Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Hiring Your 'Man in Washington'

The State of the Union address is soon to start as I sit down to write this. Whatever the President has to say tonight, we can be certain that the future holds even more government involvement in the life of the corporation and its people, from the C-suite on down to the shop floor (are there any shop floors left?).

Here is a terrific tip for corporate management thinking about how to protect or advance their interests in Washington. It comes from John Endean (pictured), president of the D.C.-based American Business Conference, a coalition of CEOs of midsized companies.

Hire the right person to represent you, Endean advises. As he explains:

"Companies with government affairs offices typically hire people from the Hill or a relevant regulatory agency to run them. Very few of these people dream of a corner office at headquarters, and that disinterest in advancing within the company can be a problem. It makes sense to assign bright executives within the company to head the D.C. office, similar to the way many companies tap their best and brightest for overseas assignments. A tour of duty in Washington would endow operating executives with political experience — a desirable skill in this environment — while insuring that the interests of the company are intelligently and fully represented by someone whose career path depends upon it."

That is an excellent piece of advice — a smart combination of a management development and regulatory affairs strategy — from a man well-versed in Washington's ways. I first heard John give a superb briefing on whether and how to get more active in Washington to the annual board meeting of the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management at the Wharton School last fall. I asked him to write up his above tip and several others that he offered into an article that will be published in the First Quarter 2010 edition of Directors & Boards. That issue will hit the streets in February.

Anyone doubt that President Obama will tonight with his State of the Union address make John's article an even more urgent read?