Startups · Leadership

Should the CEO make their personal beliefs public?


June 26th, 2015

Startup CEOs tend to work much more closely with the members of their team than the traditional corporate boss. Coworkers are often considered friends, as well. However, there is also a fine line between boss and friend that has to be maintained in order to run a business. What have startup leaders done in this situation? What has worked, what hasn’t worked in terms of drawing this line?

Perri Gorman Founder of Archively & UnrollMe

June 26th, 2015

Personally I refuse to be anything but myself. If anyone has an issue with that then they shouldn't be working with me in the first place. I think you can use discretion about when and what is relevant to share, and you don't want to force your personal beliefs on anyone. It also depends on what kind of culture you want. I want radical honesty and everyone to have permission to be who they are and that starts with me.

John Spitters Stories from authentic experiences give way to extraordinary dimension & consequence.

June 26th, 2015

This is a terrific subject to contemplate & discuss!

1) act and conduct in behavior that upholds the best interests of the COMPANY,
2) it's not about my opinion -- my opinion does not matter -- it's about our member subscribers (customers), partners, team members, prospective members and the professionals with whom we're aligned,
3) ask yourself, "if my opinion is viewed or aired, then will it be interpreted as being informed, articulate, productive, constructive, intelligent, etc., vs. emotional, reactive, toxic, poorly equipped, irresponsible or out of step of someone who is ostensibly looked upon as a leader"?,
4) people will invariably recall the last statement, comment or opinion you may make -- make sure they do so in ways you cannot regret,
5) respond to a direct question with a direct answer graciously, professionally and responsibly...remember: you're being observed so act and speak accordingly,
6) THINK...before speaking,
7) Great leaders recognize the right spots, places and times to act, voice and be heard... This is called "judgement" and it should be exercised very carefully.
Judgement "judgement" and it must be exercised carefully.  

Peter Weiss President at American Outlook, Inc.

June 27th, 2015

It depends on circumstances.  If you and a small circle of people who share common perspectives are the only owners you have more room than if you have investors.  If you have outside owners your obligations to them should be a factor in how you handle these issues.

My family had a highly visible retail business catering to the Hungarian and central European communities.  After the Second World War and again after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 our customers walked up to our door with a variety of views and backgrounds - fascists and communists, nationalists and socialists, anti-semites and concentration camp survivors.  My grandfather had an absolute rule:  everyone is welcome but leave your politics outside.  Think of it as Ric's Cafe Americain with paprika, goulash and stuffed cabbage (if you don't get the reference watch Casablanca - one of the greatest movies ever made).

Some people will respond strongly to overtly presented views - customers, vendors, employees, investors and informal partners.  Given a choice customers may take the business practices, political positions or social or religious practices of a company or its leadership into account when deciding with whom they will do business.  That so many boycotts are announced (and some succeed) is all the evidence you need.  Likewise, the periodic activity by businesses large and small in response to a variety of political moves on social issues because they believe it will effect their ability to hire and retain staff or attract customers further underlines the point.

It's a line to walk carefully - be yourself but respect others and leave lots of room for people who think differently.  

Will Tran

June 26th, 2015

Be tact about it. Stand up for what you think is right but don't tank and take down your company with you. Don't let your employees go homeless.

Ken Queen Income For Baby Boomers

June 26th, 2015

My view is your workers must be your friends because they have in their power every day to help you or hinder you in ways you cannot stop. If someone is no longer a friend to you especially those at the top find someone new it will only hurt you in the end if you don't.

I ran into two past employees in the past year and they bothsaid if I ever start a company up again please remember them, they would love to work with me again. That's the only employees I want.

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

June 26th, 2015

If you hold a personal belief that is core to your business then it should form a central component of your culture and you should hire employees accordingly. How important they are to the company you founded determines how public you make them. Steve Jobs was Vegan but the Apple canteen served meat everyday. It wasn't a defining principle for the company.

If you get to be very successful then people will become more interested in your personal beliefs and opinions. Right now frame everything in the context of the business. A small point on friendship and CEO's, like parenting, we all want to be friends with our kids but the role requires parenting first and foremost. The role of CEO can be lonely at times but you must play the role - it's what your employees need and expect of you.

Vinod Keni

June 27th, 2015

My 0.02 cents  - A startup CEO's belief system makes a big part of the organizational culture early on; but be tactful and do not force your beliefs on others, especially if they tend to be pretty strong and may end up dividing your team.  

Diane Kaston Director of Retail Business Development at E-commerce Jewelry Start Up

June 27th, 2015

one needs to be very careful, my company was israel based and people had very strong opinions during last summers conflict, both in terms of customers, pr, and personal relationships i was very careful to remain unspoken in my opinions, it was very hard to do while being bombed for 6 weeks but in the long run it benefitted my business and my relationships with those i worked with.....especially on social media for me less was more, my company needed to remain neutral during a very difficult time for all so as not to alienate anyone in any way, 

Adwait Ullal Cloud/Enterprise Architect

June 26th, 2015

Yes, as long as they don't enforce it!

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

June 28th, 2015

I did some consulting in the early 90’s for a company based in Northern Ireland. They managed to do business on both sides of the sectarian divide during a time when to do so could mean losing your kneecaps or taking a short car journey from which you never returned. It was very serious stuff, yet they managed a thriving business based on sensitivity and respect - and being incredibly careful with any publicly or privately held view. 

In these days of social media and an audience for every voice it is easy to assume that our markets care about what we have to say. Study the business people you admire and question how much you know first hand of their politics and social views.