An MD&DI October 1997 Column
Ted Juraschek and Bill Clinton have at least one thing in common: They both began an important phase of their careers in January 1993 in Washington, DC. Juraschek is director of government relations for Becton Dickinson and Co. (BD), which is headquartered in Franklin Lakes, NJ. In this capacity, he spends almost as much time in the nation's capital as the president.
Juraschek became involved in government relations by a nontraditional route. "Most people in my position spend time in Washington after college, working for a member of Congress or a congressional committee," Juraschek notes. "From there, they move into jobs as Washington representatives for companies or organizations. They know the day-to-day workings of Capitol Hill and have friends there.
"I didn't have that opportunity. But I really know the company and how it works, which also has its advantages."
Juraschek began his career with Becton Dickinson in 1976. While working in the company's primary-care division in the late 1980s, he became interested in how public policy affects business operations. "I realized how important it is for companies to be able to communicate effectively with the people who make and enforce regulations," Juraschek says.
Under the tutelage of Jim Tobin, the government relations director, Juraschek quickly realized how much he had to learn. In 1989, Juraschek took over the position and became Becton Dickinson's one-man government affairs department.
"My real break came early in 1993, when management supported my internship with the Health Care Leadership Council in Washington," Juraschek says. "I spent January and February making calls on congressional offices and getting a feel for what it takes to function effectively there. I developed an understanding of what is required to be an effective government affairs professional."
One of his biggest challenges now is helping members of Becton Dickinson's management team focus on public policy issues that affect the company.
"Most managers concentrate on the financial aspects of their businesses. That's their job. They look at next month, next quarter, maybe next year," Juraschek observes. "I deal with issues that may take years to resolve. Political change is an evolutionary process."
Juraschek uses several approaches to energize employees and managers around important issues such as FDA modernization and product liability reform. He has developed a grassroots network of people who are interested in public policy matters that affect the company and the industry. Juraschek mails them informational letters on various topics and encourages them to write to their elected representatives.
"We have also developed a 'grasstops' program," Juraschek notes. "We encourage our managers and executives to become actively involved with one or more members of Congress or a representative from the state legislature. That enables our people to see how truly dedicated these men and women are, and it gives us an avenue for introducing Becton Dickinson to legislators."
In 1996, Juraschek ran a three-pronged program for the election year. It was, he says, a step-by-step process to help employees and management become more knowledgeable about what's going on in the political arena.
"Our get-out-the-vote campaign at BD's Franklin Lakes headquarters, held in conjunction with the League of Women Voters, was very successful," Juraschek says. "We registered some 200 voters and arranged for absentee ballots for more than 30 others. The turnout surprised even the League people."
The second prong of the program was to bring the two candidates for New Jersey's open seat in the U.S. Senate to Becton Dickinson. At sessions two weeks apart, the candidates met with the management team followed by a forum with interested employees. The final prong brought Congresswoman Marge Roukema (RNJ) to Franklin Lakes on November 8 to talk about the election results and their implications.
"I see the government relations program at Becton Dickinson as an important element in Chairman Clateo Castellini's commitment to participatory management," Juraschek says. "Employees who are politically aware can help us achieve legislative goals consistent with our business strategies. That's a large part of what I'm trying to accomplish."
Edward E. Waldron is a freelance contributor to MD&DI.