When it comes to politics, the saying "loose lips sink ships" was never more true. Marriages have broken up over political views. So can you mix business with politics? I made some political comments on my retail store's business website and got some serious flack from supporters of the other party. At the same time, it is your business, and you have the right to use it as a platform to state your ideas. After all, you have an audience of customers waiting to hear your views. That's a rare gift, or some say a curse, of being a business owner. The key lies in how you state your political views.
Is silence golden?
Most of my colleagues state nothing political on business time. They won't utter a word to express their views within their business. That can be seen as a good business model, but I think it's a wasted opportunity. You work hard to create a good business, and you treat yourself like a cold war communist refugee? We have free speech for a reason, so use it. Just be careful how far you go. Be polite about expressing your views. If you're in favor of Party A, then point out their strong points. Never denigrate the other party! This will drive that party's supports away from you. They'll drive far just to support another business.
"Speaking Out" Gets Support and Loyalty
If you are savvy in expressing your views, you can win some fierce loyalty among your party's supporters. They will specifically seek out your business, and refer you to friends. During the invasion of Iraq, I voiced my opinion for a "better direction" and a better choice of leaders with peace and prosperity on their minds. I did not call Bush a liar or voice my concerns about the massive profits the Bush/Cheney clan were reaping. Always careful with words in the store and statements on the site, I supported the Democratic platform, while avoiding making fun of the Republicans.
Of course, I did get 3 or 4 pieces of anonymous hate mail from the Red party, expressing a desire to see my store burn to the ground. But those emails were easily forgotten. I gained massive support among other Blue party members, and my business continued it's 10% annual growth. This worked for me, because my 2 stores were situated between two major universities in Pittsburgh - a liberal crowd. If I had been in a small conservative town, I'd have to keep my mouth shut.
Know your audience
Go ahead and voice your political opinions, but tread lightly. Never resort to name-calling or negative tactics. State your support in a positive manner. Remember: this is a business, and you need to keep happy customers.
One of my friends, also a retail store owner, said he could support one party with full force and vigor. "After all, that guarantees me loyalty with at least 45% of the crowd." He makes a good point.
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