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Personal Experience Helps Me Understand the Needs of Small Business Owners

April 23, 2021

By State Representative Mark A. Tisdel, originally featured in SBAM’s FOCUS on Business Magazine

n 2011, at the age of 56, I made the decision to run for public office: an at-large seat on the Rochester Hills City Council. There were two seats available; one was open and Michael Webber, who I just succeeded as state representative, was seeking reelection for the other. I won the open at-large seat in 2011, became council vice president in 2014 when Mr. Webber was elected to the House, was reelected in 2015, and served as council President through 2019. 

My private sector work career consists of 40 years in healthcare-related businesses: operating room supplies, cardiovascular implants, and medical-liability insurance. This involved working for multi-billion dollar corporations and operating a small insurance agency specializing in medical-liability insurance alongside my business partners. This unique combination of private and public sector experiences will serve me—and, hopefully, the residents of the 45th District—well in Lansing. 

Michigan’s state government is a $62 billion operation with thousands of employees, beneficiaries and vendors. Like any large, multi-billion dollar operation, state government is divided into specific inter-related divisions each with their own areas of expertise. Advocating a change to any one area can initiate a cascading impact on multiple divisions and internal departments.  

As a result, advocating change can result in a path that is strewn with landmines and manholes just waiting to claim their next victim. To survive and thrive, one needs to quickly learn the art of managing up and down the organization. 

An elected official must first learn to “manage” the needs and advantages of their constituents. A friend once told me, “The closer you are to the constituents the louder they get.” You can’t get any closer to your constituents than serving as a city council member or township trustee.  

Being the owner of a small business quickly acquaints you with occupational licensing, quarterly tax estimates, FICA contributions, Workers’ Comp premiums, workplace rules compliance, business owner’s insurance, employee benefits and much more. You develop an understanding that “standard cost” represents a long and sophisticated list of expenses. You develop an understanding that paying for “standard cost” comes from one, or a combination, of just three categories: consumers, employees and/or shareholders. There is no special account from which you can withdraw funds to pay standard, let alone, incremental costs. 

Appreciating the realities of making a payroll and complying with government regulation while, at the same time, having learned to negotiate the hazards of advocating change within a large organization, places me in a unique position to represent the interests of the 45th House District. Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township are home to several successful international businesses and the people they employ. We have very good schools, city and township buildings filled with quality employees, and educated, high-earning residents who care deeply for their families, homes, neighbors and places of worship. It’s a fortunate individual who earns the trust and support of such a magnificent community. I know it, and I don’t take it for granted. 

My predecessor, State Representative Michael Webber, and I have been working together for nearly a decade. I value his friendship and guidance. Mike’s even and steady approach to good governance deserves high recognition. I’ll do my best to continue that brand of steady and effective public service.  

Rep. Mark Tisdel is the former city council president in Rochester Hills and principal at Backus Payne & Associates, which specializes in medical liability insurance. He’s been with the company since 2000. 

The Port Huron native went to Port Huron Northern High School and studied journalism at Drake University. The married, 30-year resident of Rochester has sat on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester and has been a fundraiser for local and national charities such as Angels’ Place, Rochester Neighborhood House, Sweet Dreamzzz and other non-profits. 

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