Class pic during Career Day

Dispelling 4 Myths About the Lobbying Profession: An insider’s perspective

Believe It or Not, Lobbying Is a Profession

Professional lobbying is, in fact, a profession. Yes, I said it! Just like any other profession (dentists, teachers and yes, even lawyers), professional lobbyists are governed by a professional code of conduct. Lobbyists are also known as “Governmental Affairs” personnel—I believe as a way to get away from the negative stigma that goes with being called a….*cue scary music….lobbyist. But no matter what you call them, professional lobbyists play a crucial and important role in ever level of our American government. So, love them or hate them, professional lobbyists all deserve to be assessed based on facts and not myths. So this article is designed to put some of those myths to rest from my perspective as an “insider”, an elected official.

Now, I cannot speak for any other state, but in Georgia, lobbyists are a valued resource for those of us in the Georgia legislature for information. In the past few years, we passed sweeping ethics legislation that deepened the transparency and ethical standard for lobbyists (I know because I voted for it.) So I hope this article helps to dispel a few myths that many in the public believe about professional lobbyists and their profession. I feel a personal obligation to set the record straight because I am not only going into my 5th term as a legislator—but also because I wanted to be a lobbyist right out of law school.

Now, at the end of reading this article, you may think I am way off base and continue to believe these myths. That is certainly up to you. However, I wanted to give a perspective that probably hasn’t made it mainstream about the importance of this profession and the work that I see them do each day. (I have a private program later that helps give out accurate information as well—so keep reading!)

Before I begin, I must caution you (as every good attorney does): This is NOT an exhaustive list of all the misconceptions and myths about the professional lobbying industry—but I do highlight the ones I think are most prevalent in the media and public. Enjoy and consider with an open mind.

It’s Just Not True: Myths #1-#5

Myth No. 1: Professional lobbying is just a hobby.

Uhhh–no. Lobbyists are people who spend countless hours and energy working for their clients on a particular issue or industry. Like others in a professional environment, they have a professional and ethical obligation when it comes to their jobs. Unlike most in other professional environments, they are there with legislators until midnight on the longest days of the Georgia legislative session and work around the clock, it seems, during the 1st three months of our legislative session. They are answering calls, texts and emails at all hours of the night to work through an issue for their client or research information to provide to a stakeholder. Believe me—their work seems anything BUT a hobby. With a hobby, you can choose when you want to engage in your hobby; professional lobbyists don’t quite get that flexibility. For most professional lobbyists, lobbying is 100% of their livelihood and how they provide for themselves and their families. No part-time, half-hearted efforts here!

Myth No. 2: Professional lobbying is a unethical, immoral profession.

Listen, I cannot speak for EVERY lobbyist just as I cannot speak for EVERY lawyer as a lawyer. But the ones I have the pleasure of working with are some of the most outstanding, ethical and hard working people I have ever known. And I get that the media sometimes wants to highlight to worst in lobbyists or a few bad players. But the question that I will ask is this: Have you gotten to know any professional lobbyist on a personal level? They are humans just like you and I and they understand the negative connotations that come with being called a lobbyist. However, consider that there are bad actors in EVERY profession, even churches,for example, the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal. I’ve had the pleasure (read: misfortune) of being a lawyer AND politician. So I hear all the fun jokes about each of those professions. But I have never worked with more honest, ethical and transparent people—well 90% of them anyway. And that’s the truth!

Myth No. 3: You need a law degree to be a professional lobbyist.

You don’t need a law degree if you are interested in being a professional lobbyist. Now, to be honest, it certainly helps since you are talking to people who make laws. Not to mention the critical thinking skills and automatic credibility that comes to most people when they have a law degree. But more than a degree, you need to KNOW people. Relationships are everything in business but it is particularly important in politics. This is why I developed the program I will tell you about at the end of this article—to develop relationships. While it’s probably true that a good number of professional lobbyists have higher degrees such as a law degree or Master in Public Policy, it’s not necessary. Even law firms with Governmental Affairs divisions hire non-lawyers to work in those departments. So no need to go through 3 years of pain to be a professional lobbyist. I’ve already done that for you!

Myth No. 4: Professional lobbying is easy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people say to me “I could lobby. You just talk to people right?” Wrong. More than talking, professional lobbyist are persuading. And they don’t just show up and start talking. There is a lot of research and background work that goes into preparing to talk to a policy maker. Most people forget the work that goes before taking a legislator to lunch or calling a legislator to the ropes outside chambers to advocate for a position. I am certain every elected official isn’t the easiest to deal with either, given the propensity to develop a bit of an ego once elected. So professional lobbyists have to manage egos and legislative research at the same time. Additionally, the process of passing legislation is not as linear as most people were taught in their high school text books. There are surprises, detours and crafty maneuvering in any piece of legislation and lobbyists have to be prepared to deal with that and constantly adjust. On top of all of this, the professional lobbyist still has a client or several clients they have to deal with on a consistent basis. I’m certain lobbying during our legislative session is like drinking water through a firehouse while babysitting 2 year old twins. This ain’t easy!

Are The Myths True?

Well, here is your opportunity to find out. I mentioned that I develohttps://goo.gl/forms/cDkHjcX9d2yq7MRt1ped a program that may interest you if you read this article this far. It’s called the GA P.A.T.H. (“Providing Access to The Halls”) Program. I developed it after wanting to see more minorities and women as professional lobbyist at the Georgia State Capitol. This program is not associated with and unaffiliated with my legislative office or the State of Georgia but it’s a unique, one of a kind program in the state of Georgia. The 1st class graduated last year with twenty (20) alumni and applications are now open for our 2nd class, the class of 2019. We currently have thirty-seven (37) professional lobbyists as mentors of this 7 month program. Applications are due Aug. 31st at 5:00 pm EST so check out the webpage and apply!

NOTE: There are 2 events on the webpage to learn more- Aug. 14th at 6:30 pm is an Interest Call and Aug. 15th at 6:00 pm is an in person “Meet & Greet” in Atlanta.

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I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. I serve as a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development society, Co-Chair of the Policy Committee for the National Association of Women Business Owners—Atlanta chapter and co-chair of the Education committee for the Georgia Diversity Council. Additionally, I am the founder of a non-profit, Minority Access to Capital, Inc. as well as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives since 2011.

I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.

5 “Probably Not So Shocking” Facts & Steps To Take: Tackling Access to Capital for Minorities & Diversity in Tech

This is serious. A recent report estimated that the median black and Latino family networth will be zero ($0.00) by 2053. Did you hear me? ZERO. NADA. (Source) While things that contribute to this grim report may be outside of the control of minorities, some things are. There are two (2) things I believe that will either contribute (or not) to this statistic. One is the is the ability of minorities & women to obtain access to capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. The second is the ability of minorities & women to fully integrate into every aspect of technology as an evolving and innovative industry. Again, this is serious.

Doing, Not Just Saying

Many of you know I have long been an advocate for minorities, particularly African Americans and women, getting access to capital and in diversifying the technology industry. Most business owners will tell you that access to capital is still the no. 1 struggle of starting or growing a business. That’s why in 2016, I started my non-profit Minority Access to Capital, Inc. (“MATC”) with the goal of educating, empowering and exposing minorities and minorities about how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. As I started to integrate myself into my new role as Founder of this organization coupled with my corporate law practice on raising money for tech companies, I soon begin to discover two things: (1) There is a lack of access to adequate funding to minorities and women and (2) there is a a lack of diversity in all stages of the technology infrastructure.

The following year in 2017, I made the decision to wean myself from the practice of corporate law into the diversity consulting field. That’s when I started Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC (“KAAG”) with a focus on diversity consulting in tech and policy, 2 fields that I am intimately acquainted with and have a passion to see more diverse. You will hear more from me and MATC at the upcoming July 26th event we are planning with some other partners. But here is some background information in preparation for this event that I hope will intrigue you and spur you to action!

“Shocking” Facts & “Easy” Solutions

Here are some facts and resources about access to capital for minorities and diversity in tech:

  1. Denying access to capital [to minorities] has a negative impact on our economy. (Source)
  2. Minority owned firms are much less likely to be approved for small business loans than white owned firms. (Source)
  3. Almost 70% of Google employees are male. (Source)
  4. White men dominate computer science departments by a lot. (Source)
  5. A report found that African Americans only represent 9% of the STEM workforce. (Source)

Do these facts surprise you? I assure you there many, MANY more facts like these that may surprise you about access to capital for minorities and diversity in the technology space. But I am never one to complain without offering solutions so here are my 5 steps you can take towards diversity in tech and access to capital for minorities.

My 5 steps for tackling the diversity in tech & access to capital problem:

  1. STEP 1: Admit that there is a problem. As anyone who has went through any accountability process will tell you, admission is the first step. So admitting there is a lack of diversity in tech and there are still problems with access to capital for minorities is the very first and most fundamental step. “There can be no solution where one does not admit there is a problem.” – Anon. If the above sources didn’t convince you there is a problem, I encourage you to take at this latest report by the Minority Business Development Agency (See Report) and article by Forbes this year (See article) on these issues. If these sources don’t convince you, nothing will.
  2. STEP 2: Self-reflect. We all know that sometimes it is easier to point to an organization or company and accuse them of not being diverse or not offering opportunities. But how many times have we stopped at looked at our own biases and organization? It’s a great starting point to reflect on your own environment after admitting that there is a problem. If your organization doesn’t look like your customer base or potential customer base, you may have a problem. If you find yourself hiring people that look and think and work like you, you may have a problem. If you only offer opportunities, no matter how unintentional, to those that look the same, you may have a problem. As in anything, it’s important to take a look at yourself before trying to influence others in the same area.
  3. STEP 3: Follow the data. It’s that simple. I am not asking you to give unprecedented, unwarranted special treatment to women and minorities to create diverse work spaces in tech or to supply minorities and women with vital access to capital they need to start or growth their business. I am telling you what data has already proven—and that is minority businesses are growing, women are outperforming men, there is a need for more women in tech and blacks have been some of the BEST contributors to tech. Take a look for yourself in the following articles: Black Women Are the Fastest Growing Group of Female Entrepreneurs, 5 Reasons Why Women Entrepreneurs Are Better Than Men, Invest in Black entrepreneurs because its good business, not out of social obligation ,Why We Need More Women in Tech, The 25 Most Important Black Tech Pioneers. How that you have the data, what will you do with it?
  4. STEP 4: Ask the Question “Why”? I am sure this is a loaded question but you have to ask yourself why. Why is there is a disconnect between the data that supports diversity in tech and minorities getting access to capital and actually making these things a reality? And don’t be afraid to be honest—some behaviors are unintentional, while others are. Some behavior is direct while other behaviors have a disparate impact on minorities and women. Of course, there are many theories and opinions to answer this question but why do you think there is that disconnect? What can you do about it? Once you find your “why”, it’s easy to find your “How”. Try it.
  5. STEP 5: Join the conversation. The beginning of any cultural change and revolution is getting involved. It is of no use to identify a problem, go through the above analysis, and then sit on the sidelines. Advocating for diversity in tech and access to capital are no different. Conversations are being held around Georgia on diversity in technology and it’s up to each of us to JOIN the conversation—the ones having the right, productive and effective conversations that is. My non-profit, MATC, does just that. Find your place to have your voice heard then get involved. There is power in numbers—and the prospect of a ZERO median net worth is, indeed, a powerful number.

Here’s How You Join the Conversation.

Well, I am fortunate enough to serve on the board of the Technology Association of Georgia’s (“TAG”) Corporate Development board since 2017. Last year, TAG Corp. Dev. Society and MATC partnered together to host an event titled “Capital-Raising and Growth Strategies: Solutions for Women, Minority-owned and all companies” at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was attended by 80 or so entrepreneurs looking for capital raising and growth strategies for their business.

The event was so successful and helpful last year, we are doing it again! I hope you get your ticket TODAY before we sell out! We are partnering with TAG Corp. Dev. and TAG Diversity (another TAG society) to bring you an exclusive and new event! Proceeds from MATC sells go to educate and empower minority businesses about how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. I hope you will support!

If you need more information about the event like speakers, agenda, sponsorship opportunities, etc., please visit the KAAG webpage as the planner for this event. You don’t want to miss our GREAT line up of speakers below who will discuss “Diversity in Tech” in Georgia through NGOs, non-profits, governmental entities and corporations in Panel 1 and “Capital Raising Concepts” in Panel 2. Breakfast is included and networking is expected.

Pictured: See below.

Panel No. 1- Barriers & Breakthroughs: Diversity in Tech (Click on name for bio and pic)

o Julie R. Ancis, Ph.D, Associate VP, Office of Diversity at GA Tech, Moderator

o Joe Robertson, Business Advisor for Minority Business Development Agency Business Center—Atlanta –

o Danielle McPherson, President of Women in Tech

o James Truitt, Senior Engineer with Microsoft & Tech Evangelist

o Ryan Wilson, Founder of The Gathering Spot

o Jen Bonnett, Former General Manager of the Advanced Technology Development Center

Panel No. 2- All panelist pics and bios can be found here.

  • Syed, moderator
  • Louise Wasilewski – CEO, Acivilate
  • Allyson Eman – Executive Director, Venture Atlanta
  • Sammy Courtright – Co-Founder & COO, Fitspot
  • Duriya Farooqui – Executive Director, Atlanta Committee for Progress
  • Phyllis Newhouse – CEO, Xtreme Solutions Inc
  • Tim Cobb – Managing General Partner, Tandaver

I hope to see you there so make sure you register today and share!

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I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives. Visit us online to request me as a speaker, set up a time to chat about your diversity goals or view upcoming events. My signature program is the GA P.A.T.H. Program for minorities and women interested in careers in lobbying & my signature event is the GA Blacks in Tech Policy Conference.

I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, serving over 54,000Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties under the Georgia State Capitol each year.

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My 5 “Points of Persuasion” That Influence Me as a Georgia Lawmaker

For those of you that are in Georgia and have ANY sense of timing, you’d know that the 2018 Georgia General Assembly session is upon us. We convene on Jan. 8th, 2018 at 10:00 am, per our state Constitution. And we will meet up to forty (40) days per our constitution, although not consecutively. Sidenote: Did you know the Georgia constitution happens to be one of the longest in the nation behind Texas? That’s not a compliment folks….

Become a Citizen Lobbyist

Anyway, I am in my 4th term or 8th year as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. My! How time flies when you are having fu…..well, not having much fun since I am in the minority party. Although, that’s an upgrade because I used to be a member of the SUPER minority party until recently but I digress. During my time in the legislature, I have seen my law degree, my undergraduate communications degree AND my M.B.A. all serving me well in terms of persuasion with others. But it doesn’t take degrees to understand the art of persuasion when it comes to influencing your lawmakers. And let me take this personal point of privilege to STRONGLY encourage you to pester your lawmakers as much as you can and hold them accountable. But aside from that, don’t let the media tell you only paid lobbyists are the ones that persuade legislators. I assure you that is NOT the case. Citizen lobbyists are some of the most persuasive people I know. They are passionate. They are pithy (which is important). And most importantly, most of the time they are my constituents, which is of the highest priority for me.

darshun-5-points

 

My 5 Persuasion Points

Anyway, I am in my 4th term or 8th year as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. My! How time flies when you are having fu…..well, not having much fun since I am in the minority party. Although, that’s an upgrade because I used to be a member of the SUPER minority party until recently but I digress. During my time in the legislature, I have seen my law degree, my undergraduate communications degree AND my M.B.A. all serving me well in terms of persuasion with others. But it doesn’t take degrees to understand the art of persuasion when it comes to influencing your lawmakers. And let me take this personal point of privilege to STRONGLY encourage you to pester your lawmakers as much as you can and hold them accountable. But aside from that, don’t let the media tell you only paid lobbyists are the ones that persuade legislators. I assure you that is NOT the case. Citizen lobbyists are some of the most persuasive people I know. They are passionate. They are pithy (which is important). And most importantly, most of the time they are my constituents, which is of the highest priority for me.

 

Point No. 1: Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I am looking for whole truths and not half truths or puffed up lies. There are competing interests on every piece of legislation so eventually the truth will get back to me. So, to avoid my rage and your embarrassment, just be upfront about the whole situation in the process. If you can accurately convey the pros and cons of your argument, you would have gained the respect of me as a legislator and as an attorney. I mean, attorneys…most of them anyway…like facts and knowing all of the arguments. So perhaps this is why I put the most emphasis on this persuasion point.

 

Point No. 2: Give me data.

I love data. You can lie about a number of things—-but numbers don’t lie and neither does the data and conclusions that come from those numbers. I am particularly a fan of charts and infograms. It helps me digest the millions of information I receive each session. So take that load of information, numbers and data and put it into a form that is easily digestible and distinguishable among the piles of paper that sit on my legislative desk everyday. But remember when you are giving out that data to refer to point no. #1. That’s important.

 

Point No. 3: Think about those I represent.

The majority of constituents I represent are middle age, African American females with 2.5 kids and a post graduate degree from DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. Relate your position to how it affects MY district specifically. If you can combine points number 1, 2 and 3 you have hit the jackpot as far as I am concerned! I know as a citizen lobbyist that can be a daunting task. Indeed, I know it would be hard to specify your argument based on 180 distinct House district—-but it goes a LONG way in persuading me. I need to know the impact on those I serve and it’s easier to get me to your position if you can tell me how it affect those 54,000 Georgians I serve.

 

Point No. 4: Advise where the bill is in the process.

Seriously, don’t talk to me about a bill that hasn’t even had a 2nd reader. Or hasn’t been assigned to committee. Or has been assigned to a committee I don’t serve on. Or has no chances of seeing the light of day. Why? We vote on thousands of pieces of legislation which means thousands more have been filed. I need to focus on the forest as opposed to the trees—specifically the forest that is ahead of me and not the trees behind me. It’s a waste of both of our time to discuss bills that are far on the horizon. In fact, I will forget what you told me by the time the bill becomes relevant anyway. It takes a little patience but prioritizing your arguments are the best way to get my full attention when I have a million other things on my mind. And I can talk competently about it when it is in my radio. And THAT is a win-win for all of us!

 

Point No. 5: What’s in it for you?

It’s an honest question and one I think, as a lawmaker, I am entitled to know. I don’t judge motives; only outcomes. However, knowing motives does allow me to determine how I process information coming from someone. If the answer is “because I am being paid by a client” or “this affects me personally”, fair enough! I am a lawyer. I have clients. I know what it means to have a duty to zealously represent a client. I’m not mad. But be honest. We are all humans so self-preservation is a thing…a real thing…a thing none of us should hide from. Now, some of my colleagues won’t appreciate the honesty but I do.

 

Conclusion

Where there you have it! My 5 points for how to personally persuade me, Dar’shun Kendrick, the State Representative from House District 93. I hope that this list will be helpful as we embark on the 2018 Georgia General Assembly session. It is my particular wish that each of you reading this blog post will put these skills to use and come visit me at the “velvet rope” outside Chambers.

 

Need more “hands on” training and expertise?

Then I have THE workshop for you, hosted by my private business Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. Tickets are VERY limited so I hope you will join me, others and pitch expert A.C. Chan to learn more about the art of “pitching” and persuasion. The best part—I will be there since it’s my program so you can try your “pitch” out on me. You can’t get better beta testing than that so join me!

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Contact Info

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Email: DKendrick@DarshunKendrick.com Phone: (404) 919-0660

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