As a business owner, I understand that my customers and business relationships are key to the long-term success of my company and I want to do everything I can to maintain and expand those relationships. At the same time, I also need to be able to maintain my voice and speak up about issues that matter to me, both professionally and personally. That’s one of the best things about having this blog.
Still, there’s a fine line that must be walked when a business owner starts sounding off on the controversial topics of the day – and. boy, are there plenty to choose from these days. The country has been a hotbed of controversial issues this summer – same-sex marriage, Obamacare, the Confederate flag, religious liberty, immigration and, of course, Donald Trump.
Everyday, I look for ways to grow my business, to extend my reach and let more people know about my service and what I can do for them. I’m not looking to debate a customer on the rights or wrongs of same-sex marriage and I’m certainly not looking for a heated debate over our powerless opinions about immigration, either.
Frankly, that would be bad for business.
When it comes to “bad for business,” Trump’s entry into the race for President is an interesting case study. For weeks, Trump has been going on and on about Mexicans and immigrants, making blanket statements – and offending – large groups of people, calling them “rapists” and “drug dealers.” It was only a matter of time before some of his business partners wanted to distance themselves from him and his statements.
First it was Univision and NBC Universal, pulling out from beauty pageants and giving him the old “You’re Fired” from his Apprentice TV show.. Then came Macy’s and Serta, which both halted sales of products with the Trump name on it. A high-profile golf tournament was moved at the last minute from a Trump property. Top-name chefs have changed their minds about building their restaurants in Trump buildings.
Trump, of course, has threatened to sue everyone who has turned against him. And, who knows? Maybe he’ll even win a couple of breach-of-contract lawsuits.
But in no way does this make him a winner. He’s tarnished his brand. Who would want to do business with The Donald now? Are there other celebrity chefs looking to step in and fill the void from those who walked away? Is CBS or FOX (maybe) interested in putting him on the air in a different type of reality show? Is Nordstrom looking to make room for his ties in their stores?
Sure, Trump may not care today about the business side of his life. After all, he’s rich – so rich that he’s funding his own campaign, a point that never gets lost during the countless interviews he’s done since announcing his candidacy. But, he’s also a long-shot for the presidency, what with his short-on-details, big-on-rhetoric presidential promises, such as building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and making the Mexicans pay for it.
At some point, Trump will likely find himself in the dark as the 24-hour news cycle starts focusing on the more serious candidates. It’s a long way to the election and while Trump’s 15 Minutes certainly still have some time left on the clock (at least until the first debates), it’s unlikely that he’ll make it all the way to Election Day.
What will he do after he’s blown millions of dollars on a campaign that went nowhere? What will he do when he finally realizes the financial fallout from the lost relationships with Univision and NBC and Macy’s and the others? What will he do when the restaurants in his buildings are vacant and his golf courses are empty?
What will he do when other companies pass on the opportunity to do business with him? File bankruptcy? Again?
It’s one thing to make bad business decisions and learn from them. But doubling-down on bad behavior when solid business relationships start to unravel because of what you’re saying in the public forum probably isn’t the smartest move.
I may not have agreed with – or had a lot of respect for – Donald Trump’s positions or the brash manner in which he chose to share them. But at least he always had my respect for being a smart businessman.
Now, he doesn’t even have that.