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John Marvin

Being Civic-Minded is Important, But So is Not Alienating People

You can take a stand; you can get involved, you can even be an activist, but be political, correctly.

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BETTER TO REMAIN silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln

One of the most cherished freedoms we have as United States citizens is the freedom of speech. It is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Companies small and large make political statements supporting causes they believe are best for society and our country. If you own a small business, you likely have opinions and possibly feel strongly about causes that are important to you. I know that I do.

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However, I do not think that it is good business to let these opinions find expression in your practice or store’s day-to-day operations. It is not because the views lack legitimacy but that you are offering products and services to customers. You are offering eyecare to patients. People come to you for eye examinations, to purchase prescription eyewear, for advice on vision care. They do not come to your practice or store to learn about global warming, the value of a demographic, or illegal immigration. They don’t come to your practice or store to understand the evils of socialism or capitalism. They come for eyecare.

So, when I say it is not good for business, it is not out of concern that you will offend a portion of your patients or customers, and you surely will, but instead, because it takes focus off providing patients and customers what they want when they choose you for care.

It is extremely important that you and your employees are civically involved in your community, your city, your local school district, county, and state. But that involvement should not be injected into the daily offering of eyeglasses, contacts, and eyecare. That is not why people choose you as their provider.

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Employees should be encouraged to participate in local government, campaigns, and elections. As an owner, you can encourage this with paid time off for participation. However, this encouragement cannot or should not be dependent on a particular political point of view. Your employees should know that you believe in this participation’s importance, but that it is not to be expressed during office or store hours. Employees should not be allowed to wear apparel that promotes a political point of view. They should dress professionally and appropriately for your office or store.

This participation is good for business. You and your employees’ involvement helps to make your community and local governments better by being responsive to the people’s will. What is good for a community is good for that community’s small businesses. What is good for a local school district is good for the families that live in that community.

Many people support or boycott businesses today because the business let political statements override their commitment to providing their customers with the products and services they sell. This decision is the company’s management and leadership right, but it can hardly be good for business. You don’t succeed by alienating a sizable portion of your customers who may disagree with your political statement.

The point is, it isn’t necessary to alienate anyone. Patients and customers want to support an eyecare practice or an optical that provides the best quality of care, excellent service, and competitive prices. They do not want to feel disrespected or lectured on politics. I guarantee, if you allow your practice or store to become politicized, you will disrespect and offend some of your customers. Customers who are disrespected and offended will find somewhere else to provide their eyecare and prescription eyewear.

You can take a stand; you can get involved, you can even be an activist but be political, correctly.

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John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. You can email him at [email protected]

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