Getting the government to work for your business

There are recently passed laws out there, at either the state or federal level, that will have some impact on your business


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There used to be a time when small business could remain on the sidelines while larger entities would engage government officials in order to drive their agendas. However, as the last 10 years have demonstrated, both state government and Congress are now more involved in the marketplace.

Landmark laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have shown that small businesses are now being impacted by government more than ever before.

All small-business owners start with an expectation of expansion amid potential risks. It all starts with a dream followed by a business plan, and then gaining access to credit. While plans progress for a bigger store or for hiring more employees, many owners unfortunately don’t give much thought to how government impacts them. That alone creates a huge risk to growth.

For example, you have spent all this time planning for your new restaurant. However; because you have not been paying attention to the discussions at the state capitol, you didn’t know that a new tax will make it harder to open your business. Fast-forward to your grand opening, and now you have a larger tax bill than expected. You could have prevented, or at least planned for, this development. While it is hard enough to make your product or sell your service, there is some degree of certainty as to what your projected costs will be. Trying to project government’s next step is a lot harder.

I understand why a small-business owner may be hesitant to think about these issues. The political climate has gotten tougher as both sides of the aisle have dug in to their beliefs without as much compromise. While today’s media may have you believe that government is dysfunctional, I am confident that will improve over time. Regardless of today’s divisive partisanship, government is still open for business, and laws are still being passed. I guarantee that there is a law out there that has recently passed at either the state or federal level that will have some impact on your business.

Make connections

So how do you ensure that you can run your business efficiently and have an impact on your government?

First, stop believing that your business is too small in order to get a meeting with a politician. Here’s an inside tip: In Congress, you don’t need to speak directly to the legislator; his or her staff will do just fine. Most of the time staffers advise the legislator, and if you can make a good connection with them you’ve won half the battle. New Hampshire is unique because you can call legislators directly and speak them about your issue. It gives you a more personalized feel.

Second, you should find out what is going on. Most chambers of commerce have a government affairs professional on staff that can alert you to trends concerning small businesses.

Now that you know the issues and have spoken to your representative, how do you make sure that your concerns have been heard? Well, if after all of these steps you either still haven’t seen your issues addressed or you have an idea to change a law to improve your margins, you may want to consider finding a dedicated government affairs professional that will advocate for you.

Now you may be asking, “Why can’t I simply do this myself? Wouldn’t it be cheaper?” Well, would you file your own court case, do your own taxes or perform your own surgery? Think of engaging a government affairs professional as an investment. It is always worth being prepared for government activity with an experienced professional than having potential legislation erase your profit and dream completely.

The best government affairs professional should be able to evaluate your business, create both a short- and long-term strategy and be in constant communication with you to ensure that your profits are being protected.

In this arena, it is always better to be on offense than on defense.

Ron Lanton III is owner and chief strategist at True North Political Solutions LLC, Manchester. He can be reached at 240-482-6060 or ronlanton3@truenorthps.com.

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