Why do you think plant tours are useful?
Plant tours are a great way to close the gap between your local representatives and your company. If they can see the people who are affected by the issues you are talking about, they become more personal and ‘real.’ It does the same for the representative. Instead of a name on a ballot, he/she gets to let you see them as a real person as well. I believe that being able to actually hold a discussion with a representative face-to-face is more satisfying than writing, because you can engage in the conversation and receive answers to your questions immediately.
Please do not take that as me saying we should not write our representatives. Writing to representatives is an effective way to consistently engage them. Write on issues, send them press releases, include them as part of your business. Ask their advice on issues when and where appropriate.
How else do you advise building relationships with representatives?
Get involved, whether it is a local humanitarian effort or a national industry issue. Not only is getting involved good for the soul, you will periodically bump into your elected officials, which gives you an opportunity to connect while at the same time being involved in something worthwhile. We also support the ACMA PAC and try to keep current on issues in the composites industry, as well as particular issues that deal with our product and the aerospace industry segment particular to our company. We forward articles that are relevant to our elected officials to make them aware of certain issues or news pertaining to certain issues. We also write articles for industry association publications.
Be aware. We know who all of our elected officials are, from the city mayor, to the county commissioners, to our senators, representatives, congressman and governor. In my opinion, many small business owners generally look at government in a negative light. Even though I find this completely understandable and have even found myself in that line of thinking from time to time, with a bit of effort we can turn the situation around to our benefit simply by changing our mindset and looking for how we can create opportunities. The opportunity could be to illustrate more clearly to your representatives just how severely an issue could affect his/her constituents, which can have an effect on their decision making. Their decision-making in turn, has an effect on your business and employees.