We have officially reached the silly part of the 2012 election season. Before the home stretch, we get to debate how far back 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 get to hear people parse President 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.

After all this smoke clears in the fall, 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 contractors. Items like health care, tax credits, and government regulations all will be greatly influenced by who is chosen to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the two legislative bodies he will work with. Not to mention the estate tax increase which is slated to go from 35 percent to 55 percent in 2013.

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, as I have preached before, I urge contractors 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 contractor’s business will operate on a day-by-day basis.

Local, Local, Local

Most contractors 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 this election and on these people is greatly increased. If you, a small business owner, call your congressman, you will 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. Are regulatory and licensing hoops that you must jump through so burdensome that it is affecting your bottom line? They can do something about that.

Do they enforce the laws that they have on the books or do they not invest the resources needed? If they don’t and you are one of the good guys playing by the rules, you are fighting as it were with one hand tied behind your back.

Heaven forbid, can they provide you market research information about their local constituents that might help you decide how to market your business to the area’s residents? This can be invaluable information that can be a great help to your business.

So keep up with the national scene and pool your time/resources together with the aid of associations like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). But don’t forget about the local guys. 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.

You never know, once it gets time to take care of the heating and cooling of the local government office, maybe you will have a leg up on the competition.

Publication date: 8/6/2012