Political involvement can feel intimidating and overwhelming for the small business owner who is already wearing many hats. It’s tough to get out of the daily grind, but the value of protecting the bigger picture is another essential part of being among America’s backbone of entrepreneurs.
That’s why the results of a smarttan.com poll were so startling: When asked how often salon owners communicate with politicians, only 26 percent claimed to do so on a regular basis, and a whopping 58 percent admitted that they have never done so. During a time when the government is actively discussing our industry at state and federal levels, it is more important that ever to improve these numbers. In addition, these relationships function to keep your local, state and federal governments abreast of issues that affect small businesses across the board. Even if there is nothing active in your state, making your business known is a powerful way to represent your interests for the future.
Through discussion with tanning salon owners across the country, it’s clear that people want to get involved. The difficulty is finding straightforward instructions for participating. Fortunately, the first steps to building political relationships are simple and unintimidating.
A great place to start is with your industry association. The American Suntanning Association (www.americansuntanning.org) is a great place to see the state of tanning-related bills in your state. By supporting them with your membership and donations, you are able to assist with large-scale national efforts.
A brief look at your state government website will reveal who your legislators are. A quick search of their name should yield abundant information on how to contact them. Sometimes, you’ll find a calendar of scheduled events on their website, others will require a short call to their office.
The first real step of forming a relationship with your politicians is simply introducing yourself. It doesn’t require an elaborate presentation: Just find out which of their events you are able to attend and make a point to make a short introduction of yourself and your business. Often, local politicians hold town hall meetings that have low attendance. Events like this are an easy way to make yourself visible from the beginning. Even if there’s something specific you’d like to discuss with them, avoid using your introductions to ask them for something or talk their ear off about an issue. Politely mention that you look forward to talking to them more in the future.
From there, it’s all about maintaining and developing your relationship with local politicians. This can be done in many ways but the point is for them to know who you are are see the professionalism behind your business. Stereotypically, people support politicians by writing checks, but there are many other ways to make yourself known. Regularly attend community events they will be at, and get it touch with their office to see what volunteer opportunities are available. Down the road if you have an issue you need to discuss, you have the advantage of already having opened the lines of communication.