Following my last podcast concerning becoming involved in your Chamber of Commerce, I want to address the vital necessity of becoming acquainted with your local chain of command in government. Even though some of these elected officials may have little to no direct influence on your particular industry, there’s a very good chance that somewhere down the line you will need the assistance of one of those officials. For instance, you could run into a snag with a local zoning law or perhaps a problem with a local utility company that is operated by the municipality. Say there’s a problem with garbage pick-up and it’s not being picked up for some reason. You’ve made calls to the garbage company and tried to rectify the situation yourself, but haven’t been able to affect any change. Now it’s time to reach out to the proper elected official who can get the wheels turning for you. If you are acquainted with the officials who are connected with these entities, then you know who to contact when problems occur.
I am a big advocate of voting and as such, I feel that every business man or woman who is a U.S. citizen should take advantage of the right to vote. More importantly, know who you are voting for and be acquainted with the governmental structure in your community and how it operates. If you are unsure as to where to start with this educational process, I highly suggest Google.com. No matter what city or town you are in, it is likely that they will have a website outlining who the local officials are, their interests and their background. Even if there isn’t a website, there should still be some information on line regarding who they are, starting with alderman to city councilmen and administrators. Both city and county information should be available to you through Google. Knowing who these people are is a good start at becoming acquainted with them and there’s always the possibility that some of these people might go on to become state officials as well, so if you’re already acquainted with them, you are a step ahead.
Many times, people who hold office start off in the capacity of something such as a local school board member. They find that they like the atmosphere and the responsibility, so they work their way up into other aspects of government. Most of these people are honest, well intentioned and good people, but of course, as we all know, that doesn’t hold true for every single one of them. Identifying who you can depend on and wish to support early in their careers will not only help you in your business, but can pay off down the road when they begin moving upwards in their political careers.
I can say that I know all of my Federal delegation here, both on the House of Representatives and the Senate, but that’s because I have made the effort to become acquainted with them. Because my business here at Frontline is federally based, I take great interest in knowing which ones can be counted on when problems arise. It makes no difference what party they’re with or whether I like them or not; they are the ones holding the positions and they make the decisions on certain matters. In the past, I’ve needed to reach out to some of them due to various reasons such as a problem with the Small Business Administration, or I needed to ask about a specific law. Sometimes it involved current or proposed legislation and I just wanted to voice my opinion or give them my position to hopefully sway their voting decisions. The bottom line is, legislation can affect certain aspects of your life or your business and it can be anything from taxes to healthcare, so knowing who to contact to voice your concerns can save time and frustration. Choosing not to do anything and hoping things go for the best is definitely not a good mindset. No matter if you are on the winning side or not, you need to make the effort to try and affect change. It is you whom elected officials really want to hear from, but interestingly, the vast majority of local constituents don’t reach out to their congressional district. Instead, it’s the people outside a district who try to have the most influence. Don’t let that happen in your area; remind your officials of where the votes come from. They will have a much stronger interest in hearing from you.
The long and short of this is that as an entrepreneur, you cannot afford to remain in the dark in this area. When you’re looking at how you choose to invest your retained earnings or making strategic decisions, knowledge of legislation and what is to come in the next year or two will greatly affect and influence your ability to plan for the present and the future. The negative consequences that can result from not having this knowledge are simply not worth the risk.
I invite conversation on this subject and can be reached through my contact information, of course, you can reach me through the “comments” link at the end of each blog post.