Arlington, VA September 3, 2015
In my work with the Students at the University of VA/Coursera course on Public Policy Challenges in the 21st Century, a significant number of questions come up regarding the mix of politics and business affairs. While understanding that government has an interest in assuring that business affairs remain legal, the question often asked is "How far should politicians go to manage business?"
That question, along with another, "Who do you trust as politicians?" can be a minefield if you are not careful.
First, politicians have their own views on society, and how they should be governing, consistent with their political views. We all know the Democrats and Republicans have vastly differing views on many things--including business affairs. That is their prerogative, and, in some cases, political intervention helps to speed up or slow the economy, stabilize prices, and once in a great while, even balance the Federal budget.
These things are good for the economy--it needs a jolt of fresh air, and new thought once in a while--especially if that jolt results in improvement overall. Unfortunately, what happens too often is, with change in administrations, business and economic policy goes on a roller coaster. What was desired policy one day takes a 180 degree turn the next, and the business world has no real idea how to react. Just as unfortunately, people are in a hurry these days to make money--they don't invest for the long-term, but for the short-term gain. The result is often chaos, and the political party in power generally blames the party out of power for all the ills.
So, who do you believe? What should your own personal strategy for success be, based on the latest political demagoguery? As i say to my students, take a deep breath and listen carefully to what you hear. As a business person, you need to make decisions that will proactively affect you, your customers, and the market, so that means sorting out the politics from the economics, and making decisions for the longer term.
I did some work in strategy and planning for a small firm nearly two years ago. They wanted to project themselves out five and ten years. Now, while those projections might not be as accurate over time as we might like, their idea was a good one. i suggested that the major part of their plan needed to go out perhaps three years, taking it one year beyond the next election. Do your analysis based on what may happen if either party wins, and what their expected regulatory changes might be, if any in their market. (Trust me, there will be some). When you plan, you might want to pull back a bit on and after the election year, to benefit from regulatory changes without pain to your business.
In other words, create alternatives you may need to follow and be prepared to implement them as needed. if you don't, there is no harm done by prior planning. If you, and you have not done any prior planning, you will quickly be behind the proverbial 8-Ball, trying to figure out what to do next.