Volume 2 Issue 7
When Politics Meets Business ~ Addressing Legislative Leaders
By Lourdes Cortez
As a business owner, you are a leader and an example in your community. Getting involved politically can be helpful for the growth of your business. Navigating politics along with running a successful business can be challenging. There are many different strategies to keep in mind when interacting with legislators.
It is important to have ample experience in your business. This is so you are able to navigate through some of the complex political issues, and to be heard and understood.
A large part of being politically savvy is to be at the top of your game in leadership skills. Just as you would in networking, you must have the ability to identify the right politicians that have a special interest in your type of business.
Do your homework! Knowing who you are speaking with and how much influence this person has is important as well.
As a business owner, you should have already identified the key stakeholders, legislators and representatives, including council members, mayors, freeholders, congressmen, etc. who likely have the most impact on your business. Interact with them even if it is just to introduce yourself and be a recognizable “face” in the crowd.
I am sure you are constantly assessing situations and dealing with those issues in a positive manner and compromising when it matters, as the good business owner that you are. These are the same traits you should develop when politics meet business!
Awareness of peoples’ reactions to you is very important. Political savviness can increase by just listening and observing others and knowing whom they support in the community.
The next quality is to have the right presence. If you attend many events in the community, be confident about how you represent your business. Be aware of trends that affect your business. You want to be especially knowledgeable about the economy as that may have an impact on your bottom line. You must know how to command peoples’ attention when you speak. And make sure you are authentic when relaying your message.
As I stated before, listening is an important way to connect with others in the business world and your political leaders. Respond with a thoughtful answer based on your understanding of economic trends and make your opinions known. After all, politicians do listen to their constituents. They represent you as a business owner and as a resident. Your voice and your opinions are important as well as your recommendations.
State your opinion and then back it up with solid reasoning and facts. You don’t want to come off too self-serving, but you do want to present your opinion as it benefits the whole community.
Also, being savvy and having strong leadership skills has a lot to do with communication. Acting angry or stubborn with your political leaders won’t help in creating what could be a very valuable relationship. They may even have information or a different way of looking at an issue that may be helpful to you and your business.
Give them credit too for their advice. It will help in gaining a friend in the political world. Knowing that you, as a business owner care about what they work for in the political arena may create an ally as they represent you.
Where there are businesses, there is always politics which means both are everywhere. Use the skills and traits we discussed to help finesse your thoughts expertly to navigate through the political arena.
Lourdes Cortez, President/CEO of North Jersey Federal Credit Union, hails from Paterson. In 1984, she began her career at North Jersey Federal and served in several roles. In 2004, she was promoted to VP of Operations and soon thereafter became Senior VP and in 2005 was named President and CEO.
In February 2014, Cortez was appointed to the Board of Trustees of William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. She also serves on the boards of the Workforce Investment Board of Passaic County, Visions Academy Charter School in Newark, and as President of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. Cortez is the chairperson for the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation and assistant treasurer for the Board of Directors of Executive Women of NJ. She has volunteered for numerous organizations including La Casa De Don Pedro, the March of Dimes, Eva’s Village in Paterson, the United Way of Passaic County and the American Cancer Society.
As the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Cortez has been honored by NJ Biz magazine, which named her one of the “Best 50 Women in Business” in New Jersey. Other awards include: the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2010 Star Award in Business, the 2010 Salute to the Policy Makers Award from Executive Women of NJ, and the 2012 Women of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.
Readers may subscribe to “Ask Lourdes” through the North Jersey Federal CU website, “CEO Blog” or visit www.facebook.com/asklourdes.