It has been a crazy couple of weeks in America. Politics and business have collided in historic ways. #DeleteUber trended, Starbucks promised to hire 10,000 refugees, Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, quit the White House’s Economic Advisory Council and Nordstrom stopped carrying Ivanka Trump’s merchandise. No matter which side of the political coin you are on, it’s clear that these companies are taking a huge risk in an attempt to align their organizational values with their actions. But shouldn’t companies just keep their mouths closed? Aren’t they putting themselves at risk?
There are many perspectives in which we can evaluate these moves but I will stick to culture. Great companies have tangible values and the internalization of these values leads to a great culture. All three companies I mentioned are known for having great company cultures and it played a role in all of these situations. Take Nordstrom for example. Nordstrom’s daily operations and values are centered around the customer. According to their spokesperson, Nordstrom’s customer base was not purchasing Trump’s products and discontinuing them was based on customer demand, not politics. Per Nordstrom’s Twitter page:
“This decision was based on business results – it was not a political decision. Based on the brand’s performance, we decided not to buy it for this season”
Reflecting on this statement, it is clear that Nordstrom considered the customer when determining the fate of a controversial product. So, ultimately, their decision was aligned to their strong customer values. Starbucks committed to hire 10,000 refugees in response to the immigration ban. They also openly attributed their actions to their values.
“We are in business to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time,” CEO, Howard Schultz wrote. “That will not change. You have my word on that.”
Nobody has publicly discussed why Travis Kalanick resigned from the Economic Advisory Council but many are speculating it is due to Diversity & Inclusion values being instilled throughout the Uber culture.
So, yes, it was right for these companies to act. You may not agree with their values but the moral of the story is that values are the fabric of any organization, if you have no values you have no core beliefs. With no core beliefs, you have no culture. So, instead of criticizing these companies, let’s commend them for doing something very difficult – making a bold move in an attempt to align all of their processes and approaches to what they believe in. If you strive to foster a great culture, making these tough decisions are part of the drill.