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Mike Figliuolo

Management

Proactively Dealing with Regulatory Changes to Keep Your Business Safe

What you don’t know can wreck you

Published: Monday, August 6, 2018 - 12:02

Legislative and regulatory changes can cause massive upheaval for your strategic plan. Elections happen all the time. New rules and regulations are proposed, implemented, or repealed on a daily basis. Court cases can change an entire industry landscape.

To stay on top of all these changes and to prevent being blindsided by new developments, follow electoral races, regulatory initiatives, and landmark court cases that can affect your business. Build contingency plans for possible political, legal, and regulatory outcomes. I’ve seen legislation and regulations impact businesses in huge ways.

Make your perspective known

One client I worked with was dealing with some massive regulatory changes in terms of how regulators were going to interpret the way the company’s industry worked. This client was proactive. They got involved during the regulatory comment period. They put their perspective forward through experts, and got regulators to pay attention. The outcome was they were able to shift some of the regulatory interpretations that were going to affect their business.

Shape the regulations when possible

Another company that I worked for had regulators come in and define a new rule. The problem was, the regulators didn’t say how they were going to interpret the rule. We were a little bit confused. We said, “You’re putting in place a rule, but you’re not telling us how you’re going to interpret it?”

What that did was give us an opportunity to offer our perspective on how the regulators should interpret it. We were able to help shape that perspective. This approach had two benefits. First, we shaped the perspective in a way that would benefit our business. Second, we were also able to shape it in a way that would hurt our competitors. It was kind of a win-win—for us, at least. But the only reason we were able to shift these perspectives was because we were on the front end of the interpretation guidance being created.

Make changes proactively

In another situation, a company I worked for was dealing with some accounting changes. It was clear that regulators were going to mandate a change in the accounting regulations. We could have sat back and waited for the regulators to mandate it, and then made the change, but we didn’t. We moved forward, we made the change, and we were able to interpret the way that regulators were going to look at the accounting. This affected us positively, and our competitors negatively.

Don’t get blindsided

I also worked with another business that didn’t see a big regulatory change coming. It wasn’t paying attention to some of the local and state regulations that were being rolled out across the country. One day, the company received notice that the State of New York made a massive change to consumer notification rules. This company provided services at consumers’ homes. The State of New York said, “If you’re going to provide these services, you now need to notify every neighbor adjacent to that property. Oh, and by the way, that notification needs to be by mail.” This company was totally surprised. It didn’t have the systems in place to notify neighbors. It didn’t have the mailing capability. It took several months and tens of thousands of dollars for the company to get compliant with the new rules.

If you think elections, regulations, or court decisions can’t impact you at the business unit level, you’re taking a huge strategic risk that can cripple your business. Get to know your colleagues in the government relations function. Get them to give you a regular political, legal, and regulatory briefing on issues that can impact your business. The better you understand the legislative and regulatory environment that you’re operating in, the more effectively you can plan for those changes and put your contingency plans in place before the regulations hit. If necessary, get help to keep your strategy on track.

First published June 11, 2018, on the thoughtLEADERS blog.

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About The Author

Mike Figliuolo’s picture

Mike Figliuolo

Mike Figliuolo is the author of The Elegant Pitch and One Piece of Paper. He's the co-author of Lead Inside the Box. He's also the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC—a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.