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As a child there was never a political sign on my parent's lawn or at their business that would indicate their political viewpoints. Growing up in a small business, I was always told to save political discussions for another time. Business is business, and for some, political discussions have a funny way of invoking emotions that lead to rash decisions; decisions that could lead a customer to your competitor.

Over time, I have realized that a sign in the yard is not what is going to dramatically impact the bottom line. Rather, it is those we put into office and the decisions they make. The influence of political trends and pronouncements from our elected and appointed officials can stretch far past a customer's purchase. These decisions can impact market factors that either create opportunities or build barriers for small business. Let us consider a few of these outside influences and how they can impact a small business.

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Labor Regulations: A small change in labor regulations can mean a costly change for a small business. Minimum wage increases, health care reforms, employee benefits and payroll taxes are all outside influences. Regardless of your political stance on these issues, the cost will impact your bottom line. Do you have a strategy in place to manage the additional cost?

Sandbox Play: Time and money are two things in business that you can never get back. At any level of government, stalemate practices, indecisiveness of officials and lack of understanding on key issues all equate to policy limbo. If these policy changes impact your business, it could cost you time and definitely money in the future.

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Resources for Small Business: There is a wide range of no-cost and low-cost resources throughout the federal, state and county levels that focus on small business growth. Most of these organizations are grant or locally funded and provide navigation, consulting, and training services to help increase business success in the community. Political trends and economic ideology can lead to an increase or decrease of these services.

Economy and Lending: At some point, most small businesses will inquire about lending and want to know if affordable lending is available for their business. Not only does this depend on the businesses character, but also outside influences. This can include consumer confidence, interest rates, market pressures and a magnitude of other variables that are influenced by political movements.

With the most recent elections from federal to local levels, there has been a significant shift in political perspectives. Hopes are high and fingers are crossed that the recent changes will bring greater prosperity to small business. Regardless of political affiliation, it is important to remember that outside influences will impact a small business, and voting for those whose influences align with your business goals can limit your exposure.

Amy Wallace is the Regional Director for the America's Small Business Development Center Northern Region, serving Carroll, Harford and Cecil counties. SBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA. "

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