I believe we have finally passed the silly part of the 2012 election season. Before the home stretch, we got to debate how far back GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney should go when releasing his tax returns and if having a horse makes him unable to connect with working-class Americans.
On the other side, we got to hear people parse President Barack Obama's every word and those of whom he listened to in his formative years. I actually heard one talking head say the president can't be trusted because one of his mentors liked to take pictures of naked women.
As all this smoke clears, voters will be able to get ready for a pretty big election - although it seems that every four years I am told that this is the most important presidential election of my lifetime.
This is a very important election for small-business owners like HVAC distributors. Government regulations like the regional equipment standards are affecting how distributors are able to plan for 2013. Also, items like health care and tax credits will be greatly influenced by who is chosen to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the two legislative bodies he will work with. Not to mention the federal estate tax, which is slated to go from 35 percent to 55 percent in 2013. HARDI spent a great deal of their D.C. Fly-In earlier this year on that very topic.
The importance of the top-of-the-ticket candidates should not be diminished because they will make big decisions in the next four years. However, I urge distributors to put just as much research in what candidates on the local level believe because these people have a much more direct impact on how an HVAC distributor's business will operate on a day-by-day basis.
LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCALMost distributors also pay attention to state elections - and for good reason. The state government sets the tone for how easy or hard it will be to do business in that respective state. They also decide how much of your money is going to soon become their money.
But do small-business owners have knowledge or relationships with their mayors, city managers, city council, etc.? It takes a little more effort to learn about these people because CNN is not doing a profile of your city council election, but your influence on them is greatly increased. If you, a small-business owner, call your U.S. representative, you will likely get a nice form letter in return. If you raise concerns to your city council, there is a pretty good chance you will get a phone call and someone on the other end will actually listen to your point of view.
In a prior life, I was a local newspaper editor who covered these people. What I soon found out was that unlike national-level politics, the person is so much more important than the party at the local level. You can't influence the abortion debate on city council, and the closest you can come to deciding gay marriage is if you allow the zoning for them to build a new Chick-Fil-A.
What these people can influence is how easy it is to do business in their city - for both you and your contractor customers. Are regulatory and licensing hoops that you must jump through so burdensome that it is affecting your customers' bottom lines? They can do something about that.
So continue to keep up with the national scene and pool your time/resources together with the aid of HARDI. Jon Melchi does a great job of staying on top of every legislative issue that can impact a distributor's business. Lord knows when I have a question about what is going on in Washington, Melchi is my first call.
But don't forget about the local officials. Read the candidates' literature, ask questions when they come campaigning at your door, or just schedule a time to go in and meet them for yourself. Those choices will also impact your business in the coming days, months and years.
Distribution Center magazine is the exclusive and official publication of Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). In addition to the nearly 450-member companies with thousands of branches that fall under the HARDI umbrella, there are about 300 manufacturing associates and nearly 125 manufacturer representatives. It is estimated that HARDI members represent 80 percent of the dollar value of the HVACR products sold through distribution.