Staying Neutral for Business Sake
The staff at Dankoff Solar Products, a manufacturer of solar water pumps and wholesale distributor of components for solar electric power, is overwhelmingly antiwar. Paul Benson, the company?s president and general manager, and sales manager Boaz Soifer both marched in antiwar demonstrations and wrote to Congress in protest. After hours, employees frequently met to discuss the repercussions of the war with Iraq.
On the clock, however, the 16 full-time employees at the Sante Fe, NM-based business quell their political beliefs, especially when dealing with customers. ?You don?t want to add weight to a business relationship,? says Soifer. For that reason, Dankoff employees have been careful to avoid politically charged topics during sales calls and meetings.
Though it's been difficult to straddle the line that divides their personal and professional personas, maintaining neutrality with their customers, many of whom are conservative agricultural workers, was the most notable way war affected Dankoff. Benson had become more cautious about expenditures and cut back on Dankoff?s inventory when the war began, but, not so surprisingly, the war had a positive effect on Dankoff's industry.
?Anytime there?s a crisis, it?s good for our business,? Benson says. ?People who oppose war want to make a difference and be less oil dependent.? While DSP started the year off at 8% below last year's sales, the company experienced a strong rebound during the second quarter.
As a matter of fact, Dankoff?s recent relocation to new office space seems to have been more disruptive to work than the war, though emotions were running high at the business. Soifer, who, himself, is a victim of terrorism -- his parents were killed in a 1975 terrorist bombing in Jerusalem when he was four months old -- personally felt torn between working 60-hour weeks to support his family and his deep desire to become more actively involved in antiwar protests. Says Soifer, "It's hard to be completely engaged in your work when you know there is a humanitarian crisis being packaged in your name."