January 15, 2021
President, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
Small business owners in particular play a major role in shaping local and state-level public policy. Economies rely on the success of small businesses. Therefore, local governments are willing to work with and listen to small businesses in order to create economic legislation that benefits everyone.
This was the case last year in Louisiana, where Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, helped pass and implement liability and tort reform for small businesses when the coronavirus was threatening their economic livelihood. With the legislature, they were able to pass bills that provided liability protection for businesses and increased production on PPE, both of which had a significant positive impact on the economy.
A More Accessible Message Can Encourage Business Owners to Weigh in on Public Policy
Waguespack had been trying to pass legislation like this for years but could never find the support and always faced opposition from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. What changed this time was their approach to their messaging. Instead of stating the issues in formal, legal terms, they simplified their message and took it to more platforms — including social media.
“This time we said, ‘Look, we want people to understand this impacts your insurance rates, this impacts your ability for a small business to stay open, to hire people, to invest in your community,’” said Waguespack.
By telling individuals and business owners how these policies would specifically impact their livelihood and how they would benefit from them, people started to listen. These policies reached impacted individuals not only in the newspapers and on local news but also on social media.
“We brought that message to the people, and … it resonated,” said Waguespack. “It didn't feel like a wonky legalese argument. They got it … [They] understood why this was important, and they made their voices heard.”
Even with Governor Edward openly opposing these measures, there was too much public support to veto the bill. The voices of local business owners were heard, implemented into policy, then voted on by its constituents. No matter the state or situation a small business owner finds himself in, they can always use their voice to help influence public policy.