(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
I have hundreds of small business clients located all around the US. I speak to tens of thousands of small business owners at dozens of industry associations every year. I engage with thousands of small business owners on both Twitter and Facebook. And guess what? Many of them support Donald Trump. If you didn’t believe it before, you have to believe it now considering that, regardless of the election’s outcome, he’s collected more than 70m votes.
His party, which has, sometimes reluctantly, stood by him for the past four years, is projected to gain seats in the House and potentially continue to control the Senate.
So think about that if you run a small business. You are definitely buying products, partnering and trading with other small business owners who voted for Donald Trump. Your customers are likely to include many Donald Trump voters. Your employees may be … gasp … Republicans!
Are these bad people? Racists? Liars? Imbeciles? You tell me. You know them. You sell to them. You buy from them. You employ them. Here’s what I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that people have their reasons for voting for Trump and it’s not up to me to judge them. It’s my responsibility to better understand them, to learn from them, to empathize with their points of view. I can disagree with them. But that shouldn’t stop me from liking them, working with them and doing business with them. Of course the same goes for Trump supporters who hate their opponents with the same vehemence too.
There are millions of small business owners who voted for Trump because they believe his policies are better for their businesses, their employees, their communities and the country. Most I know admit that his behavior is sometimes reprehensible. But they’re willing to overlook his antics because they’d prefer to be given as much opportunity to control their own destiny. That means lower taxes, less regulations and a reduced threat of being shut down due to the pandemic (which is why so many Latino and non-white voters in cities such as Miami and Atlanta supported Trump this time around).
Given how close this election is it seems that our biggest lesson is that maybe – just maybe – neither side is right on all the issues. Which means no one should act more superior than the other. As business owners, we risk alienating half of our customers and communities if we assume that our political beliefs should be imposed on others. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up for what we believe is right. But we should better understand that a person isn’t evil just because he doesn’t agree with us.
If we’ve learned anything from this election, it’s that having a more open and curious attitude going forward about those “others” should help us avoid losing revenues or even good employees. It’s a big country. None of these problems will be solved anytime soon. Respect and better understand your fellow business owners and customers, regardless of who they voted for. Your livelihood may depend on it.