Use Your Vote Wisely

Janet Christy

"A government contract for every small business and a grant for every woman, minority and veteran owned business," is the cry that could get any candidate elected to any office.

But if you hear this from a candidate the best advice is to run in the other direction and question that candidate’s truthfulness. Because, no matter how pleasing these promises might sound, they are not ones that any elected official can accomplish on their own. As a matter of fact there are many promises made by candidates for national, state and local offices in the heat of the campaign battle that they cannot keep.

Small Businesses, especially Woman, Minority and Veteran Owned Businesses, need to carefully investigate (or “vet”) campaign promises before they use them to make a voting decision. A candidate may have the best intentions in making a promise or they may simply be finagling for your vote. But “let the buyer beware.” It is up to you to determine if candidates can not only keep their promises, but if they can and will help and facilitate your business.

Here are 8 critical assessments that will help you evaluate a candidate’s ability and willingness to assist your business.

Beware of Lip Service
When you listen to or read what a candidate says, pay attention so that you are not deceived because you hear what you want to hear. Be certain that the candidate is not simply repeating phrases and words that are recognizable as “pro” for Small Businesses; for businesses owned by Women, Minorities or Veterans; or for businesses designated as Disadvantaged.

Watch for “I” statements
Since we do not live in kingdoms where one person has complete authority, there is very little that an elected official can accomplish on his/her own. So, if a candidate states that he/she will increase tax incentives and credits for Small Businesses realize that there will be other people involved in that decision. When a candidate pledges to decrease the number of bundled government contracts understand that not even the President or a Governor can do this alone.

Look for the details and the hows
Always ask how a candidate will bring a promise to fruition. If they claim that they will increase the access to capital for Minority Owned Businesses, ask for specifics. If they announce that they will ensure that affordable health care is made available to Small Businesses ask how. If you cannot ask them, then look for details in their speeches, interviews and websites. If you cannot find the details it may be because the candidate does not know how to accomplish the promise; or it may be that they do not truly understand the issue. If they do share details, be sure the plan makes sense. Be aware that “Robin Hood” strategies rarely work. A candidate simply stating they will tax large businesses and give incentives to small businesses is not a plan; it’s a sentiment – a feeling.

Do your homework
If an issue is important to you, then take the time to understand the issue. If you do not understand it you leave yourself vulnerable to empty promises and campaign rhetoric. Your homework should include research and reading that will tell you who can really make decisions about the issue, how action can be taken and what the obstacles are. Then you can compare that information to what the candidates are saying. Knowledge is the best weapon for making sure your business issue actually gets real attention.

Notice the blanks
Take careful notice of the issues and questions that a candidate does not address. There are two reasons that a candidate might ignore or avoid something. 1) It does not matter to them; they do not think it is important. 2) They do not know or understand it enough to address it. Whatever the reason, if they avoid talking about it they will likely avoid taking any action.

Watch out for bounces
Do not be fooled if, when asked about a specific issue, a candidate talks about a different issue. This is a bounce or deflection. They cannot or do not want to address an issue so they bounce to another one they feel is safer or that they understand better. An example I have seen often is that when asked about Supplier/Vendor Diversity, the candidate talks about Workforce Diversity.

Statistics are in the eyes of the beholder
My grandfather used to say, “Figures lie and liars figure.” It was his way of saying you can use numbers and statistics to support whatever you want them to. Be cautious that when statistics are used by a candidate you understand where they come from, how they actually relate to the issue and if there are other statistics needed to get the whole picture.

Presence does not equal experience
Many times candidates will claim credit for an action, a law, an advancement when in reality they were only “present”. Present means they were part of the group that took the action, but were not actually responsible. It means they were part of the government body that enacted the law, but they didn’t introduce it. It means they merely participated in discussions on a development. Determine if your candidate can claim experience, which includes genuine involvement and not just simple presence.

Like anything else that is important, making choices in campaigns requires looking beyond a pretty face, the persuasive speeches and the pep rally excitement. Helping your business through your votes calls for work and examination.

Janet W. Christy is the author of "Capitalizing On Being Woman Owned" and is a consultant to Small Businesses, especially Woman, Minority and Veteran Owned. She is the owner of Leverage & Development, LLC (

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