The first U.S. Congress was filled primarily with lawyers, soldiers and farmers. Today, businessmen and women make up the majority of Congress. There are 187 representatives and 27 senators that declare business as their dominant profession.
They come from industries that run the gamut, from small business owners to multi-millionaire magnates. Business is clearly and inexorably tied to the political environment. However, it’s a two-way street. There’s a lot of politics in business, too. A prospective businessperson might want to study both. Here are four reasons why:
1. Understanding How Policy Impacts Business Decisions
It doesn’t take much analysis to find where business and politics merge. In some context, the government regulates every organization, from auto giants to big banks to mom-and-pop restaurants. Sometimes that includes a national bill that creates huge waves in health care management, while other times it means jumping through hoops to get a new location properly zoned.
In all situations, it’s critical to study and understand how these public policy changes affect business.
“If you work in an industry where the government regulates you, or laws affect you, you have to understand how that works or you will fail,” says Jeff Gulati, associate professor of political science at Bentley University.
Learn more about the Public Policy degree at Bentley University.
2. Predicting Future Policy Changes
There’s a theoretical element to it as well. Understanding how future legislation will change the business environment can give professionals a huge edge in the industry. Accurate legislative predictions, coupled with effective preemptive planning, can be as beneficial as following industry trends. It’s about using politics to tailor a business strategy.
“Public policy is about anticipation — seeing the big picture and knowing how laws are made,” Gulati shares.
3. Specializing in Your Industry
Some businesses are highly regulated by the government, and staying afloat means carefully following changing legislation in your area. One of the biggest industries in the country, health care has been navigating incredibly choppy legislative waters, especially in the past several years.
There are roughly 12.2 million people employed in the health care industry, the vast majority of which are either directly or indirectly affected by changes made by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. All those workers are part of a business in one way or another, and it’s up to a portion of them to make decisions that align with changes being made on Capitol Hill. That means studying public policy and business in tandem.
“Having this knowledge has given me the ability to successfully speak to changes within the health care industry, both politically and competitively,” Amanda Wagner ’14, strategic communications associate at Verisk Health, says. “With new legislation being enacted every day, it is critical that I understand how these changes could impact customers.”
4. Knowing Your Audience
That’s the other side of the coin. In the business and political arena, it’s incredibly important to understand the audience. A corporate professional might call them consumer segments. A public servant may refer to them as constituents. The common thread is that studying either can give a better understanding of how to identify and serve these groups. Studying both, however, allows for a greater understanding of customers, voters, coworkers and perhaps people in general.