By Stephen A. Borg
I hope many of you were able to join the MCAA and me in participation of our “How to Talk to Elected Officials” webinar on April 23, 2013. For those of you who were not able to participate, I want to provide you with a recap of our presentation and urge you to make relationships with your elected officials. From local board members to your member of Congress, these relationships should be a key tool in your business toolbox.
You may be asking yourself, “What’s the point?” or “Why would an elected official listen to me?”
Elected officials in every level of government, from local county boards to the President of the United States, are elected to represent you, their constituents. Elected officials are asked to make many decisions on your behalf and many decisions that will have an effect on you and your business.
Although we place a heavy amount of responsibility on our elected officials, we cannot expect them to be experts in every issue and industry that they are tasked with representing. It is, therefore, paramount that you are meeting and educating your elected officials on the issues that matter most to you and your business.
The short-term goal of any meeting with an elected official should be to effectively introduce yourself and your business to the official, and share how the issues in front of him or her will affect you. The long-term goal of these meetings should be to establish a line of communication that can be used to set up subsequent meetings and build a long-term relationship.
Elected officials are always looking for “allies” in their elective districts who they can count on to provide timely advice and information, trusted background on a particular issue, and local backing when they need to defend a vote or decision. Your long-term goal should be to build an honest, trusting relationship with your elected official, establishing yourself as one of their “go-to” resources in their district.
During these relationship-building efforts, it is important to remember that it is highly unlikely that any elected official will agree with you 100 percent of the time. Do not let this end the relationship or block the lines of communication. Rather, use these situations as a stepping stone to build a deeper relationship by showing the elected official you want to continue to engage with him or her. Viewpoints and circumstances can change, so it is important that you continue to educate and share with the elected official how the decisions impact your business.
Having spent more than 10 years working on Capitol Hill and now working at The Keelen Group representing the Mason Contractors Association of America, I have sat on both sides of the table in meetings such as these. I have met with presidents of universities, CEOs of major corporations, and numerous foreign dignitaries. However, the most powerful and effective meetings I have participated in have been with local citizens who are able to tell their stories about the struggles and successes of their businesses.
We will have a great opportunity in early-May to meet with many members of Congress during the MCAA annual Washington, D.C., fly-in. But this is not your only possibility to start these relationships. Pick up the phone, invite your elected officials to come tour your facilities and businesses, and start using an easy tool to secure an environment that will boost your business.
Remember the Mason Contractors Association of America is only as strong as its active members. The more industry partners we have building relationships and educating elected officials, the more our industry will thrive.
Stephen A. Borg is Vice President of The Keelen Group, www.keelengroup.com.