This post contains some rare commentary related to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) recently passed in Indiana (similar to bills being passed and proposed in other states). Ordinarily, political content does not make its way into the Business in Blue Jeans Blog, however there are business consequences that you need to consider, so I decided to open the topic up for discussion.
A Bit Of Local RFRA News From Indiana
While my clients are all over the world, I’m based in Indianapolis, Indiana, so political activity in Indiana impacts me.
Recently, Indiana legislators passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (total side note, but it’s super fascinating to me that the RFRA was actually originally created to benefit Native Americans).
I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t get into the legal questions of this bill.
And while I am going to try to focus on the business side of this issue, I will say that discrimination of any kind is wrong. And Business in Blue Jeans is Open For Service to all people. If you want to start and/or grow a business, we’re here to help everyone.
So having said all of that, let’s focus on the business implications of allowing your personal beliefs to determine who your business serves.
It’s Not Just Personal. It’s A Branding Issue
When your personal beliefs start to creep into deciding whether or not to serve people, you start to negatively impact your brand.
I know several local business owners who frequently litter Facebook with their political views, arguing with people, posting angrily…and I’ll bet you anything that they never think about the fact that their business name is attached to their personal name. I’ll bet they never think about just how much business they lose with the way they behave.
As a business owner, you want to open your arms to potential customers and clients…not shut them out.
In the many years I’ve been in business, I’ve been fortunate to have clients who, for the most part, I liked. But now and then, especially in the early years, I’ve had clients I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Some clients I didn’t care for because of the kind of business they were in. Some were just kind of jerks. In the early days of a business, you can’t often afford to choose who you’ll work with, because you need the business.
Over the years, I’ve thought about whether one should work with people one doesn’t like. I suppose that working with people you don’t care for could impact the quality of your work, but I’ve always thought that a true professional should be able to perform at the highest quality, whether s/he likes the client or not. And that idea has been borne out in my own work, as I’ve taken on clients now and then that I have nothing in common with or just don’t particularly care for. We all know people who just aren’t our cup of tea.
But here’s the thing – while I might opt out of working with someone because I don’t think I can actually help them, I would never opt out of working with someone because I have a different set of beliefs from them. I would never deny someone service because of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin, or religion. I would only refuse service if I knew I could not deliver my services at the highest possible quality.
So when am I unable to deliver my services at the highest possible quality?
- When the client is unwilling to do the work.
- When the client is unwilling to let me help them.
- When the client wants consulting in an area that is not my area of expertise.
- When the client has a bad business idea that just doesn’t have potential.
- When I no longer have room in my schedule.
Those are the only circumstances in which I would decline to work with someone, and if I decline to work with someone, I will tell them exactly which of these reasons is the reason why I cannot help them.
But that reason is never “we have different points of view.”
I often disagree with my clients’ religious or political viewpoints, but one of the reasons I don’t often speak publicly about my religious or political viewpoints is because I don’t want anyone to have a reason not to work with me. If I say what political party I am, I instantly alienate anyone from the opposing party and I give them a reason not to hire me. And frankly, I can help you grow your business, whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, or even a (gasp!) nonvoter.
And none of these things determines anything about whether or not I’m good at my job!
I wouldn’t want potential clients to discriminate against me based on my religious or personal beliefs…so why would it be okay for me to want to discriminate against them? It’s not okay!!!
Standing up for discrimination is just bad business. If you refuse to work for or with someone because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, believe me, word will get around and you’ll have people boycotting you, writing negative reviews about you, and before you know it, you’ll be closing your doors.