In business, being politically connected means more than simply following a Republican or Democratic set of values and voting during elections. It also involves knowing political figures to the point of getting their cell phone numbers and email addresses while being familiar faces.
These are political friendships, so don’t be shy about connecting with your local council members, aldermen, county supervisors and/or state legislators representing the home district of your business. The same holds true for your residential district.
Being connected means if you have an opinion or concern, you can call upon these elected leaders to vent about an issue or ask for help when needed. They are more likely to take the time to hear you out and do what they can if they know you. Local government officials also can connect you with state politicians and officials higher up the political food chain.
Locally, you want to be on a first-name basis with your mayor. They are cheerleaders for your city or town and often are motivated to boost local business and bring more companies to your area. Being friends gets your faces next to each other in promoting your city and keeps you in the loop.
How Do You Connect?
One of the easiest ways to motivate politicians to recognize you is to donate to their campaigns and favorite charities. That’s just how the world works. Until someone comes up with a better way, you have to play the game. Donations are not bribes, legally speaking.
You also should volunteer on their election committees or campaigns. Offer to take a yard sign or two. Donate a gift certificate for your service to be used for fundraising. It gets your name out to the people the politician stumps to, and that brings mutual benefits. Offer a campaign endorsement on your letterhead stating why you support them. Such material will be shared with everyone in target areas for votes.
Attend grand opening ribbon cutting ceremonies. They may be routine boilerplate, but these attract politicians and present casual settings to introduce yourself and mingle while smiling. To access them, you must go where they circulate.
Friends With Political Benefits
You may wonder why you, as a transportation operator, may ever need a politician in your back pocket. With changes sweeping the industry such as Transportation Network Companies and attempts at regulatory oversight, you need a government ally. When a TNC shows up in your community, a simple phone call to your friendly politician to explain the need for regulation could make that happen swiftly in your favor. This is especially true if you worked on the campaign to get your “friend” elected. Loyalty merits loyalty. In the case of a California-based operator who was kept waiting for more than three months for money owed by the state of California, a call to a state senator’s cell phone produced a check three days later delivered via Fed Ex. You just never know when you may need a little help from a friend.
Things You Should Know
If you donate cash, goods or services to campaigns, politicians must disclose this information to the public, including the donor and the value. This information is frequently published in newspapers. In the case of controversial measures or referendums introduced by your politicians, you may want to refrain from publicly supporting the effort if it might offend many of your clients.
For example, marijuana laws or abortion laws within your local area can be publicly dicey. Supporting the legalization of marijuana might suggest you tolerate it with your chauffeurs and drivers. Carefully evaluate the pros and cons of attaching your good business name and reputation with any campaign.
And remember the old clichés: Politics ain’t beanbag and it always makes for some strange bedfellows.