Many of my retailer readers, possibly the majority, are anti-gun or live in a place where there’s nothing resembling a “gun culture.” That’s okay. Please bear with me, because I promise that this post isn’t really about guns or police shootings, and it is relevant to your business.
In 2014, a man led police on a high-speed pursuit which ended in a gunfight where he was killed. This week, dashcam footage of the shooting was released. You can read about it and watch the video if you like, but I don’t really advise it. It’s horrific, and the incident itself is only backstory for this post.
Alien Gear Holsters, a small gun holster company, took to social media in a post critical of the number of rounds fired by police in the shooting.
I have watched the video and have an opinion, but I’m not going to share that opinion with you here, because it’s not relevant. What is important is to consider that there are people who are sure that the shooting is justified as a whole, people who are sure that the shooting was unjustified, and people who believe that the shooting was justified but some aspect of it was unjustified. Almost everybody who has an opinion about this shooting feels strongly about it.
What do you think that the owners of this company want? Do you think that they’re interested in social justice? Do you think that their goal is to make a difference in police use of force training and policies? Those may be interests of the owners, but I can nearly guarantee that their first goal is Net Income, because nothing else matters if you don’t have Net Income. Net Income means that they can have lots of great employees that make the company operate smoothly. Net Income means they can send their kids to private schools. Net Income means living in nice housing, driving reliable cars, and having the money to care for sick family members.
So what happened? What happened is that Alien Gear started enjoying their 1,000,000+ Facebook followers and forgot what was important. They, either the owners or their employees, forgot that their customers are real people who form real opinions. Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether Alien Gear was critical or supportive of the police involved in this shooting, because no matter where they took their stand, they’d be standing against some segment of their customer base, and that’s a foolish way to throw business away.
I recently researched a guy running a game store startup
scam consulting firm and found one phrase being used over and over in his marketing: “Live what you love.” It’s incredibly bad advice, my friends. Sure, you probably wouldn’t be in the business you are in without your interest in your product leading to a knowledge of the product and a discovery that you could make a living selling that product, but it’s crucially important to remember that your customers are not doing business with you primarily because they like you personally, no matter what they say. They want what your company has to offer, and that’s a wonderful thing, because your products are awesome and offer a tremendous value, right?
My store does not care about school vouchers, health care reform, balancing the budget, transgender soldiers, gun control, abortion, congressional prayer meetings, 9mm vs. .45, coffee vs. tea, or almost any other controversy. I have opinions on all those things, but my store does not. My store offers beloved products that are not controversial, but our customers certainly may have various strongly-held views on controversial topics. My store wants their money whether they feel that #BLM, want to #MAGA, both, or neither. My store loves everybody who is not unkind to us, and my store wants what’s best for them. The moment my store is seen taking a side in a controversy, it will almost certainly lose the business of people who hold an opposing view.
Alien Gear Holsters will probably not go out of business due to this misstep, but the profitability of the company will be impacted significantly in the short-term, and will be somewhat impacted forever as people with strongly-held opinions hold long grudges. This loss of business will manifest in a slightly-less-nice car, a slightly-less-cushy retirement, maybe a slightly inferior nursing home. These are impacts of allowing the personal to bleed into the professional and they’re hard to see in the moment, but they’re very real.
Remember when posting on your business social media accounts to stay on-message. Your products are great, you welcome everybody, and you’re happy to give them great stuff in exchange for their money. Your politics and your opinions need to stay at home, because you are at work to make a living first and foremost, not to change minds. Every decision you make about your business matters, either a lot or a little, and everything you do raises or lowers your chances of success.