Washington has come to expect a certain rhythm to the first 100 days of a new presidential administration.

Within the first few days – if not hours – executive orders are issued overturning decisions of the previous administration, especially if they are from a different party. The confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries kicks into high gear. Legislative proposals begin to take shape and are floated on the Hill. New political appointees begin to fill the agencies.  

There is a certain level of excitement and freshness to the entire process, and the new president is usually given some latitude as they begin making their mark. Since 1953, Dwight Eisenhower’s first year as president, only two presidents – George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton – had approval ratings under 60 percent after their first 100 days.  

If Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is elected in November, this pattern should hold. She knows and understands the process, having gone through it with her husband and also as part of the Obama administration. Serving in the Senate also will prove to be a huge asset because she understands the role Congress plays as a new administration begins to flex its muscle. 

If Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, is elected, it is hard to predict the process since he has never served in government at any level, keeps his own counsel and shows little interest in reaching out to folks in Washington who have done this before. 

So how should companies prepare for a new administration’s first 100 days?

Start planning now

Both candidates have staked out their positions on a number of key issues, from taxes and immigration to national security and trade. Know what that means for your company and your employees. Create a matrix of where the candidate stands and how his or her position affects your company. While conventional wisdom points to a Clinton win, the Brexit vote shows that anything could happen. Prepare now for a best case scenario and worst case scenario, depending on which candidate you think serves your interests best.

Watch to see who is getting appointed to the “transition team”

Media reports suggest that longtime Clinton ally John Podesta will be key player in the Clinton transition. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been mentioned as the point person for Trump. Podesta knows Washington, its players and how to get things done. Christie, while a sitting governor, doesn’t know this city and would most likely reach out to old hands for help. Keeping tabs on who is helping with the transition is critical. As names surface, use every connection possible to get to these folks and make your case. And the sooner, the better.

Understand Congress’ role

The Senate confirms the president’s cabinet. If they are of the same party, the process is typically pretty smooth. If not, it can be a problem that leads to distraction, especially if there is a protracted fight. Think back to January 1993 when Bill Clinton’s first two picks for attorney general got derailed by a Republican-controlled Senate. The “Nannygate” scandal drove the narrative for much of the first few weeks of the new administration and detracted attention from other initiatives Clinton was pushing. If the White House remains in Democratic control, the Senate flips to Democrats and Republicans holds the House, expect the House to do anything and everything it can to throw up roadblocks to any Clinton initiatives. While it won’t have a say on cabinet appointees or trade deals, it will be able to block legislative and revenue proposals.

Bottom line

Smart companies are planning now, so no matter who wins in November they will be ready to hit the ground running in January with a new administration. Don’t play a hunch that “your” candidate is going to win. Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom at every turn and Hillary Clinton has yet to completely energize her base. This race is far from over, especially considering that going into the upcoming conventions, Trump and Clinton favorable ratings are the worst of any presumed nominees in decades. Waiting until November 9 to start thinking about what’s next is too late.
dan scandling
Dan Scandling

Dan Scandling, a senior director in APCO Worldwide’s public affairs practice, is a former congressional chief of staff and communications director who spent nearly 25 years on Capitol Hill. Read More