11. Spread the good news“We’re the success story in our area,” says Andrew Tasker, MD of East Kilbride-based Mentholatum. “While all the other major employers in the area are shutting up shop, we’re tripling production.” Tasker contacted his local MSP Andy Kerr and Adam Ingram MP to tell them the good news. “It was common sense to let them know how we’re doing,” says Tasker. “To double our £30m turnover, we have to expand the factory, which involves applying forplanning permission from the local council. Now that they are aware that we’re fuelling the local economy, they can help facilitate the process.”
12. Passive strokingIt takes time to nurture relationships with politicos. “You can’t force them to help you,” says Peter Girling, founder of Taunton-based Girlings Retirement Options. “All you can do is feed information into the system. Every time a politician publishes something to do with a cause relevant to us, I write to them. I was quite successful getting through to John Prescott’s office, and I even had a few meetings with the civil servants about my business.” But the process is yet to bear fruit. “I’m just going to have to keep banging the drum,” says Girling.
13. It’s all about timingIf you actually manage to acquire some political support, you’ll want to eke it out as long as possible. Michael Wilks, Scyron CEO, used impeccable timing to get the most out of his firm’s Paris launch at the British embassy. “We had our launch three weeks before a major trade show we were attending in Paris and invited everyone we’d met at the embassy. We had a great response and left the trade show with potentially several million euros worth of business.”
14. Friends in high placesWhen the Freeplay Foundation sent 10,000 radios to Kenya, the government demanded $100,000 worth of import duty – despite the fact the radios were a charity donation. Luckily, Baroness Chalker, former minister for overseas development, was on the Freeplay board. “She got in touch with her various contacts from her time in the Conservative Party and convinced them to waive the charge,” says Freeplay’s Rory Stear.
15. Big in business and big in politicsIf you can find a politician with a background in your industry, they are more likely to understand your business and want to help. Girlings Retirement Options provides assured tenancy property for the elderly, andfounder Peter Girling recently found his champion in Baroness Sally Greengross. “She is chairwoman of the International Longevity Centre and she used to be the CEO of Age Concern. She came and opened our latest development near Weston-super-Mare,” says Girling. “Her word carries a lot of clout. She spoke to residents and assembled an audience including the local MP, mayor and chairman of Somerset county council, enthusing about what we’re doing.”
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