Why advocacy should be at the top of every small business owner’s ‘to-do’ list

Every year, NRF’s Retail Advocates Summit brings an assortment of retailers to Washington, D.C. This year wasn’t Doug Deterding’s first time to the nation’s capital or his first face-to-face meeting with elected officials from his home state of Nebraska. And if he has his way, it won’t be his last. Deterding shares his perspective of NRF’s annual fly-in and why creating a relationship with D.C. lawmakers — and continuing the conversation with them at home — should be a priority for every small retail business owner.

How long has Deterdings been in business? Tell us how many employees you have and a little bit about your staff. 

Deterdings as a company started 39 years ago. Our retail presence in the communities we serve has been driven by selling top quality products, backed by consistent, focused customer service and professionally trained installers. Working with many local-based sponsorships, we strive to maintain an active presence in some of the philanthropic causes of our area, creating a positive community environment for retail sales. We currently employ 17 full-time employees (with additional seasonal part-time employees) for our two stores. A major portion of our success has been driven with long-term committed career staff, some of whom have been with our company for over 25 years.

How did you hear about Retail Advocates Summit?

I was nominated as an America’s Retail Champion last year, but I’m no stranger to being a retail advocate. In addition to my visit last year and work with the Nebraska Retail Federation, I have been actively involved through local and state civic groups, [as] a Chamber of Commerce member and have promoted retail issues locally and nationally through my tenure as a member of the National Retail Council in the swimming pool and spa industry, serving as its chairman one year.

In 2009 Deterdings was chosen as Retailer of the Year of Nebraska, an honor that gave us a platform to promote retail-specific issues. I have always fostered a relationship with our local, state and federal political representatives and have participated on many state and local boards as time would allow throughout my business career.

Doug Deterding (center) speaking with Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., at the Nebraska Breakfast during Retail Advocates Summit 2017.

Doug Deterding (center) speaking with Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., at the Nebraska Breakfast during Retail Advocates Summit 2017.

Which members of Congress did you meet with? After talking a little “shop” about Deterdings, what are some policy issues you discussed during your meetings?

The Nebraska Retail delegation met with all of our Nebraska congressmen at the weekly Nebraska Breakfast on Capitol Hill. My delegation and I talked to Senator Ben Sasse about the need for tax reform, stressing that reform can be achieved without shifting the burden to consumers through a border adjustment tax. We also discussed the impact of swipe fees and the regulatory and compliance burdens Deterdings faces under the Affordable Care Act.

Why are these public policy issues important to your business?

With the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, the Health Savings benefit that we had been able to maintain for our employees for many years, that provided a fair benefit using non-taxed monies to fund their medical expenses, was deemed illegal. This leaves us little option of an “affordable” way to provide a meaningful benefit for our staff. This reduces our competitive advantage to retain our employees against larger companies who can provide better benefits.

What lessons from your visit will you take back to your business? What advice would you give to other small business owners about being advocates for retail?

Building and maintaining relationships is so important to being successful in business. The same idea applies to advocacy. After meeting Congressman Adrian Smith at Retail Advocates Summit last year, he came into Deterdings to tour my store and better understand my business. Creating that relationship here in D.C., and continuing that conversation with our elected officials back home, should be at the top of the “to-do” list for every small retail business owner. You are your best advocate. You can’t expect someone else to do it for you.

Nebraska Retail Delegation

The Nebraska Retail delegation meeting with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. (center left).