Costco, once everybody's favorite place, suffered a major black eye, not because of an inappropriate injection of politics into the business world, but rather owing to an uncharacteristic lack of attention to what was going on in a small segment of the sales portfolio.
Through my budget-management experiences as a division director at Johns Hopkins for many years, and through many tough financial experiences as the president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which is active in all 50 states, I gained enormous knowledge of business practices, but that pales in significance to what I have learned as a board member of both Costco and the Kellogg Co. during the past 17 years.
Managing and growing large multinational corporations requires wisdom and experience, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with and learn from both politically liberal and conservative business executives. I can honestly say that wise business practices transcend political ideology, and those who intentionally inject their politics into their business do so at their own peril. Their actions will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, based on their political views.
In the case of Costco and the D'Souza book, lack of awareness was interpreted by many conservative customers as political misconduct because of Sinegal's views. Although he and I differ politically, he continues to be a huge financial supporter of the Carson Scholars Fund and many other educational endeavors. When he was CEO, he could not sleep at night if someone else offered a better value on a product. He cared deeply about how employees were treated, and he refused to accept a salary comparable to other CEOs in the industry. He also has nothing to do with Costco book sales, nor would he wish to at this point. We have much common ground and are friends, even though we often discuss political issues.
There is no need for political differences to precipitate hostility in personal relationships. We can build a strong, prosperous nation together if we are willing to talk and use our collective strengths to accomplish common goals. We must maintain open channels of communication, and as a society, we must learn to vote wisely with both the ballot and the wallet.