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Small Business and Politics

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Right now political discussions are like so much confetti that seems to be dropped on us every day whether we want it or not. This is the season when political aspirants show their love and attention like no other time. However, in the lives of most small business owners there's usually a long list of concerns ahead of politics and polling data. In fact, I don't particularly like politicians because our goals are divergent in important ways. Their job is to get elected and then re-elected while mine is to earn a survivable profit in business. That leads to our common ground being measured in dollars!

But alas, in the real world even the smallest business owner needs to realize that we are in a co-dependent relationship with office holders in our cities, counties, states and even at the head office in Washington, D.C. Many naive years ago, I was surprised to learn that some of the biggest and most successful entrepreneurs had donated funds to both of the major parties regardless of what they thought of the candidate's talents or prospects. An oddsmaker would call it hedging your bets. The guiding principle for the donors seems to be it is better to have friends and not need them than to need friends and not have them.

My issue with most politicians is a feeling that they don't really understand the life, struggles and community benefits that small business owners bring to the table. Here in the greater Los Angeles area, there is only one remaining Fortune 100 company head office and that is one of our electric utilities! Obviously the quilt of our economy is made up of many smaller patches. In the world of politics, fund-raisers prefer the biggest patches for obvious reasons.

I suggest that you consider inviting your City Council representative to visit your place of business. If your enterprise is very small, consider collaborating with other owners on your street or neighborhood so that Mr. or Ms. Politico finds the offer of hospitality more interesting and attractive. Don't ignore the fact that in addition to the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that you serve, a donation to their upcoming campaign or to their favored charity should be part of the larger process. Expect that if you are building friendships at the state or federal level, may involve more zeros after the first two digits. Unlike the movies, you won't be slipping them an envelope stuffed with Benjamins! There are laws and rules governing political donations.

I'm not a cynical person and believe that some wonderful mutually beneficial relationships can be built between the small business community and those people who preside over the public purse and regulations. The combination of taxes, fees, regulations and campaign costs are a complex brew that should bring you together with officials on a regular basis to learn more about each other's worlds. We have to be proactive by inviting them to dance because they are constantly being wooed by the folks with nicer suits and bigger checkbooks.