When the pandemic hit, I noticed that every day people were having trouble accessing their local leaders and voicing opinions about projects impacting their cities and neighborhoods. Public hearings became virtual and local governments were employing a hodgepodge of approaches to communicate.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rana Lashgari.
Rana Lashgari is president of Arizona Municipal Strategies, leading municipal lobbying, procurement, and government relations firm in Phoenix. Before starting her own firm three years ago, she worked at almost every level of government — from local to federal. Rana’s fresh approach to lobbying breaks down barriers in an industry traditionally shrouded by the old-school notion that lobbying is only for large corporations with deep pockets.
Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Throughout my career, I had the good fortune of working at almost every level of government. I realized the best opportunity to create change was at the local level. So I started a municipal lobbying and government relations firm focused on helping people, community groups and businesses connect more effectively with their local governments.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Almost everything! My clients are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their specialties, but for many, it’s the first time they are focusing on sharing that expertise with their local leaders. If the idea wasn’t disruptive, they wouldn’t need our help! Change can be difficult for bureaucracies, so it’s our job to show our local government leaders that there is a better way of doing things — whether that is a better technology, a better policy, or a better connection to their constituents.
I’m passionate about bridging the gap between everyday people and their local governments. My vision is to connect more people with their local governments to show them that progress is possible. I believe anyone can benefit from having an advocate to help them navigate city hall. Whether working with a neighborhood group to make changes to a local park or an NBA team to enhance its arena, my kind of lobbying knows no boundaries. My fresh approach breaks down barriers in an industry traditionally shrouded by the old-school notion that lobbying is only for large corporations with deep pockets.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started as a lawyer, over 13 years ago, I worked for a consumer rights law firm. I was very new to the job and had no idea what I was doing. Opposing counsel on one of our cases called to negotiate a settlement and my boss had me take the call solo. The attorney on the line threw out a number that sounded good, but I was so nervous I couldn’t get any words out. So the line stayed quiet. Suddenly, I heard him say “Fine!” And he offered more. That only made me more nervous so I still didn’t say anything, and he kept throwing out bigger and bigger numbers until I finally said “OK YES BYE!” I’ve learned and grown a lot since then, but the lesson I learned that day has stayed with me as one of the most important lessons in my professional life: You can gain a lot more from listening than talking.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My fiancé, family, and friends deserve a lot of credit for my success. They inspire me, challenge me, and have always supported me in big and small ways.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Any time someone has an idea about how we can do something better, it’s disruptive and that’s a good thing. But in government, unlike other industries, compromise is also a good thing. The best solutions are found when stakeholders from all perspectives work together. The solution may not be perfect, but it’s how our democracy works best.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Patience, persistence, and risk-taking. These are three qualities I believe that truly embody the entrepreneurial spirit.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
When the pandemic hit, I noticed that every day people were having trouble accessing their local leaders and voicing opinions about projects impacting their cities and neighborhoods. Public hearings became virtual and local governments were employing a hodgepodge of approaches to communicate. I saw an opportunity to help people evolve and adjust to communicating with their local governments in the 21st Century. So I created a model to virtually build coalitions in communities, educate them on the latest technology and give them a platform to have a voice. I consider it what the future of activism will look like.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
When I was first thinking about starting my municipal lobbying and government relations firm, I spoke to a former colleague in local government. I told her about the kind of firm I wanted to start but was concerned that politics was still a good ole boys club. She told me to knock it off and rattled off a list of wonderful, smart successful women in politics. I was limiting myself with that mindset, and once I changed my perception, I saw all the opportunities without any limits and how local government reflects our diverse communities much more closely than other branches of government. None of the stereotypes I worried about holding me back has ever been an issue.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I listen to and read a lot about entrepreneurs. The most important lesson for me is that even the most successful business leaders don’t get everything right every time. While our approach to our clients and our cases hasn’t changed, as a business owner, I’ve learned a lot about the successful operation of my business by trying different things and learning from what works well and what doesn’t.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The most important movement I can dedicate my time to is encouraging and supporting GOOD people to get involved with their local governments, regardless of their political party affiliation. The local government needs good, transparent, honest leaders to stay focused on the business of running our cities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts. — Winston Churchill
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!