Technology offers more ways than ever for Americans to interact with their government, yet the turnout for the 2014 midterm elections was the lowest in 72 years. Even though citizens can read bills online, email their legislators and follow politicians on Twitter, many opt out of the political process.
But apathy isn’t an option for forward-thinking CEOs. While the business mantra is “the customer is always right,” the addendum today is, “the government is always right there.” As such it is second only to your consumer base in its ability to affect the economic value of your business. That’s why more companies are developing a governmental affairs department. While leaders of smaller businesses may question whether they can afford an investment of this type, a better question is: can you afford not to?
The impact of political advocacy
Political advocacy (lobbying) is one way businesses work to influence legislation and public policy. Ideally, they align their business interests with government interests so that both sides benefit. For example, when you enlist your congressman’s help with legislation, it can clear regulatory hurdles for a new manufacturing plant in his district. The business expansion benefits your bottom line, and the congressman adds “job creation” to his list of accomplishments.
If you’re not working to shape the landscape for your organization to do business, be assured the government will do it for you. Government regulations have a huge impact on your bottom line. This is particularly true for newer companies and those operating in highly regulated industries such as health care, energy, banking and telecommunications.
Proportionately, costs of government regulations are even higher for smaller businesses. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, regulation costs for a business with fewer than 20 employees average $10,585 per employee; for those employing more than 500, regulation costs average $4,455 per employee.
On the upside, political advocacy can yield significant returns. According to a 2009 study cited in the Journal of Law and Politics, firms that lobbied for one piece of legislation (the American Jobs Creation Act) had a return of more than $2,220 for every $1 spent on lobbying. That’s…