Advancing the voice of entrepreneurship: Tips for meeting with legislators
Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC
America was built on the backs of entrepreneurs, and today their role is still very much relevant and critical to the 21st-century economy. However, in 2020 there are barriers to starting up and growing a business for certain underserved groups, including women, immigrants, and minorities.
To ensure entrepreneurship is a national priority, business builders and their support organizations must bring their concerns to policymakers. But where to start? Here’s how to prepare for a meeting with your elected official.
1) Do your homework.
First and foremost, in advance of the meeting, make time to conduct your research. Please get to know which specific policies they support, the critical issues on their dockets, and on which committees they serve.
From here, gather information on their pet causes or issues. Make a note of any obstacles you are facing because of red tape and research whether the legislator has had a history of working on such matters.
2) Keep it simple.
After you’ve done your due diligence, create a sheet with your top talking points. Touch on relevant legislation, issues in the news, and success stories. You might even bring in photos, testimonials, impact statements or demonstrations of how you and your team are making an impact in their district. That means showing how you’ve been able to create jobs, access funding, and add value to the local economy.
3) Engage & find champions.
Make sure to listen as much as you talk. Be sincere and authentic. Take notes and address concerns. Inquire as to whether you should include a legislative staff member in your follow-up communications. He or she can be instrumental in helping your cause. Having legislative champions and sponsors are very important to advancing your legislative agenda.
Have actionable next steps and requests ready ahead of the meeting. What might success look like in your corner of the world? For example, if you are struggling to achieve growth due to bureaucracy, be forthright. Don’t be afraid to present the opportunity to help your business and the policymakers’ constituents if that barrier is removed.
Rather than point fingers, your time might be best spent focused on educating the official on issues affecting small businesses/startups instead of taking a stance on a specific piece of legislation This keeps the conversation productive because it’s focused on the big picture of fostering a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in America — everyone wins!
If you have met with a lawmaker on behalf of your business or cause, what tips or advice do you have to add?