Lindsey Cox, director of operations and government affairs for LaunchTN, and Stephanie Cummings, founder of Please Assist Me, talk with a Congressional staffer from their home state of Tennessee.
Every conversation with a policymaker is an educational opportunity. Check out these pro tips to ensure an effective meeting.
Entrepreneurs are the primary source of almost all net new jobs. America is built on entrepreneurship. It plays an essential role in creating opportunities for all individuals with a dream and the resiliency to achieve it. Unfortunately, accessing entrepreneurship is not equitable and there are barriers to starting up and growing. To ensure entrepreneurship is a national priority, entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support organizations (accelerators, incubators, economic development groups, and others) must bring our collective voice to policymakers.
Here, in reflection of Congressional Startup Day last month, we present a few ways to engage policymakers in meaningful conversations.
Make sure to carve out time before a meeting with a policymaker to prepare your talking points, create an agenda, and conduct your research. Get to know which specific policies they support, the key issues on their dockets, and on which committees they serve. However, don't bring up specific policies or voting patterns – keep the conversation at a high level.
Gather information on the causes or issues that the policymaker you are meeting with invests time in. Document any barriers you are facing because of any regulation or policies, and research whether the legislator has worked on this area in the past.
Policymakers are passionate about specific issue areas. Based on the research you have done, be sure to highlight a shared interest or cause that you both care about.
If possible, explain how your company and team is supporting that issue area in their home district. Concisely illustrate the impact your business creates in your local economy and how you have been able to create jobs, raise capital, and generate wealth for the local ecosystem. If you have a double or triple bottom line, be sure to highlight the broader positive impact.
Be authentic – this helps create a connection between you and the legislator. When you can find an issue that is relevant to both of you, something that they have some ability to help with or that helps to achieve their own goals, it creates opportunity for action.
Have actionable next steps and "asks" ready before the meeting. If you are struggling to achieve growth because of a barrier related to a policy or regulation, talk about this barrier. Don’t be afraid to highlight the opportunity for you and the policymakers’ constituents if that barrier is removed.
Your time might be best spent focused on education around issue areas and opportunities, instead of directly advocating for any specific bill. This keeps the conversation focused on the big picture of encouraging more growth for entrepreneurs and America.
Every conversation with a policymaker is an educational opportunity. It’s important to broaden understanding of what entrepreneur-driven economic development is about, its specific challenges, and how it is different from other more traditional economic development strategies. It’s also important to listen, to take in interesting and unique perspectives on your talking points or asks, and to make the legislator feel heard and that their impact is meaningful.
Write down any requests or action items from the meeting and follow-up within 24 hours.
For more great tips and to see what it's like to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill, check out our Instagram stories with Lindsey Cox of LaunchTN and William Thomas, co-founder of MORTAR.