With the new federal administration about to take office there become a lot of unknowns for the small business owners. Will there be new taxes? New regulations? Most importantly, what can you do as a small business to advocate for the issues that matter to you?
Our guest today, Thomas M. Sullivan is vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Working with chambers of commerce and the U.S. Chamber’s nationwide network, Sullivan harnesses the views of small businesses and translates that grassroots power into federal policies that bolster free enterprise and reward entrepreneurship. He runs the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Council, engaging those members on a regular basis to increase small business input and involvement in Chamber activities.
You can join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by CLICKING HERE.
If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:02):
You’ve worked hard to build your business, and now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the Multiple Your Success Podcast. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team and a serial entrepreneur. And welcome to 2021, and this is our first official episode of the year, with a fantastic guest today.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:23):
Thomas Sullivan is our guest. He is the vice president of policy at the US Chamber of Commerce, so he is on Capitol Hill, lobbying on behalf of you and me, the small business owners and small business leaders across the country.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:38):
He has a fantastic, fantastic perspective, and wonderful information to share with you, and I’m sure, with the new year upon us and a new administration rolling in here, as a small business, you’ve got to be wondering, “What is going to happen over the course of the next two to four years with new Congress, new Senate, new president?” All of these things are happening. Very well could mean new policies, new taxes, new everything.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:10):
Well, Tom Sullivan, our guest today, is one of the people fighting and advocating on behalf of you and me as the small businesses. And the US Chamber of Commerce has over three million members, nationwide. It’s the largest chamber in the country. It’s absolutely phenomenal, and we’re going to go ahead and jump right into our interview with Tom Sullivan.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (01:33):
I’m Tom Sullivan. I’m the vice president for small business at the United States Chamber of Commerce. I would love to say that I’m coming to you live from our headquarters, which is directly opposite the White House in Washington, DC, but that’s not the case.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (01:48):
I’m actually coming to you live from my basement. So, my commute this morning was from upstairs to the basement. And I always look at things from a half-full perspective, because I lobby for small business, and I get that optimism from small business, and so it’s just kind of a part of who I am.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (02:11):
I think that the blessing of this pandemic, if there is such a thing … the blessing part, not the pandemic, because the pandemic is real. One of the blessings is, I’ve gotten to visit with more local chambers of commerce in the last nine months than in the last five years.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:32):
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (02:32):
Whether it’s the Hilton Head Chamber at 9:00 in the morning, to last night was visiting with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at 7:00 at night. And this idea that you can connect virtually, although I do certainly prefer to connect in-person, but the idea that you can connect with all of these communities and small businesses has been a blessing for me.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (03:00):
Because I’m able to learn more about what’s going on with small business than if I had to get on a plane and travel to Hilton Head, although I wouldn’t complain about doing that, or travel to Atlanta, Georgia or anywhere else in the United States.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (03:16):
So, I’ve already gone down a rabbit hole, and I apologize, Tom, but I represent small businesses at the US Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber of Commerce where I work is the world’s largest business federation. We represent roughly three million businesses from all over the United States.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (03:35):
96% of our membership have fewer than 100 employees. About 75% of our membership have fewer than 10 employees. And the membership includes a partnership with about 1600 local and state and regional chambers of commerce, as well as about 500 associations and membership organizations.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (03:56):
Collectively, we lobby for business. I personally lobby for small business. Most of the time, we’re marching shoulder to shoulder to advocate for the broader business community, and I would have to say that … Well, I always have said that I have the best job at the Chamber. But never has there been more important or fulfilling work than during the pandemic, because small businesses really, really need help.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:25):
Yes, and I appreciate that. And we’ve been a member of the US Chamber for several years, and I love the work that you do and the data you publish. I love small business. It’s our primary customer. It’s our primary audience, is the small business owner entrepreneur, business leader.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:42):
And what you have done, and what you’re doing as an organization, it keeps me in the loop. It keeps me informed. And so I, just as a general kind of small member in the part of the many that’s part of it, appreciate it.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:57):
And one of the things that I’d love to get your take on or opinion on, certainly with the lockdowns and the crunch on small businesses, some of the things that you’ve been doing to help support small businesses and what you’re doing out there?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (05:13):
Well, thank you, Tom. So, first of all, thank you for being a Chamber member. Three million is a lot of members, and we use the power of numbers to certainly bring across our advocacy on Capitol Hill and in the White House and agencies. But every single member, like you, matters. And so, thank you for that. Well, what have we been doing? It’s weird to think that nine months ago was the start of the pandemic. I’m not sure about you, Tom, but it seems like nine years ago.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:51):
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (05:54):
Prior to that, when we knew that COVID would have an impact … I don’t think any of us knew that it would continue to have an impact nine months later. Actually, we just produced some data from a survey of small businesses that we can get to a little later on, but most small businesses believe the worst is yet to come, which is just crazy to me, looking backwards in February, beginning of March, to think that this is what’s going on.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (06:35):
But prior to the pandemic, we were working with Congress and the White House to prepare, and to put in place what types of stimulus would help businesses overall, and from my perspective, small businesses. And we actually saw amazing bipartisan support of this initial bill called the CARES Act. Please don’t ask me what the acronym stands for.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (07:09):
And that legislation that created a brand-new lending program called the Paycheck Protection Program, really has paved the way to help many small businesses get this far. Now, that’s the good news. The bad news is that most of the programs that were passed as part of the CARES Act were supposed to be for three months.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (07:37):
So here we are, nine months later. Unfortunately, that bipartisanship has dissolved a little bit. And nine months in, we’re trying to make up for lost time, when the underlying foundation was a three-month fix. So, we’re right in the heat of pressing Congress for more help for small business.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (08:03):
But your question, Tom, was, “Well, what have you done?” So, we actually had to pivot almost immediately in the third week of March, because our strength, traditionally, has been lobbying and advocacy. Well, what we heard immediately from small businesses was, “Okay, we appreciate the advocacy, but how do I get a loan? How did I get my employees unemployment?”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (08:37):
There were all of these questions that were flowing in from all over the United States. Very quickly, we realized we’ve got to shift from being a lobbying organization to an educational institution. And really, talk about working with a great group of people.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (08:55):
I mean, I’ll never forget. It was a weekend. I think it was probably that last weekend of March. It was a Sunday afternoon, and between 20 and 30 of my colleagues at the US Chamber of Commerce, who were working on various things that were not small business things. They were working on international things, energy things.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (09:19):
They volunteered that Sunday afternoon to learn about the programs that are available for small business, so that they could be the educators on Zoom calls, on conference calls, on WebEx calls, to help get the word out to small businesses about how to access PPP loans, what to do when you re-open. What should you tell your employees? What should you tell your customers?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (09:51):
We shifted into an information resource, and it was amazing to see the volunteerism of my colleagues were I worked. And then, the execution, the pushing that information out. And when you work with 1600-2000 local chambers of commerce, pushing out information is a lot easier with those partnerships than it would be just doing it ourselves.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (10:17):
When Mark Cuban tweeted out one of our how-to guides, that didn’t hurt either. We’ll take it. One of the local chamber executives said that our education initiative for small businesses was the R&D project. And the R&D stands for “ripoff and duplicate.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (10:42):
And we love it. If we’ve got to get information out there in English and Spanish that would help small businesses, we want everybody to rip it off and duplicate, because then all the information gets to the folks who need it most, who are the small business owners.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (10:58):
And so, we shifted into an information resource. And there’s tons of data out there about number of web likes. I think someone said that we’ve had 1600 video events since March. So, my mind can’t even wrap around that many video events, but that’s a lot of Zoom calls.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (11:23):
And if that’s what it takes to get information out to small business owners, then we’re up to the task. So it’s been a lot of fun working in a mission-based organization like the Chamber, who really shifted very quickly to help as many small businesses as possible.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:41):
And you’re doing great things, I know.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (11:43):
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:44):
Yeah. We’ve used some of your resources. We’ve shared it with our audience.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (11:50):
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:50):
And it’s just been fantastic. And for anyone listening who’s not familiar with the US Chamber, please, make sure you check them out, get involved. They’re doing great things, especially on the advocacy, because as a small business, I know it’s very common, I know I feel this way as a small business owner, that your voice isn’t heard.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:10):
No one hears it, and having an organization like the US Chamber to help advocate on your behalf, a collective idea of representing for small businesses … So, would you share a little bit about what some of that lobbying and advocating looks like? Because I don’t know how … As a business owner, you’re kind of, sometimes just blinders on, and you’re just going.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:33):
You’re just doing, and you forget about, when you’re outside of a general election season, when it’s not on the news every second of every day, you kind of forget about it. You’re just kind of doing your thing. So, I’d love to hear your opinion or have you share a little bit about what you’re doing.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (12:51):
Well, thank you. So, first of all, I will insist, with every living breath that I have, that an opinion, a thank you, or an ask from a small business to the people they elect does make a difference. It makes a huge difference. So a lot of what we do is, many times, just provide a megaphone.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (13:18):
So, while I walk up to Capitol Hill virtually every day, and all my colleagues do, and we convey the opinions of the business community, that doesn’t move the dial as much as individual small businesses contacting their elected leaders.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (13:41):
That’s what really moves the dial. And I have been in meetings after meetings, many lately by video, where there are a bunch of people in a room, a virtual room, and the elected members’ attention is always drawn to the small business in their district or their state, as it should be.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (14:06):
And so, many times, our efforts are to simplify what’s going on around the country. I’ll give you a very good example. One of the wonderful small business owners who I get to work with every day is a gentleman from Mississippi. His name is Jeff Good, and he is lucky enough to own three restaurants, although “lucky” is … It’s all the context, because if hard work equals luck, then yes, indeed, he is lucky.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (14:41):
And he is very passionate about not just serving food at restaurants, but about the people who he employs and provides a livelihood to, and the communities in Mississippi that he’s created out of Sal and Mookie’s Pizza Shop, or Bravo, which was his first venture down in Mississippi.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (15:05):
And so, he wrote out a little narrative of what he went through at the end of March, and how painful it was for him to look his employees in the eye and say, “I’m sorry, but I have to let you go.” And he gave that narrative to me and some of my colleagues, and we amplified it. We got it to his congressional delegation, which quite frankly, he had already done, through … I think it is the Jackson area Chamber of Commerce. Jackson, Mississippi.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (15:55):
We then shared it with CNN. And CNN populates a website with material on it, as well as the more widely-known audience on television. CNN liked it so much, not only did they publish it in their opinion pieces, but they had Jeff on a video feed on a live news broadcast, talking about how important it is for Congress to come together and help small businesses right now.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (16:28):
That’s not actually where it stops. We took that material and pushed it through social media. We’ve had three additional stories come out of that one. All of that is simply taking what Jeff believes, and he had the courage and conviction to say, and then amplify it. And that’s a lot of what we do. And if that’s lobbying, some folks call that “lobbying.” If it’s simply amplifying, that’s okay. It’s just amplifying.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (17:00):
But our best work, in my view, comes from when we take those voices, and we amplify it not only to represent Jeff and others, but to represent millions of similarly-situated businesses, and then put that in front of Congress with a solution that says, “Here’s what you can do to help Jeff, and to help this terrible narrative turn into a positive story.” So, that’s a lot of what we do from an advocacy perspective.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:36):
Wow. That’s an amazing story, and I think for the small business leader tuning in, I think knowing that there’s a way for their voice to be expressed and heard, is reassuring. That it does matter, your voice does matter, for those of you tuning in. And I think if someone’s unsure of what to do or how to do it, just as a talking point, how could someone get involved in reaching out to you or what’s a first step for someone that they could take?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (18:12):
Well, first step is go to the Google. You go to the Google and you find out who your elected representative is and who your senators are. And when you find that out, many times, you’ll see an email. Sometimes, people prefer a Twitter feed, tweeting at someone’s handle.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (18:32):
And there’s really two rules to contacting a member of Congress. “Thank you,” and “Please.” That’s it. It’s really that simple. When a member of Congress does something that you support, thank them. Or if you want to be passive-aggressive about it, you could thank them in advance.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (18:53):
And the second, when I say, “Please,” it’s okay to ask. It’s okay to ask a member of Congress, “Please do this to help me and to help my community, and to help my employees.” So the “please” is also important. I’ve been in some meetings where they forget the “please,” and they tell a story and then the member of Congress calls me back and says, “Look, I really enjoyed meeting with this person, but is there anything they wanted?”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (19:30):
And I said, “I don’t know. They didn’t do the ‘please’ part.” So the “thank you” and the “please” are both very, very important. So, step one: Go to the Google. Step two: Just do a “thank you” or a “please.” And then step three, if you get to it, really is really where the community comes into play.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (19:54):
We’re powerful for a number of reasons at the Chamber of Commerce. We’re powerful primarily because we’ve got, behind us as membership, we’ve got three million companies. Most of them are small. Some of them are really, really big.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (20:10):
And when you have three million of those folks behind you, you can wield a pretty big stick. And that same community exists in localities all around the United States, and they are … This won’t surprise you when I mention it. They are your local chambers of commerce.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (20:29):
So that third step is to share your opinion, and share the communication with your local chamber, because they’re able to coalesce other like-minded businesses, and convey a broader and more powerful message, because there’s likely to be more than just one of you who has a strong opinion on something.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (20:53):
Now, if it’s an opinion that you think is just going to piss everybody off, there are different ways to approach it. Doesn’t mean that everybody has to be a rubber stamp for the most popular kid on the block, but there are different ways of approaching it.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (21:08):
And that’s where local chambers are so valuable as well, is that they are able to convene all sorts of differences of opinions, narrow in on a common set of agreement, and really encourage the advocacy on that common agreement, and let everything else work itself out within a community but not necessarily through a full-blown advocacy effort.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:33):
Oh, that’s a great three-step process. I like it. Simple, clear, easy to understand. Thank you for sharing that. And Tom, one of the things we always … We like to go into kind of our interview questions here.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (21:48):
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:49):
So, now you’re on the hot seat. These are questions every guest gets asked.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (21:53):
Let me look at my answers. They’re all written right there.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:56):
Yeah, yeah. And for those who aren’t watching on the feed here, he’s got his hands held up, because he said he wrote it on his hand beforehand. Well, Tom, we talk about this idea of “misses, makes and multipliers.” And so, when we talk about the idea of a miss, and it could be any kind of a miss, that came up at some point, and something you learned from it that maybe you could share with our audience?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (22:23):
Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you for some of this interview format ahead of time, because it did give me a chance to just think about something rather than just kind of fumble through a very awkward set of responses. So, I think that the misses … I’ll try not to be too philosophical about it, but I think the misses, for me, have really been learning the distinction between knowing and learning.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (22:56):
And what I mean by that is, I was blessed to have a great upbringing, a great education. Something, as a parent, I don’t take for granted anymore, because I have two teenage boys. And for a while, I think, coming out of law school, interning in Washington, DC for a little while, and finding my true vocation, I had a little bit of a sense of just knowing.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (23:24):
And I thought, “Well, I know it. I know the answer.” Instead of what I’ve come to believe, which is the importance of learning, and I say that because it’s a constant process. So, last night, when I was speaking with some Georgia small business owners, and had a chance to talk with a young lady who … She’s a single mom. She has four kids, and she has been without a job as a waitress since March.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (24:04):
That conversation was a learning experience for me, and it is as valuable, sometimes even more valuable than what I thought I knew prior to that conversation. And you’re probably looking for a little bit more of a concrete example of like, “Well, when did this all …”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (24:27):
And I remember, I was a young … I had no gray hair. So, folks who are listening and can’t see us, I am mostly gray-haired now. So, at the time, I had no gray hair. I was a young man, and I was a lobbyist at the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses all across the United States.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (24:54):
And I was very excited to testify for the first time before Congress on trying to get small businesses out of a law called “Superfund,” which basically is a liability law that says if you contributed any garbage to a waste site that eventually becomes designated as a hazardous waste site, you could actually be responsible to pay for the entire clean-up, millions and millions of dollars.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (25:27):
And so, when I was at NFIB, we had an entire advocacy campaign that tried to recognize that a small diner who was throwing out their food scraps had a choice. They could actually pay to have their garbage sent to the landfill, or they could throw it in the stream behind the fence.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (25:57):
And they made the right decision. They actually paid to bring it to a landfill. And then you fast forward 30 years later, all of a sudden, some government official comes knocking on that diner’s door and says, “Hey, you’re liability for $2.5 million to keep up this waste site.” That is craziness.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (26:19):
So, in the middle of this campaign to fix kind of a mis-intended consequence of a law, I got to present the views of small business before a congressional committee in the House of Representatives. And I was all excited, and my head was humongous because I had all this ego about, “Well, I am going to tell that committee exactly how to fix this law.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (26:45):
And my boss came to me. I’ll never forget it, and he said, “Tom, I want to make sure, before you go up to Capitol Hill and testify, I just want to make sure you know that the reason you’re testifying is because we couldn’t find a small business to be the witness.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (27:08):
And it was an awkward several moments, and I thanked my boss at the time. But I had no idea how much that conversation meant to me, because I thought I knew, and I thought what I knew would be best communicated to Congress. But in fact, that’s not the case.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (27:32):
What actually was the value of me testifying, and the even greater value if we had found a small business instead, was to convey the actual real-life experiences of small businesses, in order to advocate on their behalf.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (27:49):
And so that, for me, that was probably the biggest teachable moment where you go from … Hopefully, you go from a series of misses to a series of successes. But it’s not a check-the-box thing. I continually need to do a better job of being a listener, both as a dad, as a husband, and as an advocacy professional. So, I’m working on it.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:17):
Wow. Well, what a great story. Thank you for sharing that, and I appreciate that. I love asking these questions, because I get to learn so much. And hopefully, I know our audience does as well. Well, let’s turn things over to the other side. It’s more fun talking about the makes, so let’s bring us back up with a make or two that happened, and that you wouldn’t mind sharing in.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (28:44):
Sure. So, I think one of the most significant makes … It’s funny. Your wall of fame, right? So I guess the way you ask the question is, “Do you have your wall of shame and your wall of fame?” So we’re switching to the wall of fame.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (29:02):
And you look at the different pictures on that wall. One of the pictures I have, I’m actually looking at it. It’s just in a bookshelf. It’s Senator Olympia Snowe, who was a senator from Maine until she retired several years ago.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (29:16):
She was looked to by many as really an incredible champion for small business. And so, there was a law called “Dodd-Frank” that was being written, and I think a make that certainly stands out in my mind was talking with Senator Snowe about, “Here is a law being created to help protect consumers.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (29:45):
Well, the focus of that law was really regulation and enforcement. And what I had found in Washington, DC is that sometimes unintended consequences of regulation and enforcement really hurt small business. And so, I worked with Senator Snowe to actually put into the Dodd-Frank law, this provision that requires the federal government to be extra-sensitive to how regulation and enforcement in the financial arena could impact small business.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (30:20):
So, that was a huge success. But leading along the way, which had many … It was a little bit like a rollercoaster. Part of that rollercoaster … and I’m not going to say whether or not this was going up or going down, because that might insult someone. But part of that rollercoaster was when Senator Snowe’s staff said, “Hey, Tom. We think this is a great idea. And Senator Snowe is all-in on this.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (30:44):
And she was barnstorming around Maine saying that this Dodd-Frank was important, but also protecting small business is important. They said, “So, we want to connect you with a Harvard professor who’s fairly influential in this area. And Olympia …” I didn’t call her that, but some of her staff did. “Olympia has a very good relationship with this Harvard professor, and she just wanted to know if you could chat with her, tell her a little bit about the small business sensitivity that we’re working on.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (31:22):
So, “Okay, sure. Who is it?” They said, “Oh, it’s Professor Warnick or War … War-something. Warren. Warren, I think. Elizabeth Warren.” And at the time, I remember I started to sweat a little bit, because she actually had gained quite a reputation already in Washington, DC, that evidently Senator Snowe’s staff was unaware of, as being pretty aggressive when it comes to regulation and enforcement.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (31:56):
And I said what you generally say when a senator asks for something. You say, “Yes, of course, I’ll talk with Professor Warren. And so, she connected me with then-Professor Warren, who now is Senator Elizabeth Warren, and I got to say, Tom, it was the most lovely conversation.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (32:15):
She asked me like, “Hey, Olympia showed me this language in this law, but I’m not sure how it works.” And so I was blessed to have served in George W. Bush’s administration for a while, overseeing a law that requires the federal government to be sensitive to small business, so I knew kind of how this law could work.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (32:40):
And my experience with small businesses showed that implementation, it’s called the Regulatory Flexibility Act, just to be a little nerdy here, so I knew from how small businesses had encountered this law, how it worked. And I just shared that with then-Professor Warren. We really had a very nice conversation.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (33:02):
At the end of the conversation, she said, “Oh, that really makes sense. I think that’s something that I could support.” And I hung up the phone, and my hand was incredibly sweaty at the time. I hung up the phone, called Senator Snowe’s folks back and said, “Oh, Professor Warren was lovely. We had a great conversation and she supports the provision.”
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (33:23):
And that, I think, had a great deal with it being in one of the success points of my career, that even with sweaty palms, it’s still good to feel out aspects of opinion before you declare victory. And Senator Snowe was really pretty remarkable. She went to the mat with this particular provision.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (33:48):
There’s been a couple of memoirs written. I mean, she’s still alive. She’s doing very well. But there’ve been a couple of memoirs written about her Senate service, and a couple of them mention how she went to the mat for this provision in Dodd-Frank. So, something I’m very proud of, and will probably always remember it.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (34:11):
Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that. And I know small businesses are grateful for your service in helping support that, and impacting them in ways that small businesses have no idea, in many cases, these things are happening, right? So, appreciate that. What an incredible story. Incredible. Well, and Tom, what about this idea of a multiplier? Some guests have talked about this idea of, a multiplier may be something they’ve done personally or professionally in their career. What does that mean to you?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (34:45):
So, I have been blessed to have very good bosses. I really have. And so, I take particular pride in trying to be a good boss. I don’t know if I am or not. You’re going to have to ask the people I work with. But the multiplier, for me, is to try to take the experiences I’ve had and mimic them as best I can within my own personality and my own style.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (35:23):
And probably some of the most fulfilling work that I do is to help other folks find their way. So, whether or not it’s getting an internship in Washington, DC, or try to figure out, “Do I want to go to law school?” I actually just talked with a young lady who I worked with about 15 years ago and she graduated law school and she is working for a judge down in Georgia, and she’s really happy.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (35:54):
I’m not going to say that all 15 years between when we worked together and now have been filled with sunshine and roses. That is not the case at all. But it seems as though she’s in a good place now, and hearing the joy in her voice about where her life is right now, and knowing that I played a little, teeny, teeny part of her choosing that path is really, really fulfilling for me. So, from my perspective, the big multiplier is taking what I viewed as helping me be successful, and then trying to emulate that so that others can be successful.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (36:34):
Wow, wow. Well, and I think all of us have … Everyone’s had a boss at some point in time, and it’s always incredible. The bad ones stick out, and so do the good ones. And I think, for a lot of folks, we seem to have more bad bosses than good ones. So, I appreciate that you’ve had the fortune or blessing to …
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (37:02):
I’ve had great bosses.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (37:03):
Have great bosses throughout your career. What a great opportunity. Great opportunity. Well, Tom, the last question we like to ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (37:17):
Well, again, Tom, thank you for giving me these questions in advance, because otherwise, I would just be blabbering, which I kind of am right now. But so, success, for me, means making a positive difference in the lives of the people who I love. And so, personally, that means my wife and my children, and my extended family.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (37:43):
And professionally, it’s the small business owners who I represent. I mean, I get pretty worked up. I actually, in the pandemic, not uncommon for me to get pretty choked up and emotional about some of the pain that small businesses are feeling right now. But I do that because I honestly love my job, and I love the small businesses who I represent. And so, being able to make a positive difference both personally and professionally is certainly how I define success.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (38:21):
Wow. Well, I appreciate that. And I can tell, from speaking to you and hear it in your voice and see it on you, your love and enthusiasm for small business. And I am so grateful for your service in supporting our small business communities out there, and small businesses all over the country, at a time … It always seems like we need it now more than ever, but I think now is a moment when that saying really rings true for so many small businesses out there, that are … Some are struggling or, unfortunately, going out of business.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (39:01):
And then, we have seen others that are rising through this, and are prospering and doing well and are saying, “Holy cow, how do I manage the growth during this time? How do we interview people if we don’t see them?” So, you have this … such a big contrast that’s hitting all at the same time. It’s really interesting, and I’m so grateful for you and what you’re doing, and what the US Chamber is doing. I’m so grateful for that. Thank you.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (39:34):
Well, Tom, right back at you. Thank you for amplifying the voices. You are actually making a difference, both individually and collectively. So, thank you for that, and thank you for having me on your show.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (39:45):
Yeah. Well, thank you. And is there anything that you were hoping to say or get across or made a note of that you wanted to talk about, that we didn’t have a chance to get to, or kind of veered in another direction, that you’d like to share with the audience?
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (39:59):
Tom, I really just would like to re-emphasize a point that you brought up earlier, and that is the importance of small businesses advocating for themselves to elected officials. So, not only are the stakes higher now than they ever have before, but those individual voices, who I can assure your listenership and your viewership, make a difference.
Thomas Sullivan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (40:24):
Every individual small business’s experience makes a difference, but it won’t make a difference if it just sits inside your mind and remains silent. So, thank you for helping amplify the need for advocacy. And I would encourage our listeners and viewers to advocate for themselves, and utilize the “thank you,” the “please,” and let’s bring these voices together through our local chambers strategy, to get more help so that small businesses, after the pandemic, can recover in an even quicker fashion.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (41:00):
Tom, thank you so much again for being here. What an awesome interview. Thank you to you and the Chamber for all of the fantastic work you’re doing on behalf of all the small businesses around the country that you’re representing and working on behalf of.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (41:15):
So, let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So, the first key takeaway from the interview with Tom is that small business opinions matter. And really, your opinion matters. So, go to your local representatives from Congress, your senators, your Congress leaders and congresspeople, go to them and talk to them, and let your voice be heard directly to them.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (41:46):
Number two. I thought it was really interesting when Tom mentioned that he learned the difference between knowing and learning. And I just think that’s a great reminder for all of us. Knowing versus learning, and knowing the difference between the two.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (42:05):
And I think that this podcast, just candidly and selfishly, for me, is a way to continue learning, because I know that I don’t know everything. And so, it’s wonderful to bring folks on to the podcast to learn from, and learn from their experience and what they’ve gone through.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (42:24):
And the third takeaway is, “Be a good boss.” Be a good boss. Be a good leader. Be a good boss, because I’m certain, for all of you listening, at some point, I know I can speak for this, you’ve probably had a boss or two along the way that weren’t great. But you probably had one or two that was, or a teacher or two that was just fantastic.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (42:49):
So, be that great boss. Be that great leader, that your staff and your team will learn from. And when they go somewhere else, they’re going to reference you and they’re going to pay it forward. So, it’s you to pay it forward as well. And now it’s time for today’s win-win.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (43:12):
So, today’s win-win is to know that Congress and your Congress and your elected representatives listen to you as the small business. You just have to make that voice heard. So, Tom mentioned two simple things to do. Number one, you’ve got to go to your congressional leaders and say something. And number two, when you say something, you need to say “please do fill-in-the-blank,” and say, “Thank you.”
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (43:43):
So, “please” and “thank you.” So, that’s today’s win-win. I’m certain that you may not realize this as a small business, but your voice does matter. Say something. If you have an issue or something that’s important to you, there’s no time like the present, and there’s nothing more pressing than right now.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (44:02):
So, that’s our show today, folks. Thanks for tuning in. Please share this with your friends, family, other business leaders. Please subscribe. Give us a review. We’d really appreciate that, and we’ll look forward to having you back next week.