In a magazine column a couple months ago, I cautioned local business owners about the dangers of using their businesses as vehicles to promote their political beliefs. I noted that in today’s fractious climate, making your business political can cost you business without you realizing it.
Other things I’ve seen business owners do are similar. For example, not an hour before I composed this post, a truck from a local contractor passed me. There, in the middle of the front bumper, was a license plate displaying the Confederate flag (before Civil War buffs jump all over me, I do know the proper terminology, but that’s what the average person calls it).
To some people, that flag stands as a proud reminder of heritage or history. But to many others, it’s an overt expression of racist or hateful attitudes. Still, this isn’t the space to debate its symbolism. I mention it because placing that license plate on his business vehicle could very likely cost that contractor work he’d like to have. People who might otherwise contract with him may change their mind when they spot that plate. Personally, I wouldn’t want his truck parked in my driveway, because it might lead my neighbors to think I harbor racist or divisive views.
Another local contractor is a frequent contributor to social media chatter sites. Nearly monthly, he goes off on furious rants about some national issue or a local government decision he disagrees with. A friend who has used his services raves about his work, but his diatribes lead me to view him as an opinionated hothead who wouldn’t handle disagreements constructively. I won’t hire him.
As I’ve said before, I’m not advocating that business owners abandon their free-speech rights. My point is that using your business to express political sentiments will have a negligibly positive effect on the cause that matters to you, but a significantly negative potential effect on your business. When I do the math, that makes it a bad choice.