Political and Civic Engagement Should Be in Your Business Plan

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Any good business plan includes financial projections, market analysis, growth strategy and a marketing plan, but it's rare to see a strategy for local civic and political engagement included in a pitch deck. Time to update your plan!

Your business does not exist in a vacuum. Local government and other civic institutions have a direct impact on your work. You can ensure that their impact is positive by building a relationship with your city and state, or you can court disaster by ignoring them.

The good news? Your elected officials are dying to hear from you because they need your help to avoid debacles, like the Tech Tax in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

This summer, Massachusetts tech companies were blindsided by a plan in the State Legislature to expand the 6.25% sales tax to include software services.

6.25% of a key industry's revenues...poof...up in smoke. Thankfully, a concerted organizing effort, led by the Massachusetts High Technology Council and supported by the tech community, pushed the Legislature and  Governor Patrick to repeal the tax.

The lesson to draw here is that your interests are a mystery to lawmakers unless you make them known. Tech companies and legislators alike would rather see collaborative efforts like Boston's Innovation District than a new Tech Tax. You can help make that happen through engagement.

With a brand new Mayor Walsh coming into office in Boston this January and a gubernatorial election coming up in 2014, now is a perfect time to start.

Civic Engagement

Here are some steps you can take immediately:

1. Budget time, effort and sometimes money to knowing your political, social and civic environment:

Who are your Mayor, City Councillor, State Rep and State Senator?

Does your industry have a trade group?

Who are the leaders in your industry and what is their engagement with policymakers?

2. Educate yourself on the government issues that impact your business:

Are there any legislative efforts underway related to your industry?

Which elected officials are advocates for your work?

3. Get to know your elected officials:

Civic Engagement

Call your City Councilor and State Representative and introduce yourself.

Invite them to your office and teach them what you do.

Make sure they know  about your vision and priorities, and about what issues you face as a business in Massachusetts.

4. Communicate regularly:

When you have news, send it to your State Rep, Senator, City Councilors and Mayor.

If something needs fixing, let them know.

5. Get active:

Find candidates for office who share your views on important issues and support them.

Take on leadership roles in your industry organizations.

Meet others in your industry and share experiences.

Apply your products to problems here in Massachusetts.

This month, I'm putting my efforts where my mouth is and starting a Workbar Political and Civic Group. We'll meet once a month and discuss issues in our industries, which we will then communicate to our state and local governments.

Through this effort, I hope to keep the public and our elected officials informed about innovation in Massachusetts and engaged in supporting it.

Want to help? Email me at Devin [at] Workbar [dot] com!

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