No matter what business owners believe about political candidates or causes, they must consider how expressing those opinions–through signage at their stores or in other ways–may impact customers and potential customers.
Even the most loyal customers may react strongly to a political message they disagree with, and they may take their spending elsewhere.
As a business leader, supporting a political candidate may not be the best idea. For example, the founder of Home Depot has sparked criticism for publicly backing a presidential candidate, causing The Home Depot to say that it, as a business, doesn’t pick political sides, according to Fast Company.
An article from Entrepreneur offers the following thoughts for business owners who may want to make political statements:
- Customers don’t separate an individual from their business. As a small business owner, your reputation in the community is tied to your business. If you do decide to comment in a public forum, those opinions can help or hurt your business. The same can be said of your employees, who act as representatives of your company.
- Politics can affect employees. If you have a strong belief that differs from your employees’ ideas, you could have difficulty hiring and retaining top talent. Current or potential workers may perceive “your belief as a personal attack–even when it isn’t,” the Entrepreneur article says.
- The internet knows all. If you release a statement that may offend or upset someone with an opposite belief, your business could be hurt long term. Negative reviews on social media and angry comments in online forums don’t go away, and may damage your business for years.
- You may lose customers. Before taking a stand on a political issue, think about whether your actions or opinions will cost you customers. “If your beliefs are strong enough, you may not care, but it is a real risk that you should consider,” the Entrepreneur article says.
- You could be misunderstood. By releasing a public statement or granting an interview on a political topic, you risk people misinterpreting your meaning. Free speech is a right for all. However, understand that not everyone will agree with you, so you should weigh the pros and cons before sharing your personal beliefs.