Small-business owners and entrepreneurs often bemoan the federal government, complaining that lawmakers and regulators tend to make it more difficult for them to do business. In the next breath, they lament that as owners of small companies they are powerless to effect change in Washington.
They wish there was something that could be done to make their voices are heard.
During a forum held last week as part of DC Entrepreneurship Week, a group of lawyers, lobbyists and entrepreneurs offered a number of tips to help small employers effectively lobby their elected officials.
Here are some of their suggestions:
Chances are, you are not the only one with your policy positions, and according to Paul Margie, the best place to start is finding more powerful friends.
“If the thing that could kill your business is X, or Y, or Z, I’m pretty sure there’s an organization out there fighting X, or Y, or Z, and there might be big players on your side,” said Margie, a partner at Wiltshire & Grannis in Washington, who previously worked on the Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission.
Helping your rivals? In most cases, the idea would not sit well with business owners, but when it comes to lobbying, a common regulatory enemy can turn competitors into friends.
“Especially when you’re a small business, your competitors are your competitors up until a point, and then when you start to face the same challenges from regulators and the government, you might have to all throw a little bit into the kitty to make sure you have someone there to speak up for your interests,” Laurent Crenshaw, the legislative director for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said during the forum.
The most effective lobbying campaigns have a large numbers of supporters, and that is where your loyal users and followers can come in handy.
“The Internet, social media, technology — they give every company the ability to punch above their weight with policymakers and the general public,” Crenshaw said.
In the District, for instance, car-service start-up Uber was faced last year with proposed transportation regulations from the city that Crenshaw says “would have priced their cars and their model out of business.” In the days leading up to a vote on the measures, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick sent out an e-mail to the company’s users asking them to contact city council members and push back against the changes.