Don’t mix business with politics, religion

 

Published in The Tennessean March 9, 2015

By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville

“I’ve been told to avoid politics and religion in my business discussions. I own the business and have strong views, why can’t I share them?”

You most certainly can promote your beliefs, but at what cost? Society has become increasingly more diverse religiously and divisive politically. Is it worth alienating a good portion of the marketplace by spouting far right or far left opinions? Is it worth a discrimination lawsuit for failing to serve a member of the community who doesn’t share your theology?

I have seen business owners post information on social media about their great company and then follow up with biased political posts. Then they share cute family pictures. Next you’ll see a religious post claiming their faith tradition has all the answers and everyone else is wrong, followed with another post saying “come see us at Bill’s Florist for a special deal.” How many people do the political and religious posts offend? I venture to say half of their potential customers will be turned off by what might be considered rants.

Four notes about social media:

  1. Unlike a verbal conversation, posts don’t disappear.
  2. There is no way to tell by responses if you should STOP NOW. People who are offended usually are silent.
  3. Sharing or “liking” something offensive is just as bad as writing it.
  4. Employees can do as much damage as owners if their posts are tied to the company.

Beyond the damage you can create with customers, consider what you are doing internally. Look at the work environment you create. If you discriminate in your hiring practices and are lucky enough to avoid a lawsuit, you are potentially missing some really good people. It’s hard enough to find employees who will help your business excel without cutting the pool because of political or religious beliefs.

Then say you hire someone and degrade him or her for having a different theology or supporting the other party. Again, assuming you avoid legal action, do you think that person will give 110% for you and your company? If you want great employees, you need to show them respect.

So yes, you are free to express your beliefs as you wish, within the law, but are you trying to maximize profits or are you more interested in promoting other agendas? The choice is yours, but unless you want your business to receive approval ratings similar to those of many politicians, I’d keep my political and religious views separate from my business. Politicians only need 51% of the vote at a given moment to be elected – you want more than that in your business.

Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at www.scorenashville.org .