Young owners of SMBs become ‘apolitical’ to generate profits during Trump era

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Profits are taking precedence over politics for the younger owners of small businesses nationwide. (Pixabay)

In an era of divisive politics, small-business owners who want to focus on growth and profitability are more likely to identify themselves as Independent (39%) than as Republicans (27%) or Democrats (31%)—especially those under age 35, based on results of a CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey released on July 28.

"We do not talk about politics," Ishveen Anand, the 32-year-old CEO and founder of OpenSponsorship, a New York City-based sports marketing platform that connects brands with professional athletes and sports teams, told CNBC.

And that goes for the whole staff. "We're a venture capital start-up. Funding can dry up temporarily, based on the political nature [of discussions]."

What’s more, fewer young business owners are registering to vote, as compared to the 84% and upward registration percentages for every other age group surveyed. For example, while 24% of entrepreneurs under age 35 said they had not registered to vote, only 4% of those age 65 and over said they would not go to the polls.

That said, many in the younger age group are disgruntled with government regulations: A full 52% of survey respondents under age 35 said government regulations will have no effect on their business within the next 12 months, versus only 25% of business owners 65 and older who hold that view.

Experts believe that the disconnect between younger owners and politics is based on a strong business rationale. "When you're younger, you're all in on this; it's head down," Vincent Ponzo, managing director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School in New York City told the business news outlet. "You're not thinking about running for office. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, every day, every night, 24-7 every day, it's all about your business."

When asked whether their business’s revenue would increase, stay the same, or decrease over the course of the next year, 62% of the younger business owners said bottom-line revenues would rise, while only 42% of their elders age 65 and over said the same. Thirty percent of the more youthful group said business would stay the same and 7% thought revenues would decrease; while the replies for their more experienced peers were 40% and 13%, respectively.

Likewise, under-35 owners tend to describe current conditions as good or middling for business, while older owners say conditions are middling or bad, according to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey poll.

Ricky Klein of Groennfell Meadery in Colchester, Vermont, keeps his brewery and restaurant businesses strictly apolitical, except when it comes to social issues that he believes transcend politics, he told CNBC. "There are a handful of political things that we don't believe are political, whether it is human-caused climate change or water pollution. We fundamentally believe the environment is not political."

But politicians are not allowed to canvas or hold events at Groennfell. "You are welcome to bring your views, but you are not welcome to bring malicious intent," Klein said. He added, "We are not Democrats; we are not Republicans. We do not subscribe to the political dichotomy."

Maria Patterson, an assistant clinical professor at NYU's Stern School of Business, told CNBC that small businesses eventually grow large enough to affect the community and, by extension, politics and policy. "At some point a business has got to understand, whether it likes it or not, there are tools that business can use to affect the political process."

A famous example is Microsoft, a tech company that conspicuously shunned corporate lobbying until it was hit with an antitrust suit by the U.S. government.

"There comes a point where, as a business person, you need to understand what the tools are and how you can use them and use them responsibly," Patterson said.

Perhaps one example of this obligation to act would be the campaign announced last week by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a coalition of small business owners–who intend to tour the nation to promote tax cuts, according to a July 23 report by The Hill.

Indeed, the political news outlet said, a lobbying coalition—led by the bipartisan small business group Job Creators Network (JCN) and more conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—is planning to barnstorm the country in August.

The coalition is armed with results of a poll conducted on behalf of the Job Creators Network, July 12-17, that demonstrated that small-business owners want tax cuts even more than a healthcare repeal. It also found that 70% of small business owners would reinvest tax savings into their current operations and employees, as well as new hiring and expansion; while 30% would pay off debt incurred as a result of the slow economy and complying with regulatory requirements.

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