- 5 years ago, I was wrong to engage in Corporate Political Activism. I wasn’t the first, but I did it, and now we need it to end.
- A lot of businesses are pressured into taking stands on issues that have little to nothing to do with their industries.
- Corporate Political Activism is about subtraction, not addition. There is seldom the ability to gain customers, but rather an almost certain guarantee that through activism the enterprise will lose customers.
- This country needs a break from increased divisiveness and hostility, please allow us that break while enjoying your products. Please give us enough of a breather so we can once again focus on what unifies us as Americans.
On January 10th, 2013 I committed what I now regard as the ultimate sin any executive or industry leader could commit, and that was politicize our business.
No harm was done to our company, sales and profitability actually went up after, more than likely not as a result of my Corporate Political Activism, but rather because we ran a very solid business and at the time most people did not use political considerations to inform their shopping habits. A lot has changed in those five years. Now, in this polarized environment, people do consider politics when pulling out their wallets. I am guilty of politicizing a business, at the time it probably was the correct thing to do and I do not regret it in that context, but times change, and it is time for business leaders to stop engaging in activism at the expense of the business itself, their employees, and customers.
I do not want to be protested to when I watch a football game. I don’t want to feel ostracized as an NRA member when I fly. I don’t want to have a conversation about race where I buy my coffee. When I buy a car, I don’t want that to be an endorsement of that company’s publicly promoted beliefs about allowing unvetted individuals from countries that are terrorist hotbeds into our country. And when I go shopping, I don’t want that to be an endorsement of a poorly devised and divisive bathroom policy. Stop the activism, provide me with quality goods and services at reasonable prices, and let’s just leave it at please and thank you. Corporate Political Activism really has become stupid. Transgender people were not being hassled at Target stores while using their restrooms, it was a non-issue. Target’s social statement unnecessarily confused and alienated a lot of their customers. Only 13 NRA members ever used Delta’s NRA discount, by revoking it as a measure of Corporate Political Activism Delta told me as a NRA Life Member my business wasn’t entirely welcome. I used to watch the NFL and will again when Roger Godell fully embraces that NFL fans want to be “entertained and have fun, not to be protested to” and he omits from the NFL’s mission statement the improvement of “communities, focusing on social justice reform, as well as criminal justice reform.” All good goals, but you are the NFL, not the ACLU or the NAACP. Stand with your hands over your hearts for the National Anthem and then get out there and play football; if it isn’t about football, don’t talk about it. I drive Ford Motor Company’s products, and as an owner of their products, I still have no idea what interest Ford had in taking a position against a travel pause to put enhanced screenings in place for people coming from countries that have active terrorist networks. Seriously, I am at a loss. Does the Ford family run a travel agency that I am unaware of? Ford should be focusing on producing next generation transportation, not angering and chasing away their customers. If Ford doesn’t buckle down and bypass the distractions, Tesla, Uber, Google, Intel, and a host of others without legacy costs will put them out of business. To the businesses I named above, I like your products, please stop trying to chase me away.
Many people believe that society was polarized by 24-hour news channels, or even polarized by the mostly unrestricted freedom of the internet, but I believe where things went off the rails was when companies unnecessarily became part of the political dialog. Corporations are not really people, but they are owned and staffed by people, and yes, those people are entitled to their opinions, but I really wish they would keep their Corporate Political Activist viewpoints to themselves. They should keep their Corporate Political Activist viewpoints to themselves not just because I am annoyed by the politicization of seemingly everything, but because I believe it has made the divisiveness inescapably pervasive, which has stoked irritation and anger. The anger and division that has been created in our country needs to be recognized and recognized as a tumor that is metastasizing. Corporate America needs to recognize two things about their activism: regardless of intentions it is not helping the country, and secondly it most certainly is not helping your businesses, your employees, your customers, or your shareholders. For my sanity and your survival, just stop it. The next time activists wind up on your door step wanting your company to take a position, please be polite but firm, it just isn’t what your company does. Please direct them to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, CAIR, the NAACP, or another appropriate organization. If you personally feel a certain way, open up your personal checkbook or donate your time, but please stop chasing away your customers.
5 years ago, my foray into politics began when I was fed up with all the business leaders I was surrounded by constantly complaining about regulation, an unequal tax code favoring some businesses over others, and the real effects of Obamacare that the news media wasn’t reporting either because of bias or lack of understanding. They may have donated to a politician or sent a private letter to an office holder, but for the most part they were just passively letting big government and bad government policies have their way with them. It became excruciatingly painful to just sit there and take it. So, on one of the many issues that frustrated me I spoke out on YouTube, and 325,000 views later I have three regrets: 1) At 8:35 in the video in question (above) it appears that I clumsily called for an increased tax on guns, I didn’t mean to. It was stream of consciousness, the words I said did not match my intention. The point I was trying to make was we needed to fund school security and protect our children, without increasing the national debt. Yep, I am that one guy who still cares about the national debt. 2) A lot of gun enthusiasts watched the video and immediately went into a debate about ballistics, or various shot loads or calibers. In the video I proved that a 12-gauge duck hunting shotgun, loaded with OO buckshot was equally, if not more, dangerous than an AR-15. I should have been very specific; the point was that one firearm is not morally superior or inferior to another. They are inanimate objects that can be used for good or bad. 3) My final and major regret is putting our company in the center of a policy debate.
The company that I was an executive of is Mills Fleet Farm. Mills Fleet Farm was sold when half of our shareholders wanted to sell, the alternative to selling was leveraging the company likely to the point of bankruptcy. I engaged in Corporate Political Activism at Fleet Farm and knowing what I know now I regret it. The issues at hand should have been addressed much more subtlety. I was able to do it without negative consequences, but that was then, and this is now. There is a time and place for political activism, it just isn’t when we are attempting to enjoy your product, so stop it. If we want to be angered, we will watch cable news, or browse Facebook or Twitter. Please just stay in your lane and give us a rest from the unremitting agitation that exacerbates our differences. Give us enough distance from the constant hostility to become a united country again.