As 2019 comes to a close and an election year looms, family businesses should consider how politics may impact their reputation and operations. Private political discourse among family members is one thing, but public conversations by family members within and without the family business may harm the business whether or not your family is politically divided.
Barbara Spector’s article, "Preparing for 2020", highlights the need for family businesses to proactively determine what political stance, if any, the business and all family members (whether working at the business or not) wish to take. Doing so for families with political division or a business that will support a particular candidate, party or issue is particularly important.
Hiring a family business consultant may help manage these conversations; facilitate a unified strategy regarding a candidate, party or issue neutrality or support; and minimize the likelihood of being blindsided by a family member’s contrary statement or position.
Questions to Ask
Whether or not a family business consultant is retained, below are a few questions that may be used to begin the discussion:
- Do we want our family business to be seen as neutral?
- Do we want our family business to affiliate with a certain political party, candidate, or issue?
- Do we want to include a mediator or consultant to help facilitate these conversations?
- Have we discussed our business’ policy on political issues, candidates and parties with every family employee? Do we want to do so?
- Have we discussed our business’ policy on political issues, candidates and parties with our extended family members? Do we want to do so?
In any case, as Ms. Spector suggests, it may be a good idea to budget for a PR consultant in the event of consumer boycott due to disagreement with your business' position or a careless or off-script family member communication.