In this election year, political signs will be sprouting on lawns -- and in some shops, too. Some entrepreneurs may hold fundraisers for their chosen candidate, or be active in their local party caucuses. Some may even serve up ribs or a slice of pie to the candidates.
Of course, big businesses give big to their chosen candidates all the time, and it rarely seems to affect how customers feel about them. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs of the past few years aren't being shy about wanting President Barack Obama out, even though they made a fortune on his watch.
But it's different when you're a small-business owner and do business in a small town or neighborhood. So much of business at this level depends on your personal relationships.
To avoid angering your customers, now's the time to start preparing your ultra or a-political responses -- not when the TV in your restaurant broadcasts the latest political gaffe. Your first step is to figure out how you plan to engage in the election, as there is something of a sliding scale. When it comes to being "out" about your candidate at your business, each entrepreneur has to decide where they're going to fall.
Here are seven options to consider:
- Political moratorium. Election conversations are a taboo topic. You're not saying who you're voting for, and you don't want to hear others' views, either. Your idea of talking politics is using the election as a theme for a sale.
- Smile and nod. If workers or customers bring up the election, you smile and make a neutral comment like, "We'll see what happens." You don't share your own views.
- Agree to disagree. Political discussions are allowed, but only after establishing a firm policy of civil discourse and politely agreeing to disagree. You don't volunteer your own views or initiate political discussions.
- Open exchange. You want to talk about your views, and encourage others to have a dialogue about the election. You're wearing a T-shirt with your candidate's face on it to work.
- Attend events for your candidate. Find the other business owners who support your candidate, and hang tough together. You can offer each other moral support. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll inject your views into your everyday business dealings, but some folks in town will surely know where you stand.
- Hold a fundraiser for your candidate. The cat's out of the bag at this point. But still, this is a one-time event that passes. And there's less of a business impact here than if you plaster candidate posters in your shop windows.
- Put up your pick's posters, have a donation box and talk your pick up to anyone who'll listen. Know that you will definitely be bothering some people, maybe to the point where they don't want to do business with you. But if you're passionate about your candidate, maybe you'll feel it's worth it.
When the election heats up, will you share political views at your business? Leave a comment and tell us your policy.