One of the most important parts of a small business owner’s job is representing and advocating for their needs and those of their fellow local business owners. To address these needs, it’s important to make sure they’re heard on a wider scale.
Talking to lawmakers is a great way to do this.
How to Reach Your Local Legislators
Lawmakers get a lot of calls and messages, and they pay attention to the ones that come from their constituents, a.k.a. voters.
If you’re not sure who your legislators are or how to reach them, the Congress contact page can help you find out. This page can also help you determine which representative is best to speak to for your particular issue. If you’re looking for more local support, you can reach out to lawmakers at the state, county, or city levels, where many local business issues are addressed.
Once you know who you’d like to speak to, here are some ways to get in touch with them.
- Call them. The number for your legislators’ offices should be available on their websites. Calling enables you to speak with their staff, who can pass along your message.
- Email them. Not all lawmakers share their email address publicly, but if they do, it will likely be listed on their website.
- Request a meeting. Local lawmakers have offices in their districts that their constituents can visit upon request. Your legislators may not be available to speak to you themselves, but their staff members can meet with you and relay your message. Speaking with someone in-person can help your message stand out and help you build a stronger relationship with legislators or their staff.
- Connect with them at an event they’re attending. Lawmakers’ event schedules can usually be found on their websites or social media pages. Look for events where they’re hosting an open space for constituents to speak or ask questions. This approach is useful for guaranteeing that the person you want to speak with is actually present.
- Participate in Congressional Startup Day. Each year, representatives of Congress observe Congressional Startup Day by celebrating the contributions of business owners in their communities. Legislators host events to meet with local entrepreneurs and listen to their concerns. The date changes annually, so be sure to check when it’s coming up and search for events hosted by your local representatives.
Tips for a Successful Conversation with Lawmakers
Opportunities to speak with lawmakers can be difficult to come by, so it’s crucial to be prepared for when they come around. These tips can help you make the most of your conversations.
- Educate yourself about issues related to your needs. The most successful appeals for support include facts. Research issues that relate to your business’s needs so you can have a productive conversation about them.
- Be friendly. Being assertive about your small business’s needs is essential, but the most impactful way to first connect with lawmakers is by being kind. Remember that your local legislators are people, too, so be respectful and polite with them. You can even go the extra mile to invite them to visit your small business for a tour or event.
- Focus on your most pressing needs. Think about one or two major challenges your small business faces that lawmakers could help solve. Craft a message that is highly effective in addressing these issues. Once you form a relationship with a legislator, you’ll have opportunities to bring up additional issues later.
- Provide context to support your message. Don’t just say what you need; express why you need it. Provide details about your small business and how it has been impacted by the issues you’re discussing. It’s easier for legislators to understand the urgency and priority of your needs if they know the whole story.
- Be specific in your request. There are a number of ways for lawmakers to support your small business, so be sure to note what kind of support you’re seeking. This could include asking them to speak about an issue, support a bill, or attend a cause-related event. Make sure you know the type of support that will most benefit your small business.
Connecting with lawmakers is a prime opportunity to speak up for your small business. Coming prepared with talking points and goals for the conversation can help you take full advantage of it.