Monday, August 22, 2016

Keep it to Your Shelf: Opinions and Business

“Don't have any opinions. They're bad for business.”
                                     -Jerome Lawrence,
Inherit the Wind

Opinions and Business

There’s a saying that says, “opinions are like armpits: everyone’s got ‘em, and they all stink.” In a way, this is very accurate.

I had a friend who had a subscription to Angie’s List, which is a website that allows users to find specialists in all sorts of fields, from babysitters to plumbers to handymen, etc. He was a loyal customer for several years, until Angie’s List decided to take a stance on some political issues, including threatening to move their corporate offices out of state. My friend immediately canceled his account, citing that a company like Angie’s List had no business getting involved in politics.

Now, many companies issue statements and endorsements for political issues and candidates, so why was Angie’s List’s stance (which was covered by media outlets extensively) such an issue?

Well, it boils down to a failure by Angie’s List to properly communicate their company values. If Chick Fil-A had taken a political stance, it would not come as a surprise, as they are a Christian value-based company, and they align themselves with the Conservative movement. Hobby Lobby and Home Depot are others that have made public statements that have only alienated the few people who were not familiar with their company values.

There are instances when you, as the business owner, may make statements on behalf of your company, and those statements may be controversial, because the opinion is either not aligned with your company values or it is not addressed in that list of values. For example, your opinion may be that people who drink coffee are just as bad as people who smoke crack cocaine. This is a pretty controversial stance, and it can certainly alienate much of the world’s population. Even if you clarify that this is your opinion and not the company’s, the damage may have already been done.

So how can you avoid your opinions being meshed with those of the company? It all boils down to context. Barring concerns of mixing up your personal opinions and those of the company, your personal life should be completely separate from your company. What this means is that your personal email address should be different from your company’s; so should your social media accounts; If you are at work, in uniform, or speaking to clients, suppliers, etc., then you should act just like any other employee of the company. And this is true if you and your employees are in uniform even OUTSIDE of work.

Remember that if your goal is to simply have your company be your job, like many landscapers or doctors, lawyers, writers, etc., then it’s ok to have your accounts and statements be intertwined with those of your company. But if your goal is to be a true entrepreneur, and you hope to grow your business into a large corporation, you need to act like it from the go. Think of your company as a politician running for office; you will have a stance on issues that align with your values, but anything that can cost you the election should be off limits in conversation or other communications.

If you have any comments, questions, or want to lay all your controversial opinions on me as a way to vent (I promise not to share them with anyone else), please leave a comment or email me at

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