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Advocacy is Part of Business

Election cycles cause me to reflect on all the levels of government and their connection to, among other things, my business. While elections heighten my involvement, I’m never uninvolved. Over the past 20 years I’ve learned that a meaningful amount of my time is necessarily spent at town halls, State Capitals, and even Washington, advocating for my business and industry. It keeps me connected. It helps me understand the intention of proposals and regulations, and reveals opportunities. At the same time, it has helped legislators and regulators understand the impacts they might not have considered. More often than not, they express genuine appreciation for the information.

My entry into government relations was a lesson in itself. In the mid-90s, my home state – Massachusetts – introduced legislation aimed, ostensibly, at protecting the area’s groundwater. But when the regulation was rolled out, there were numerous industries that were never considered and were simply rolled into language because, well, no one was there to say otherwise. The result: the state forced all beauty salons that used on-site sewage or septic systems to install a separate holding tank for all the rinse water to be captured and pumped. Today the collection and transportation costs me roughly $40,000 a year.

It was an important introduction to the impact of unguided regulation. The intention was good – clean groundwater matters. But the effect of the regulations weren’t studied. High compliance cost to already pressured brick and mortar businesses drives business to homes and low-profile businesses. The result is more hair chemicals than ever being rinsed down drains where regulators cannot see or reach.

In general, I don’t believe the industry is thinking about water enough. But there are good signs. Entrepreneurial companies such as ECOHEADS are a good first step by significantly reducing the amount of water used. Hopefully water saving will lead to the next step: pre-treatment technologies that could repurpose the millions of gallons of water discharged every day.

The workforce is more recent issue. Today, industry leaders and association professionals are paying attention to the potential damage of the gainful employment rules that could severely reduce the number of cosmetology schools. While it seems more likely that a Trump administration will relieve some of the scrutiny, it’s no time to relax. There is now a new public awareness of abuses by some for-profit schools across all industries. As for-profit career education gets hit with bad press, it’s important that we routinely tell the positive side – and emphasize the employment story. Few legislators and regulators really understand the challenge of staffing salons. Salons need schools. Schools need salons.

To stay on top of these and other issues, stay connected to the trade groups. Professional organizations are as important as ever and the membership costs of belonging to several represent not only a small fraction of a budget, but also a critical source of information and access. They help us protect our industry and promote its benefits.   The presidential election may be behind us, but there are thousands of governmental roles being filled all the time at all levels of government. The more we all pay attention and respect the process; the better our industry will be for it.

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