Society has come a long way in accepting and promoting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Still, that doesn’t mean the challenges of this community are a thing of the past. Those in the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination and additional hurdles on their paths to business success and personal happiness.
This is why it’s more important than ever to show support and use your voice for good. While every day is an opportunity to take a stand for what you believe is right, Pride Month – June – is the ideal time to show your solidarity with LGBT-owned businesses.
Taking a stance of inclusivity is not just the right thing to do – it’s good for business. Businesses that support LGBT communities can enjoy their support in return – building relationships within the community that lifts everyone up.
As part of Invoice2go’s mission of creating a global and inclusive community, we want to share our support for the LGBTQ+ business community. We’re committed to helping all small business owners to reach their full potential.
How can you mindfully contribute to increasing the visibility and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community? Here are 9 simple ways to begin:
1. Take a hardline stance on LGBTQ+ discrimination
Businesses that support LGBT rights need to practice what they preach, and this starts with adopting a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination – whether from employees or customers. Your written policies can spell out the type of behavior you expect and what you will not tolerate – and establish clear penalties for discriminatory behavior.
What can you do when customers behave badly? Keep in mind that the customer, in fact, isn’t always right – and you have the right not to do business with them. Anyone who treats someone else as inferior because of their race, color, religion, age, orientation, gender, gender identity, or other personal characteristics is in the wrong.
If you truly support diversity and inclusion, your decision is easy. Penalize employees that discriminate and ask abusive customers to take their business elsewhere.
2. Use your voice and platform to support the LGBTQ+ community
As a business owner, you have a position of influence in your community. Additionally, your core values can help build a unique business brand that establishes stronger customer relationships.
While it takes more than a rainbow flag to rally behind historically marginalized groups and show the support they deserve, here are some straightforward ways to show your support.
You could put a pride sticker on your company vehicle or a sign in the window of your shop that says you serve everyone. You can do the same virtually with your online presence.
In addition, you can create content for your blog and social media that promotes the LGBTQ+ community and related causes or events. You can support local gay- and lesbian-owned businesses in your area.
Your words and actions speak volumes about your beliefs, values, and commitment to establishing an inclusive company. Don’t be silent. Using your voice is the easiest way to let people know where you stand.
3. Create an inclusive environment for employees and customers
Diversity has become a buzzword for many companies recently. However, your policies and practices can make it more than just a catchphrase. How can you achieve this?
Start by adopting diverse hiring practices. When you advertise open positions in your organization, make it clear that your business welcomes applicants from all communities, including LGBTQ+.
Additionally, instead of expecting everyone to follow unwritten rules of acceptance and support, create written policies that make your stance clear – that you have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination.
Finally, make sure to create an environment of trust that encourages open communication. You want employees to feel safe speaking up, and they need to know that their concerns and experiences will be validated and taken seriously.
4. Adopt a gender-neutral mentality
As you move toward supporting lesbian and gay-owned businesses, as well as the LGBTQ+ community at large, there may be a learning curve. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that many businesses struggled to become more eco-friendly. Today, utilizing energy-saving LED lights, non-toxic and organic materials, and locally sourced supplies have become commonplace.
Similarly, adopting a gender-neutral mentality may be difficult at first. Being mindful of preferred pronouns such as they/them, ze/zem, xe/xim, sie/hir, can take some practice. Just keep in mind that after a short time, they’ll become second nature.
There are other simple gender-neutral changes you can use to make your language more inclusive. For example, you can say “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife.”
Not only does this signal your desire to create a comfortable environment for all gender identities, but it will surely please employees and customers that are accustomed to waiting in line for a gender-specific bathroom when the other one is unoccupied.
5. Cross-promote with local LGBTQ+ companies
Joining an online community like Gayborhood can open doors to new business opportunities. You can also follow the example of other businesses by signing a pledge that your business is LGBTQ+ friendly. You could even create your own pledge and encourage other local businesses to join if such a thing doesn’t yet exist in your area. If you are an LGBTQ+ business owner yourself, consider applying for LGBT-owned business certification from the NGLCC.
The next step is to partner with queer-owned businesses to promote them to your customer base. Cross-promotions are a great way for local businesses to team up, split promotional costs, and benefit from exposure to a new group of customers that they might not otherwise have access to.
If you’re going to team up with local businesses for cross-promotion, why not take your efforts to the next level by raising awareness and creating goodwill in the process?
Make the effort to connect with local LGBT-owned businesses to pitch cross-promotional ideas that could benefit you both and shine a spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community.
6. Educate yourself and others
Genuine support for the diverse LGBTQ+ community requires a level of understanding and participation that you won’t get with a hands-off approach.
It’s well and good to tout your company as gay-friendly, but what does it mean if you don’t understand why this community needs your support in the first place?
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Sure, everybody knows in a peripheral way that the LGBTQ+ community has long been marginalized. They’ve historically been denied rights that others enjoy (marriage, for starters) and they’ve suffered discrimination and persecution.
Knowing this in a general way is very different from meeting people and hearing their personal stories. This is where understanding starts. In order to educate yourself and your employees, consider implementing a mandatory LGBT inclusivity training program.
For example, the Gay Alliance offers a variety of resources and programs designed to promote understanding and inclusivity in the workplace. You can contact them to discuss suitable programs/presentations and even customize them for your company’s needs. Diversity Resources offers LGBT sensitivity training and tools, as well.
You can also take steps to educate your customers and members of your local community. You don’t have to be pushy about it – simply post flyers for local LGBT organizations and events, for example. Alternatively, you could go the extra mile and offer your business space after hours for group meetings, workshops, events, and more.
7. Host or participate in LGBTQ+ events
Whether you’re just starting to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community or you’re looking for ways to become a better ally, there’s no time like Pride Month to increase your efforts. You can start by donating or fundraising for local events, posting flyers, and promoting events on social media. You can even participate as a business by joining events or hosting events at your location.
Of course, you should also strive to be a supportive ally to gay- and lesbian-owned businesses and the LGBTQ+ community year-round. This could mean promoting and participating in other annual events, such as Spirit Day, which raises awareness of the bullying that LGBTQ+ youth face.
You can also join or even create local fundraisers to support LGBTQ+ organizations and causes. You could donate a portion of sales during Pride Month or for certain products or services year-round to an organization of your choice. Everything you do helps to raise awareness, promote understanding, and change attitudes.
8. Participate in advocacy and legislation efforts
Not everyone has the time and energy to become an advocate, even if they strongly believe in and support a cause. The good news is that there are already organizations advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, and you can get involved on a number of levels.
As a business, you could make financial donations to organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) or donate time and encourage your team to participate in events as a group.
You may want to direct your efforts toward a specific group. For example, The Trevor Project is focused on advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth. Some states have their own programs focused on advocating at the local level.
If you want to do more, you can support legislative efforts geared toward equality and protection for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Many advocacy groups work toward essential legislation, which is a good way to learn more about legislative efforts already underway.
However, you can also write letters to leadership, including senators, representatives, the state legislature, and even local groups like the city council and chamber of commerce, urging policy changes geared toward equal rights for LGBTQ+ citizens and businesses. There are so many options for businesses that want to get involved – you can easily find opportunities to participate and make a difference.
9. Adapt as needed
There’s no real roadmap for becoming a gay-friendly business, and it’s possible that you’re going to make some mistakes along the way. The important thing is that your heart is in the right place and that you’re willing to accept constructive criticism so you can become a better ally, supporting the LGBTQ+ community in ways they want and need.
If you want to improve your ally literacy, you’d like to learn more about legislation, and get involved, check out the resources page on the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).
At Invoice2go, we’re passionate about customer success, and we’re always working to empower you to be your best.
If you’re looking to connect with like-minded business owners and share your story, join our community of go-getters.