Politics has been on everyone’s mind lately due to the recent midterm elections. In California, where I live, there was much debate (as always) about whether certain propositions on the ballot would actually help citizens—or were simply smokescreens for big businesses to profit. And two of the candidates, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, touted their former experience as corporate CEOs as a good reason to vote for them as politicians, though neither one won.
We all know the role that big business plays in politics and the influence large corporations have on government via lobbyists and donations. But did you ever consider that your small business could have the same kind of influence?
Of course, one small company cannot hope to wield the influence of a massive global corporation. But by banding together to make our voices heard, small businesses can make a difference. Sound too intimidating? Start small. For many of us, the issues that affect our businesses the most are the ones being debated on the state or even local levels.
Making your voice heard can start as small as working to get a zoning variance so you can run a business from home. In my area, business owners have successfully lobbied to get parking meters removed so that more customers will visit their businesses, legalize sidewalk dining to attract more customers to restaurants in a beach community, and change restrictions so that local coffeehouses can feature live music at night. You may not think of these as “government” issues, but these are the little things that make a big difference in a company’s profitability—or even survival.
Local governments are hurting for money these days, which means they’re thinking more creatively and are more willing to listen to solutions proposed by business owners. Once you’ve cut your teeth on some of these local issues, consider what’s cramping your business’s style at the state level. Is it taxes? Regulations?
Recently on my blog SmallBizDaily, politician and marketing professor Amy H. Handlin shared her 7 tips for successful lobbying. One of the tips that rang truest to me: Create a coalition. Handlin advises reaching out to other entrepreneurs who share your concerns, then educating more business owners about the issues so you can all be effective lobbyists for change.
You can also hook up with community organizations that share your concerns. This article on Business News Daily cites a business owner who joined forces with organizations from churches to the Boy Scouts to protest a transit project that would have required his business location to close. Or you can join an existing business organization that shares your attitude about political issues.
Another solution—run for office. One entrepreneur I know went so far as to run locally office this year (she didn’t win, but maybe next year).
Whether we vote red or blue, the reality is that government—large and small—affects all of our lives and businesses. Shouldn’t we have an effect on government as well? You can get more in-depth advice on successfully advocating for your goals by reading Handlin’s book titled, “Be Your Own Lobbyist: How to Give Your Small Business Big Clout with State and Local Government.”
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Rieva Lesonsky: Have you heard about the word Gerrymandering? I learned about this concept, listening to Matt Frei’s podcast, Americana. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vkp6k
It is time to speak up! 😉
Thanks, Rieva – I keep telling people that politics is marketing; don’t complain about the “oppression” you’re facing as a small business person: DO something about it! If we’re not contributing to the solution, well…. Settling is a choice!
You’re exactly right Rieva. If we don’t get involved and be proactive we can’t expect our representatives to know our problems or fix them. Better decisions can only be made with better information, so you have to inform your representatives.
I think the easiest way to get your voice heard is by being specific. If you google Pandora Radio you’ll see we are in the top 10! it’s because we focused on a specific niche, and owned it…
There are people out there looking for those specific items and search them on google or on twitter, if you are there and in the conversation you can find it.
We also have a PR team which has helped a lot by finding specific stories that we could submit our company for consideration. Was great while we were getting started a few years ago.
ceo livio radio
Being a small business in the upper Midwest and trying to find a voice in “major” search engines, such as ThomasNet, is difficult because they all neglect the smaller communities that, taken as a whole, comprise a large percentage of our business.
Some great points in this article. I guess getting your small business seen on search engines such as Goole, Yahoo or Bing is quite a job.
There are such theories such as the “Google Sandbox” which means that new sites arnt given high ranking for a while, but as I said its a theory.
I guess all you can do is learn how SEO works and get busy with it.
Overall Great article Rieva
Rieva, I own a small company in Colorado, we do custom iron on patches, customirononpatches.com We recently had a problem with our local government not taking care of our building complex which houses roughly 50 small businesses. I won’t get into all the issues, but it took us coming together as a group to get the problem solved. It was no easy task, we all had to sign a petition, get it through the legal system, but it took the coalition effort you are talking about to get it done. You are so right with you comments, but the reality is most people are not willing to take the time to coordinate. At least in our country we have the OPTION.
I know Scott, it can be very frustrating. But I think (and hope) more small business owners will recognize there truly is strength in numbers–and band together to work for everyone’s benefit.