does that say for your company’s judgment? This is why a lot of business owners prefer to keep their political affiliations private - because of the fallout after an election. Who wants to be connected with the losing side?
If any of the reasons above convince you NOT to mix politics with business, then you are a great, big wimp.
Although I actually do think that there are risks involved in mixing politics with business, I also think that it is our responsibility as business owners to be heard and to affiliate ourselves with the candidates who have our best interests at heart - for our families, our communities, our livelihoods and our country.
But of course, whatever you do, act responsibly and considerately.
And by the way, I’m voting for Obama.
What do YOU think about mixing politics with business?