Last May I wrote a blog post about the Washington DC “Fly-In” that NPES and PIA host. You can read that article by clicking here. In that article I mentioned that I invited Congressman Peter Roskam, the US House Representative for the district that Aleyant’s office is in, to come visit us and learn about what is important to our industry. I am very pleased to report that Congressman Roskam graciously accepted this offer and spent an hour with us on August 22.
While giving the Congressman some background on Aleyant, I was pleased to learn that he is well aware of Web-to-Print. Mr. Roskam’s wife, Elizabeth, is a talented artist. They were able to order some prints from a local printing company using its Web-to-Print site. He remarked that it was a very easy process that worked quite well.
We covered a few areas of concern, but I felt that the issue I could address most effectively is that of patent reform. Unfortunately patent trolls are becoming increasingly aggressive and even going after printing companies for using standard technologies like preflight, inventory control, and Web-to-Print. Rather than throwing statistics at Congressman Roskam, I shared some stories that highlighted how patent trolls have impacted our customers and are, as a result, impacting technology providers like Aleyant.
Overall the Congressman seemed very engaged and interested in hearing our perspective. He remarked that as patent reform issues are discussed in Washington, he will be able share our story, and turn a theoretical discussion into something more practical. I really enjoyed our time with Mr. Roskam and appreciated his open, thoughtful approach.
A Call to Action for Business Owners
I am increasingly convinced that it’s important for business owners to engage their political leaders. Legislation in Washington DC has a very large impact on the success of our businesses. I also learned that the cost of political involvement doesn’t need to be high:
- You have a story to tell. As I was preparing for the Congressman’s visit, I started to look through various legislative activity surrounding patent reform. I quickly became overwhelmed with the sheer volume and complexity of this issue. To truly grasp it all would be a full time job, and then some. Fortunately our political leaders have access to a lot of data about any issue, staff who are well informed, and access to resources such as think tanks and lobbyists. While I could never provide this type of information to Congressman Roskam, I could share my story. He confirmed this approach in his remarks to us. I sense that he will remember us, that what we shared may influence the discussions he has in Washington when the topic of patent reform comes up. Every business has a story to tell, and I encourage you to share yours with your elected officials.
- Scheduling a meeting was surprisingly easy! A week after visiting Congressman Roskam’s office, I sent a follow up email. A few weeks later, one of his representatives came to my office. We had a pleasant conversation, and I reiterated my invitation. A month after that, I got an email from someone else to schedule a date. A month later, the Congressman was sitting at our conference table, wanting to learn more.
Peter Roskam has over 700,000 people in his district. He’s on the very influential Ways and Means Committee. The Congressman is a prominent leader in congress who has served as the Chief Deputy Whip for the House Republicans. The fact that he would take time from his busy schedule to meet with a relatively small company certainly speaks highly of his integrity when it comes to fulfilling his duties as a Congressman. So I would encourage you to ask for face time with your officials… you might get surprised with a “yes”.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, belonging to an industry trade association like NPES or PIA is extremely helpful. I know the leaders of these organizations are already planning for an event next June in Washington DC. I encourage you to keep an eye out for an announcement from them so you can plan on attending.