One of the greatest tools for protecting and growing your small business isn’t a new sales program, a costly consultant or a cutting-edge piece of software. It’s your voice.
And you need to have it heard by the people who often wield more power over your business’ success—or failure—than even your own employees: politicians. Here’s your insider’s guide to lobbying lawmakers like a pro.
Build a relationship.
Build a relationship with your lawmakers before you need it, says NFIB member Andrew Brady, president and owner of Bay Area Dispatch and Solutions Systems in San Francisco. Brady’s strategy is to establish rapport with lawmakers after attending their town hall meetings.
Follow up by sending them a birthday or Christmas card. “You have to work the personal side and make [yourself] memorable,” Brady says.
Take advantage of NFIB-sponsored opportunities.
One of the best ways to leverage this new relationship, Brady says, is by taking advantage of NFIB events and legislative alerts. Brady says he always makes sure to attend Small Business Day at the Capitol. The event, usually held in the spring, makes it easier for lawmakers to meet with small business owners, because they’ve already set aside time to do so.
Schedule a personal meeting.
NFIB’s Legislative Advocacy Coordinator Keeley Mullis says scheduling a personal meeting with your lawmaker is key. If your legislator is busy, “do not overlook an opportunity to meet with your lawmaker’s staff,” Mullis advises. Staff members often exert influence over their boss’s views and future votes.
Give them a story to tell.
At the meeting, concentrate your remarks on one specific issue, and keep your comments under 10 minutes. “Be prepared to discuss not only how the legislation will impact your business, but also how it will impact other small business constituents,” says Gary McKinsey, an NFIB member and consultant in Modesto, Calif. Come prepared with a one-page summary of your views, and bring an extra copy for your lawmaker.
But Brady says the most important thing you can give your lawmaker during this meeting is a story to tell their colleagues. If a bill will cause layoffs for your family-owned company, for example, that’s something that resonates. Then, “they can tell that story on the floor [during debate],” Brady says. That can make your desired outcome on the legislation—and your business’s success—much more likely.
Related Resource: Contact Your Lawmakers