Your store’s involvement in government affairs can help protect your business.
If there was one business activity that would determine how you run your business, who you hire, how you pay them, and how much of your business income you actually get to keep, wouldn’t it be a top priority for you?
Your business involvement in local, state and federal government affairs can have a significant effect on your business success and sustainability, but sadly, too many business people ignore this responsibility.
Being an advocate for your business doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort—you just need a plan (and a little help from the Home Furnishings Association doesn’t hurt). Follow these tips to up your advocacy game.
Know your story and be able to tell it well. How long have you been in business? How many people do you employ? What are your average annual sales? What impact do you have on your community? These answers make a difference and matter to your representatives. You have a vested interest in what happens in your community and in Washington.
Build relationships. It’s easier to ask a friend for help than to ask a stranger, so get out and meet your legislators—city, county, state and federal. Invite them to your store, show them around. If you’re so inclined, support their efforts and campaigns.
Pick an issue and become the expert. No one expects you to be able to speak in-depth on every issue out there, but pick one you’re passionate about and learn more (either through the HFA or on your own). Your experience in business and understanding of an issue and how it affects business can be a great asset to your legislators and their staffs.
Think big picture. While it is important to fight the legislation and regulations that could cripple your business, you also have to think of your ultimate goal which should be for a fair economic arena where businesses can thrive. Issues come and go, and sometimes take years to come to fruition, but the goal is always a better business environment.
Become Switzerland (or not if that’s your preference). Regardless of your party affiliation, remember, depending on the issue you could find allies and supporters on either side of the aisle in the House and Senate. Consider your issue and reach out to legislators who can help you get the results you need—regardless of party.
Be a team player. Going it alone is never easy (or fun). There’s strength in numbers—you know that in your own business and it’s true for any advocacy efforts as well. Collaborating with fellow retailers—whether through your Chambers of Commerce, Home Furnishings Association, state associations or other groups—is always a good idea.
Be sincere. Lawmakers remember the store tours, stories, and interactions they have with people who are sincere and passionate about the issues that matter to them. Again—think about your customers—the passionate ones are those you remember and respond most to.
So there you have it—seven tips for being a better advocate for your business. Most of these are things you already do or know, you just might not have been aware of them. As you’re taking stock of the issues that help or hurt your business, you might come to realize you want to get involved. Consider joining the Home Furnishings Association’s Government Relations Action Team. This group of HFA members is passionate about creating a better business environment—they’re the HFA’s watchdogs. Contact HFA’s government relations liaison, Lisa Casinger, for more information.