Stacey Abrams on why companies shouldn’t always speak out about politics

Companies are under tremendous pressure to speak out on many political issues at the local, state, and national levels. Whether it’s a police action in one city, Disney in Florida, or the wave likely to call for business to be more responsive to a bombshell leak linked to a Court case overturn. Supreme Roe v. Wade, the current era is one where business leaders look to stay grounded, or face potentially worse consequences if they stay silent.

There may be no more influential voice in the Democratic Party – no less from a state prominent in major corporate-political blunders – than Stacey Abrams, the current candidate in the race for re-election. Governor of Georgia. But Abrams says it is a mistake to assume that companies should speak out on every political issue.

“Performance value means nothing to me,” Abrams said Thursday at CNBC’s Playbook for Small Business virtual event. “It shouldn’t be performance values ​​because you think that’s what people want to see from you.”

Abrams is a small business owner, and at the CNBC event, she made it clear that she is a “capitalist.”

“We should want to make money,” she said.

But it’s important to remember, Abrams adds, that especially for small businesses, “we enter the world as citizens, we don’t separate ourselves from who we are when we are.” open door.”

It also means accepting that customers come to their full selves when they walk through the door and that any decision to speak out about politics is a decision to show who you are in front of customers. there.

“We should be really selective about how we are willing to impose our belief system,” says Abrams. “But some very basic things about who we are, we also have,” she added.

For the 1.1 million small business owners in her home state of Georgia, she says making a choice about your stance on political issues means being willing to lose your business, even if you don’t want to. acquire another form of value.

In every major movement in this country’s history, from civil rights to women’s rights to LGBTQ rights, businesses have had to stand up. But the answer doesn’t always reflect “yes,” and it shouldn’t be based on accounting in dollars and cents only.

“The decision should be because you can’t meet your own moral compass, can’t respect your own moral core,” Abrams said.

Her co-founder Lara Hodgson – who is more politically conservative and co-author of the recent book “Level Up” with Abrams – says some businesses are created with purpose as part of DNA their. Their latest venture together, Now, offers bill payment solutions for small business owners for a fee, serving a wide variety of customers, employees, and investors. And Hodgson and Abrams had to make sure they were true to what the business was built for, and that was meant to help small business owners struggling with cash flow.

When a business diverges – as it did after a failed attempt to create the next “global beverage giant” with the Nourish brand, as Hodgson described their attempt to create develop a better line of spill-proof beverages for kids – it’s important to remember that the pivot does not represent a complete change in direction, but rather a fundamental location from which new opportunities are emerging. is searched. For Abrams and Hodgson, that pivoting DNA may include certain beliefs, but from a market opportunity perspective, it leads to financing problems for small businesses. “Don’t use business to go out and talk about other things,” says Hodgson. “We’re very focused on leveling the playing field for small businesses.”

The two often have disagreements, and they have different strengths and weaknesses. Abrams, who ran one of the most successful voter registration campaigns in modern history and is credited with delivering key Georgia races to the Democratic Party, says she’s great. with numbers that many businessmen (and legislators) don’t understand.

“We’re so different, we’re not best friends,” Abrams said. “This gives us the space to be incredibly honest and out of other people’s lives every minute of the day. If you wake up and work and go to bed talking to the same people, that’s the thing. that will blur your mind and create an echo chamber.”

When they disagree, Hodgson said, they approach the subject with curiosity first and foremost.

“When one of us shares a point of view, instead of jumping into judgment, we ask ourselves what we might be curious about, what can we learn from it,” she says. .

And amid differences of opinion, sharing ideas about the impact and outcome will certainly outweigh any particular point of inconsistency. “For 99.9% of the goals, we agree on the outcome, and the way we go about getting there is very different, but as long as the focus is on results and impact, the approaches are different,” says Hodgson. are all very positive.”

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