We love these when they are celebrities. They create drama. They create controversies. They create gossip. And ultimately, they create news. That’s why the tabloids adore these celebrities. After all, it’s their business to stay in the news. All they’re doing is managing their personal brands. But what happens when a personality in an organization resorts to such behaviour? If it’s a loosely connected personality such as an endorser, the company can instantly sever ties with the person to minimize damage. Or if it’s an employee from among the lower ranks, then that person can be quickly shown the door? But what if it’s the founder or owner or president or CEO?
That’s exactly what has happened with Chick-Fil-A, an American fast food restaurant chain. Its president, Dan Cathy, caused controversy over his statements which effectively opposed same-sex marriage. It is a well-known fact that the company’s corporate culture is heavily influenced by its founder’s (S. Truett Cathy, the Chairman and CEO) Christian beliefs. In fact, these beliefs are reflected in the fact that the chain keeps all its locations closed on Sundays. Now while I am not an authority on Christianity, I would think that at least a section of the followers of this religion would feel that the company is being consistent with its values. However, this statement has obviously ruffled quite a lot of feathers as well.
So let’s analyze this. Controversies are obviously newsworthy. And that’s been seen with the kind of publicity Chick-fil-A has got, although obviously a lot of it has been negative publicity. The chain is obviously sticking to its beliefs. While it is a highly profitable venture, its actions have demonstrated that it takes its values very seriously. However, there is obviously a large section of its customer base that does not agree with its views. So there have been calls to boycott the chain. However, there have been other views from this very section that feel that it doesn’t make sense to boycott companies just because you don’t share the president’s views.
The point remains though that overbearing personalities with power can at times cause problems for companies. A company is an entity whose values should match with those of its customers. However, there are businesses, especially family-owned ones, where the family beliefs at times overshadow everything else. So what do you do in such cases? My personal opinion would be to keep your beliefs intact without publicizing them when there is enough evidence that doing so would alienate customers. It is simply not necessary.