Small Business Rep in Washington
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Karen Kerrigan, the driving force behind the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council). In this Working Better Now episode, we explored the multifaceted landscape of advocacy for small businesses and policy-making.
“For nearly 30 years now, we have worked on a range of initiatives that span the private sector and public policy, all aimed towards strengthening the ecosystem for startup activity and small business growth,” said Karen.
Small businesses encounter various government-related pain points, such as complex regulatory processes, tax, trade, healthcare, and more. It’s Karen’s mission to ensure that small business voices are heard.
“If it wasn’t for small businesses and entrepreneurs, we wouldn’t have the job creation; we wouldn’t have the innovation; we wouldn’t have the vibrancy in our economy. I mean, entrepreneurs are the center of our economy. And so I’m honored to do what I do,” said Karen. “Every day I work to tell government and Congress, ‘you have to honor this important constituency as well through policy and legislation. Because without them, our country would be a mess, economically speaking.’”
The SBE Council is a non-partisan organization. Their only concern is advocating for small businesses and regulations that enable them to thrive. For Karen’s team, there’s always a battle to fight. But they must be practical when setting their agenda and deciding where to focus their efforts.
At the federal level, one of the biggest issues Karen is focused on is regulatory threats. The Department of Labor and agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission have proposed a variety of rules and regulations affecting things like the franchise model, overtime rules, and mergers and acquisitions—ultimately causing damage to the start-up and small business ecosystem.
“For example, the Department of Labor has proposed and will be proposing a variety of regulations that impact small businesses, from changing the whole independent contractor rule to make it very, very difficult for self-employed people and business owners to be independent contractors to the joint employer standard, which would totally disrupt the franchise model in this country, to the overtime rule, the list goes on and on,” said Karen.
In addition to the Department of Labor, The Federal Trade Commission is doing a lot on the merger and acquisition front, which could make it very difficult for startups to raise money from investors, build their business, and sell it—which is the goal for many startups.
Another battle they’re fighting is the research and development tax credit that expired last year. This was a huge tax incentive that allowed immediate expensing of research and development expenses. Many businesses are still banking on using this credit, and it will be very costly, particularly to a lot of innovative firms in this country, when they realize they no longer can.
The SBE Council advocates for small businesses, but they find that business owners and entrepreneurs often underestimate their own power and influence. Business owners often focus on the things they can control, which leads them to believe it’s a waste of their time and effort to counteract negative regulatory changes.
It’s Karen’s job to keep them engaged and have them speak in numbers and in volume to have the impact the SBE Council wants to have on policy. And Karen has seen amazing things happen when they do stay engaged.
“Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen even individual entrepreneurs and small business owners come to Washington DC, I’ve brought them to the White House, brought them to regulatory agencies, had them testify on Capitol Hill, and have a huge impact,” said Karen. “Their voice is extremely powerful.”
Karen is optimistic about the future of small businesses, and she and her team always strive to enable small businesses to succeed. To learn more about the SBE Council and the work that they do, visit sbecouncil.org.