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Currently Viewing Posts Tagged 2015

Brian Sullivan’s Guest Blog Post

I asked Brian Sullivan to write a blog post on lobbying. Then, I realized that I needed to write a quick introduction to this guest blog post. So… Brian  came to work at the firm a few months ago, with an emphasis on governmental issues. Even though he is not a lawyer, he has a diverse background in political/oversight/non-profit organization.

He was present at the 2015 Virginia General Assembly and  worked on/monitored legislation that impacted our firm and practice. We sure enjoyed his reports.

I asked him to write a guest blog on lobbying. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did…

From the desk of Brian Sullivan… 

What is a Lobbyist?  You are!

Dinners, trips, gifts and deals.  These are a few of the things you may think of when hearing the word “lobbyist”.  Things aren’t always what they seem in the movies, or even in the news; so what exactly is a lobbyist?

Strictly speaking, in Virginia, a lobbyist is:

“any individual who is employed in any manner or who is reimbursed for expenses, or who represents an organization, association or other group for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence executive or legislative action through oral or written communication with an executive or legislative official; this includes anyone who solicits others to influence an executive or legislative official.”

That’s quite a broad definition.  However, paid lobbyists aren’t the only ones who are involved in the process.  Anyone who has ever written an email or called their representative is in fact “attempting to influence executive or legislative action”.  By the above definition, “lobbying” even includes soliciting others to advocate as well.  So, if you’ve ever had a heated discussion on a public policy issue, it could be said that you have engaged in “lobbying”.  Congratulations!

As members of a Representative Democracy, it is our right, and even our duty, to contact our elected officials; it’s an integral part of the process.  Not only do our elected officials want to hear from us about the issues before them, they actually rely on it.   While a legislator’s role is to represent a group of people and cast votes based on that representation, the role of a lobbyist is to represent a single or group of interests, and to provide information to support those interests.  The process just doesn’t work without everyone involved.

This year’s session was 44 days, with 2,775 bills, 10+ hour days packed with Committee, constituent and voting session meetings, not to mention the hundreds of daily phone calls and emails.   To say this time is busy, would be like saying Boston got a bit of snow this year!  As busy as the schedule is, the hallways (and especially the elevators) are even busier! On any given day, the building is packed with hundreds of registered lobbyists, and as many non-registered individuals and groups.  It would be safe to say that the ratio is 50:1.

But as hectic as this all may sound (and it is!), as each bill comes up in Committee, the question is always asked: “Is there anyone from the public here to speak in favor or against this bill?”.  More often than not, the side with the most support from the public is the one that prevails.  From time to time, a legislator will even cast a vote based on a single communication from a constituent!

So, do you need access to private jets and expense accounts to get your voice heard?  No.  All you need is the time it takes to make a call, write an email, or even make your way downtown.  Don’t have time for any of that?  Well then……….……just hire a lobbyist!

The Final 2014 Blog

I sat down to write this last blog with the idea that I needed to give you something to think about, going into the new year. Then, I stopped after my first sentence because I had too many thoughts with too few ideas. It felt like I was at the doorstep of inspiration, and inspiration refused to let me in! (or something like that)

mustache

So I decided to piece some stories together in an attempt to end up with my thoughts:

Not far from our Richmond  office stands a building with a sign that identifies it as a restaurant named Famous Dave’s Barbecue. This is an area that really enjoys BBQ for lunch as evidenced by the fact that there are three restaurants, within a 2 mile radius.IMG_0001

Regularly, we would drive by that restaurant at lunch, and invariably, someone in the car would remark that no cars are ever in the parking, “How do they stay open?”.

Prophetic! They just closed. In fact, the other two Dave’s restaurants in the Richmond area have also closed. (CBS 6) According to their CEO, the closings are part of a “strategic reevaluation”  as  “the current leadership team continues to evaluate the performance of our legacy company-owned portfolio as we drive toward a return to positive same store sales and improved unit and company-level profitability, while we actively pursue our re-franchising strategy”. (I don’t even know what that means)

It was 2005. Sheep herding was the primary livelihood in Gevas, Turkey. The average yearly income there was $2700. According to USA Today, every family had an average of 20 sheep.

On that fateful day, 26 families were eating breakfast together on the hillside, while they watched their sheep graze nearby. No one knows what caused it, but all of sudden the sheep began running toward the edge of a cliff.

In horror, the shepherds watched as their sheep began jumping off the cliff to a certain death. One sheep apparently started toward the cliff and 1500 followed that one sheep. Soon, more than 450 sheep had died.

The only thing that saved the other sheep was the fact that those who jumped later, were saved as the pile got higher and higher. Their fall was cushioned. According to one villager, “now only a few families have sheep left. It’s going to be real hard for us”.

Xiaomi,  a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, was founded in 2010 by several Chinese entrepreneurs. The company just announced that it has shipped 17.3 million phones in their third quarter of 2014, and that they have now become the third largest cell phone maker in the world, while trailing only Samsung and Apple.

They admit to mirroring the business model of Apple; including the Chairman and CEO, Jun Lei, appearing on stage at a shareholder meeting while wearing jeans and a black turtleneck … just like the late Apple founder Steve Jobs.  They attribute their success positioning themselves as a high end alternative to the status quo.

I have been thinking about what to write for my year-end blog. It has caused me to read articles and tweets of several entrepreneurs as they identified their 2015 goals and resolutions. That included reading this USA Today article with 15 inspirational quotes from the book Whatever You Are, Be a Good One. Still I kept searching.

I came to realize that goals have to be my goals. That someone else’s goals can be aspirational, but they aren’t mine.

I looked at these three stories in their randomness and this is what I took from them. First, you need customers. In our case as a firm, you need clients. If “no one is in the parking lot”, all other goals really don’t matter.

Second, I need to be a leader who matters and knows where we are going. Just being a leader can also mean taking everyone over the cliff of failure.

Third, relates to Firm growth and the status quo. It’s fine to look at other business models of success; but, ultimately it’s about me or about the firm. I cannot be satisfied with “how we have always done it”. I need to keep pushing!

Maybe something in this randomness will help you in your goal thinking. Thanks for reading the blog this year. I promise to do better next year!!!!! Have a wonderful New Year!

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”

-W. Somerset Maugham

And for a final pic o’ day, I had a hard time picking what I wanted. So… I went with some “bad planning”.

bad Planning

 

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