By Eric Groves
We recently polled our Alignable members asking “Do you feel your political figures stand up for local business in your community?” With almost 80% replying “No,” it appears local politicians may have some work to do connecting with the businesses in their neighborhoods.
So why are small business owners feeling underrepresented?
Many business owners commented that their representatives don’t make much of an effort to get to know the businesses in their towns. In fact, several members called out the fact that many local politicians don’t have much direct contact with individual local businesses. Dan, a bookstore owner in Stoneham, MA mentioned “I don’t think a single one has ever stepped foot in our bookstore!” Deb, a taxi owner in Richmond, VA, echoed this sentiment, stating “I have lived in my neighborhood for 10 years now and have never seen or heard from our district person! Truthfully, I don’t really know who he/she is!”
It’s important for local politicians to be present and make themselves accessible to small businesses. In too many communities, the small business owners who fuel the local economy don’t feel like their politicians are in touch with their needs.
So what can politicians do to change this? Craig, an auto shop owner in North Richland Hills, TX, suggested local politicians spend time at small businesses to learn about the owners and how they run their shops. “Spend a little more time talking to the owners of small businesses – paying particular attention to the businesses that are NOT in their particular area of knowledge… It would be real easy for me to represent small shop owners if I were to be elected to some position, but what works for shop owners would not work at all for a florist.” This is a huge opportunity for local politicians to show their support and better understand the needs of local businesses.
Another complaint shared by business owners was that local politicians are more concerned with big business. As liquor store owner Greg, in Colorado Springs, CO, put it, “Politicians here in the US follow the money. As a result small businesses are losing out versus large corporations who are directing politics via their deep pockets.” He added that “local business is helping the local economy grow as more of the money spent at small businesses is staying within the community and the country, while money spent with large companies is, for the most part, leaving the community.”
What can business owners do to change this? Acton, MA, martial arts studio owner Randy wants to see a better dialogue opened up between local politicians and business owners. Randy’s idea: “Perhaps hosting an open forum with local business owners and politicians or create a web portal where local business owners can submit feedback directly to the politicians.”
We think Randy is on to something. Alignable is a great starting point to rally your fellow local businesses around the issues that matter in your town. Start a discussion in your town on Alignable so businesses can band together and voice their concerns. It may be hard for one business owner to get a politician to take notice, but hundreds of local businesses joined together might have a greater influence on local politics.
Eric Groves is the co-founder and CEO of Alignable, the free online network where local businesses and organizations connect and collaborate with others nearby. Eric has been a local marketing expert and enthusiast since 2001, authored The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing, and believes that local businesses are always stronger together. Follow them at @Alignable.