Business Research Essentials: Legislative Research
Typically for small and medium sized business owners the impacts of legislation are critical to business success. Tax incentives, environmental regulations, new taxes, zoning restrictions, trade agreements and many more city, state or federal legislative acts will have an impact on the bottom line.
Business owners tend to use a “movement to contact” approach to learning about legislative issues that could have an impact on operations. The requirements for a license or permit are usually discovered in an ad hoc manner and after the fact. A particular tax incentive or just plain tax is only discovered while filing taxes. Although this is a “technique” for researching regulations and laws that have an impact on business it is both a costly and reactive way to do so, there are several simple steps that a business can take to be proactive.
First the importance of the local Chamber of Commerce cannot be overstated. If a Chamber of Commerce is to serve its most basic function, then it will have detailed information about any potential regulations or city ordinances that will have an impact on its members. Most Chambers of Commerce usually have deep ties with both city and county governments and can provide information to its constituents regarding upcoming changes. Joining the local Chamber of Commerce is a critical step, if a business owner had to choose among the options presented in this blog this will be the top choice. The greatest drawback is that membership in local Chambers of Commerce are usually expensive ranging from the low hundreds to the low thousands per year.
Secondly, subscribing to a trade journal is both an inexpensive and effective method to stay abreast of both industry trends and federal regulations that could have an impact on business operations. Serving a broader constituency these journals tend to focus on legislation that has an impact across the nation or regional trends that could eventually become national trends. Tax policy changes or environmental regulations are more likely to appear in national journals than discussed at the local Chamber of Commerce. Usually ranging between $75-$150 a year this is a very affordable research expense.
Finally joining the newsletter or mailing lists of a regional trade association can also provide advance warning of both regulatory and legislative changes. Joining a mailing lists or newsletter is usually free and a good way to gauge if it is prudent to actually become a member of the association. Associations such as the Southern United States Trade Association keep its constituents informed of regional trends, trade agreements, industry changes and much more. The greatest disadvantage is that these regional associations tend to focus on the states where most of its members are from, if a business is located on a state that doesn’t have that many members the useful information provided might be minimal.
These three simple and cost effective steps will go a long way in moving from the “react and panic” approach of researching legislation to a “proactive and planned” method of dealing with these changes.