Written by Eric Reichwaldt. Should take about 4 minutes to read.
Back in January I received an email from the National Small Business Association asking if I would be interested in applying to be on their Leadership Council. On a typical day I would have disregarded the message as junk mail and moved on with my day, but for some reason I felt compelled to hear them out. After a few weeks of back-and-forth calendar adjustments, I finally had my phone interview and after a short conversation I was asked to be a part of not only the Leadership Council, but the Technology Council, and the Taxation Council as well. Unsure of what all of that really meant, I pressed on with life and awaited further instruction.
A couple of months later the invitations came out for the Annual meeting in Washington DC and I really wanted to go, if for nothing else to learn more about the organization and understand what I can bring to the table. Now I’m no stranger to DC, having travelled there several times for a previous employer, but this was in a much different capacity and I didn’t really know what to expect. Monday morning I made my way down to the Leadership Council breakfast and started meeting and greeting a wide variety of fellow entrepreneurs from all over the country. By the time the first hour was over I had made up my mind that this was an organization I needed to continue to be a part of and assist as much as possible. With thousands of members across the nation, we had maybe one or two hundred representatives present ranging from florists, to bridge engineers, a ll the way to software development companies such as us. The one thing that we all had in common-- we all believe small business is the backbone of our country and we want to do whatever we can to ensure small businesses have the best opportunities to thrive.
I am not a fan of politics, but I am a fan of getting things done and I know how to leverage relationships and strategize to make that happen. I suppose that skill could perhaps make me a great candidate for political lobbying for a large organization, but I don’t have the stomach for that line of work. Lobbying for small businesses, however, is something that I can get behind. By the end of the first day I understood my role as a member in the organization-- take the message that the NSBA puts together with a great deal of research and thoughtfulness and ensure that my representatives know why we need their support to make these changes.
While I was there I was able to meet with both of our Senators, as well as staffers from my Representatives office and I sat in on the Small Business Technology Council meeting with some guests from the House and Senate councils to lead Q&A. The most enlightening part of the whole experience was seeing how much is really going on behind the scenes in those buildings. While we tend to focus on the polarizing feuds between our two political parties, I saw first-hand just how many more people are behind the scenes trying to help get things done. However, the overly obvious problem that I witnessed was that those who had spent time on the Hill to gain influence and positions that can influence change lacked the in-depth knowledge on the subjects they are trying to alter. On top of that, at 31 years old, I believe I lowered the average age in the room by 10 years or more.
So what does this translate to? As Shyft starts to move further along on our roadmap this year, I hope to find ways to bring together some of the great minds in the Silicon Prairie to put together some sort of local council on small business and technology affairs so we can open up a conduit to the folks that want to get things done and give them the information they need to drive decision-making. Specifically, I want to work to try and help our legislators pass laws that will drive government and DoD technology into the 21st Century and beyond, where it belongs.