Anyone who has started a company with me knows I have two main rules when I start a business:
- I don’t want to succeed at the cost of my ethics and morals
- I don’t want us bringing politics and political views into our company
I get a few arguments for both points, but the more interesting one is the second. I understand why some companies want to become involved in politics. They’re heavily regulated, they want to be less so, or have laws more in their favor, and spending a couple million on lobbying can save them billions. And, for the most part, unless you do something crazy like Chick-fil-a or Hobby Lobby, most people don’t care.
My problems with businesses involved in politics are two-fold: you’re throwing away customers and you’re acting like a person. By expressing any political belief, you are going to alienate some people. During the Chick-fil-a scandal in which they were caught supporting anti-homosexual groups, anyone supporting LGBTQ rights wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Hell, I still feel uncomfortable if I have to eat there, even after they stopped that practice. Now you can argue that the people who chose to eat there more often in support of their political beliefs might offset the difference, but the problem is that, on their side, their patronage drops off as well, returning to normal levels as the controversy fades. Scorned consumers, however, are much less likely to be forgiving, especially if it’s something like Hobby Lobby’s recent healthcare snafu.
Which brings me to point number two: businesses are not people. I don’t care what the Supreme Court says, you can’t equate a living, breathing person with the nebulous entity that only exists on paper. In Texas we joke that corporations will be people when we execute one. And that’s the difference: you can commit fraud, knowingly, as a corporation and pay a fine. Do that as an individual and you go to jail.
To that point, again, despite the Hobby Lobby ruling, you can’t tell me that you are your company. I am not Airvirtise. Airvirtise is not me. I am more than it and it is more than me. Airvirtise doesn’t play Pathfinder, and I don’t render OpenGL content on phones and process tons of data (thankfully. I’m terrible at math). If I die, Airvirtise goes on perfectly fine, and the same to me if the company folds. If I wanted a company to be an extension of my beliefs, I’d start a non-profit. Non-profits are made for that kind of thinking. And remember: just because it’s non-profit doesn’t mean no one gets paid.