Taking a trip to Disney World is just like lobbying. Wait…what?

I recently got back from a spring break Disney World vacation with my lovely wife and two kids.  It was the Disney trip of our dreams.  We’ve been before, but this time it felt like we maximized our joy together as a family.  This was due, in large part, to my wife and her uncanny ability to navigate the Disney waters.

As I witnessed my wife plan and execute our Disney vacation I couldn’t help but to see the similarities between her skills and the world of lobbying.  Here are my top 5 lessons for maximizing one’s joy at Disney World and producing the best results in lobbying:

Cooper and Chloe meet Mickey

From left to right: My son, Cooper; Mickey Mouse; and my daughter Chloe.

#1: It’s work, but have fun! Disney can become overwhelming.  So many things to do, lots of people to overcome, and just the magnitude of what’s in front of you (especially for your kids).  It takes some work to navigate Disney: planning, research, and execution.  But gee, why are we there?  To have fun, of course!  In the same way the burden of representing a client or a critical issue can be overwhelming.  It takes a lot of effort to get things over the finish line.  But if you don’t enjoy lobbying you shouldn’t be in the business.  It gives me great joy representing job creators and issues critical to the progress of West Virginia.  At Three Point Strategies, when we see the final product and see our clients happy then I have great joy.  Sure, it’s my job to be a lobbyist, but have fun doing it.

#2: Don’t take shortcuts. Many people do Disney different ways.  Some choose to save money by staying off property or not purchasing the meal plan, etc.  Although these choices can seem like a good way to save (and for many it does and they make it work) there are times when they lead to frustration, i.e.: waiting in long food lines, delays in the ferry from the parking lot, not having the ability to go back to your room to rest and come back, etc.  In lobbying it’s easy to want to take shortcuts that look good at the time, but only cause frustration later down the road.  These shortcuts – like not educating lawmakers, working with staff attorneys and bypassing elected leaders (or vice versa), not clarifying negotiation points with your clients in advance – can lead to delays or confusion at crucial times.

#3: Be flexible. Let’s get real.  Sometimes things don’t go as planned – rides shut down, kids get tired, weather turns.  You have to be flexible and divert to other activities if these things occur.  In government relations this is the rule not the exception.  A good lobbyist has to be able to regroup, adjust his or her plan, and move forward.  At Three Point Strategies succumbing to distractions and diversions is not an option.  We are the boots on the ground and owe our clients a full effort until the gavel strikes at midnight on the last day of session.  At Disney World don’t breakdown when things don’t go as planned – buy a poncho!  As a lobbyist, stay calm, think ahead, and execute.

#4: Know when, and when not, to use your tools. There’s this incredible tool at Disney World called a Fast Pass.  The Fast Pass enables you to bypass the long lines on rides.  They’re free, but you only get about three per day and they get snatched up quickly.  You want to use Fast Passes for rides your kids really want to do and typically have long wait times.  Don’t waste your Fast Pass for shows that take hundreds of people or attractions that don’t typically have long wait times.  In the lobbying world we have political capital.  This is goodwill or influence built up with lawmakers over a period of time.  But you don’t want to waste your political capital on issues that could be resolved by other means, because once you use it you have less of it.  This past session a particular chair of a committee wanted to resolve an issue in a different way than we typically would have wanted.  We could have used some political capital to continue on our path, but because it wasn’t the end of the world and saw another path to our success we chose not to use our capital on this issue.  Knowing when, and most importantly when not, to use your political capital is a key component to good lobbying practices.

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Advanced planning landed us inside an air-conditioned show at the peak of the heat in Florida.

#5: Plan early. This is the most important key to a successful Disney World trip and by far the most important for successful outcomes in government affairs.  My wife began planning our trip months in advance from researching plane fairs, to high traffic times at the parks, to dinner reservations and even choosing our Fast Passes well in advance.  Of course, she continued to monitor and tweak our plans all the way up to the day we arrived.  Her early planning put us ahead of the game and we navigated the park with ease and enjoyment.  The earlier you work on developing legislation and educating lawmakers the better off you will be during session.  My mantra to clients is this: “Your success during the session is directly related to the work you put into it from the day session ended to the first day of the next session.”

By far, the most important point to successful lobbying is planning early.  I can help my clients most by getting to work early on important issues.  Planning early leads to the ability to execute the four other points listed above.

In a way we, as lobbyists, serve a role similar to John the Baptist in the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of John the Baptist when he said, “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3).  John was to prepare the land and its people the way for Jesus’s coming.  Jesus too spoke about John’s role.

“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’.” (Matthew 11:10).

At Three Point Strategies we understand our role.  We are here to prepare the way for our clients.  The glory is not ours, it’s the successful outcomes our clients experience.

In life we should understand or role as well.  We are to lead purposeful lives.  But the glory isn’t ours – it is all His.