Developing relationships with our legislators is a responsibility of being in business as a real estate investor. Oftentimes we want to just keep our heads down and hope that the paid lobbyist of our trade association will handle everything that might bite us in our proverbial pocketbook.

I know I was like that. I thought “I have way too much on my plate to delve into politics.” That is until recently when a bill came up in my state that sought to develop legislation on rent control which ultimately limits the free economy of investors to self-govern and provide safe, affordable housing.

I thought it might be helpful to give a few guidelines about how to develop a relationship with your representative, before you really need them. I realized through my experience that legislators cannot be “in the know on every issue or industry.” We as experts and professionals in the industry can provide valuable insights that will help them.

Make an appointment to meet with them at their office or go out for coffee. Take time to understand about their passions and background. Set this first meeting intentionally to be a brief time with a simple agenda…. you want to know them and allow them to know you.

Take time to think about yourself and what you want them to know about you. Develop a brief bio on yourself that includes your professional and personal experiences. Use this to build your conversation so that he/she develops confidence that you are someone he/she wants to know.

When the time comes that you need his/her assistance, here are four steps to help you be prepared.

A. Know your facts – obtain basic information about the topic. Be specific and describe the topic and state your opinion.
B. Note your expertise – if you have professional experience on an issue make it known. For example, share that you are a professional realtor who works with investors or you are a leader of a real estate investment group. This establishes credibility. He/ she may even ask you for guidance on the issue.
C. Be brief – convey clear, concise information about the issue and how it will affect you as a constituent.
D. Be timely – if a vote on a specific issue is imminent, they are more likely to listen.

After every meeting with your representative, take time to write a brief thank you. Let them know how much you appreciated their time and attention and that you want the channels of communication to remain open so that you can be of assistance if they need you.

Remain confident in the belief that we, the individuals, the businesses and the voters, do know what is good for our communities. Be partners of change and communication with those who represent your interest; they need to hear from you.