How a former Liberal leader fell into government relations

Jan Vykydal

Stay up to date about what’s happening in your industry. That’s the advice Kerry Chikarovski has for other business owners after 10 years as a professional government relations advisor.

Chikarovski started as a solicitor before deciding to enter Parliament in 1991, and 13 months after that, she was appointed Minister of Consumer Affairs. While in politics, she oversaw the introduction of flexible working conditions for the public sector, and was the leader of the Liberal Party in New South Wales from 1999-2002.

In 2003 she left politics and fell into the business of government relations.

“My government relations business evolved almost by accident,” she says. “I had left Parliament and people started asking for my help to navigate the New South Wales bureaucracy.”

After helping a few friends navigate government bureaucracy, she started to be referred to more and more people, and Chikarovski & Associates was born. Now her business advises clients on policy issues at the state and federal levels, as well as regulatory issues, major projects and procurement.

Slipping in to government relations was easy after working with bureaucracy for 12 years, she says, but the paperwork does tend to pile up. “The difficult part was making clients understand how the bureaucracy works.”

In the name of transparency, all meeting requests are in writing and all clients must be recorded on the state or federal lobbyist register, which is publicly available. But that means that over the past 10 years there’s been a marked increase in the amount of paperwork needed to deal with government.

That accountability is a good thing, she says, but it means that businesses should be sure to work with people who understand them and will make sure they comply with all the rules.

“The bureaucracy and government are like any industry in that there are certain standards and procedures, and understanding those can be quite tricky if you’re not used to dealing with it,” Chikarovski says.

“Specialists like myself can make that process less complex and easier to navigate through consultation, relationship building and crisis intervention, where required.”

I do the bulk of the lobbying work in my business and I want to make sure I have time to look after all my clients properly.

As the intermediary between businesses and government, Chikarovski & Associates faces slightly different problems.

“Ensuring I have a steady stream of clients is one challenge,” she says. “The other is to ensure I don’t take on too many clients at one time, as I do the bulk of the lobbying work in my business and I want to make sure I have time to look after all my clients properly.”

However, business is good, and she says that given the growth of her business over the past few years, she is looking to expand the team and broaden the services the company offers.

“It is crucial to understand the legislative environment in which your business operates.”

Jan Vykydal

Jan is a Sydney-based writer and editor whose work has been published in a stable of titles including the National Post, The Daily Planet and Edmonton Examiner. He is currently Editor at ShortPress.