Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Movers and Shakers

Y'all know that I'm a shaker-upper. Well, I've decided that I'm going to support the SBIR Reauthorization process in a more proactive way, and really do something to move it along.

In addition to this Blog, I'm going to write opinion pieces and attempt to get them published in various media where my voice for small business advocacy can make a difference.

To hone my writing skills I recently participated in an Op-Ed workshop offered by The Writers League of Texas. The following was first "penned" (sounds so much more elegant than "keyboarded") as a class exercise in that workshop. Thought I'd try it out on you....

Know any movers and shakers?

Now you do!

Last week, I became one – a mover, I mean…and I didn’t start with something easy. No, not me!

I took on a major federal agency and the U.S. Congress, and moved the Senate to take an action. Oh, I didn’t do it alone. No, it was a group effort. But, I’ll take credit for shaking things up and forging the trail. Yep, that was me, at the front of the line, sticking my neck out and taking action.

In a nutshell, here’s what triggered it all: Some special wording had been slipped into the current stimulus package at the request of the National Institutes of Health. As usual, it was done at the very last moment…probably under the cover of darkness.

The result? About $250 million in research and development projects were denied to small businesses. What’s worse, this wording was in fine print and coded so nobody would notice.

When I discovered this injustice, I fired up my Blog. The story was picked up and broadcast by others and soon a whole bunch of people were up in arms. I encouraged a letter-writing campaign to tell our legislators they had been bypassed, and small business was being harmed. Moreover, as I (not being a lawyer) interpreted the law, the NIH couldn’t and shouldn’t have short-circuited small business R&D.

Up to this point, I was just being a shaker.

That’s when I decided to morph into a mover, too. Posting a template letter on my website, I explained how the system worked. Then I informed hundreds of clients and contacts, via my newsletter. I also kept up the pressure through my Blog and faxed dozens of letters myself to our Senators and Representatives.

Much to my delight, a whole bunch of small businesses began to follow my lead. A flood of letters were sent. A key senator’s staffer even called me, asking for a briefing…and my opinion. That senator -- a lawyer -- evidently agreed with my assessment.

Amazingly, hundreds had followed my lead and my instructions. But what’s even more amazing? The right people on the Hill heard our plea and supported our cause…and, last Tuesday, the Senate sent notice to the NIH. Their message? Follow the law and provide the funding to small business R&D…and don’t you dare bypass us again!

My suggestion had been adopted! I had moved the U.S. Senate to needed action.

Why was I amazed? I’ve always thought of myself as only a shaker – the guy who challenged the status quo, suggested what to do and then let someone else actually make the moves. See, I’m a consultant, and that’s what we do. We shake up situations that need shaking. Then, we make suggestions and let someone else do it. Hey, consulting’s a fun job!

But, I really enjoyed that taste of being a mover, so, while I’ll continue shaking, I just might step up and do some moving too. It’s even more fun than consulting!

So, please help me out here...

If you have a suggestion for a media outlet that might be useful for marshaling support for SBIR Reauthorization please let me know about it. The name and phone number of their Op-Ed editor would be especially useful. And if you actually know someone there and can get me an introduction to that editor, that's even better.

This is going to be fun!

PS: If you're new to the NIH/SBIR-exclusion story and would like to see the columns that reported on it, click HERE, and scroll down to see them. The story broke on February 21st.

1 comment:

Jonathan Pearl said...

Fred, I think we need to get stories on NPR, about real small high-tech businesses. We need to change the public face of small businesses and our needs. Sure, there are a lot of plumbers and house builders and electricians and restaurateurs out there. But what about the rest of us?

I hear over and over again that the government is working to "unfreeze the flow of credit". I don't need a loan to make payroll. Even Obama, during a speech in which he spoke of innovation and the productivity of small businesses, used that phrase.

As I put it in a recent letter to the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship: "We don't need loans, my friends, so much as we need business! Business in the form of small contracts and grants is what the government can offer."