Ed-ShanahanAfter enduring weeks of holiday messages and late-night comedians’ jokes about New Year’s resolutions, now is the time people decide just what they will accomplish in 2016. Jokes about losing weight, getting in shape or giving up bad habits can yield some laughs, but they often don’t result in action. Still, it’s important to look at the New Year as time for a new beginning and a renewed dedication.

As small business operators, it’s important that you have a voice – an effective and informed voice – which can be heard by those who have the power to impact your bottom line, like governors, senators and representatives. Often times, that voice belongs to a “hired gun,” a lobbyist or other business professional who is familiar with the workings of government and knows how to best position an issue for consideration by elected officials. As one of those hired guns, I know well how the legislative process works and how to effectively influence legislative deliberations. But when push comes to shove, the elected official wants to hear directly from you—their constituents.

Over the past year, we have reported regularly on state and local initiatives that can impact your ability to run your business. The issues are as familiar as they are daunting: Increased minimum wage, requirements to pay sick leave to your employees (whether full or part-time), or requiring you to provide a minimum of two weeks’ prior notice before you can change an employee’s schedule without incurring a fine or sanction. In the face of these – and other – initiatives spreading from state to state and coast to coast, it’s clear no single person or entity can stop the tide of regulation from overtaking our businesses.

How many times have you read about a harmful new mandate or regulation, and how many times have you chosen to speak to your elected leaders so they can better understand the true impact of their actions? Perhaps this New Year is the right time to consider speaking up. We need many voices resonating throughout the halls of government and articulating, from a first-hand perspective, the negative impact that government mandates have on small business operators.

Over the past few years, government has taken aim at issues that favor the employee over the employer. One reason is that employee groups have spoken with a loud and consistent voice inside committee meetings and rotundas. Lawmakers do not always hear the other side. In some cases that’s because they don’t want to listen; in other cases it’s because no one is speaking loud enough and giving them enough information about laws that crimp business owners’ bottom lines. In the past, it may not have been necessary for individual business men and women to get involved on a regular basis, but because of the extent of government overreach – and the proliferation of anti-business laws and regulations – it’s crucial that more business owners step up and be heard.

It’s easy to sit back and hope that someone else will take the initiative to speak up and let politicians know that anti-business regulations are harmful not just to the business owners, but also to their communities which pay the price when employment levels drop and reinvestment dries up in the face of over-regulation. And, it’s optimistic to think that hired guns can, on their own, make the case that business owners need protection from the greedy hand of government. But, if we commit to inform our legislators about our business needs, if we articulate how a particular initiative will impact our ability to create jobs, and if we get involved and provide elected officials our expertise and perspective, then we can better control our own business destiny.

So, having flipped the calendar to 2016, what New Year’s resolution will you keep? Will I see you at the gym, at the State House, or still metaphorically sitting on the couch?