Stand up and be counted.
What's the biggest challenge small-business owners face? If you conducted a survey, chances are, burdensome government regulation would be in the top three. That's why more and more businesspeople are getting involved in politics--an arena that has long been considered taboo in polite conversation but has a tremendous impact on companies.
"There isn't a businessperson alive who doesn't feel some burden in terms of regulatory, statutory or taxation issues," says Ronn W. Cupp, vice president of government affairs for the State Chamber, Oklahoma's Association of Business & Industry. "If you're in business, you don't have a choice--you have to be involved in politics."
But choosing your issues and staying informed can be a daunting task. The solution, says Cupp, is to look to the political arm of an organization that is sympathetic to your interests. Those organizations include local and state chambers of commerce, as well as your industry's trade and professional organizations. They will let you know what's going on in elections and legislation and will offer guidance on what you can do to help.
Your involvement might include making financial contributions, writing letters, attending meetings, supporting candidates during elections and perhaps even lobbying legislators. "You can choose your degree of participation," says Cupp. He recommends giving as much as you can to important issues, pointing out that political action is cyclical, generally peaking during election seasons and when state legislatures are in session.
The plus side of political action means you can positively influence legislation that affects your business. Is there a downside? Cupp points out it's possible you could take a public position on an issue that might offend some of your customers, but he adds, "You can do that with other things, too. [The State Chamber] has taken controversial stands, and in many cases, we gain more than we lose."