1. Set your goals. Are you looking for a one-time grant, or a sustained procurement relationship? This will help you determine which person or agency to focus on.
  2. Be realistic. Most businesses can't afford to have a permanent presence in D.C., and so setting a multi-year agenda is probably overly ambitious. Simplify.
  3. Look for doors that are already open. Do research. Learn which staffer in your senator's office focuses on small businesses, or which office within an agency has a track record of working with entrepreneurs.
  4. Join. There's strength in numbers. Groups like the NFIB are only one option. Your local chamber likely has a government-affairs committee that lobbies legislators.
  5. Participate. Practically every federal agency sponsors small-business conferences, in Washington and around the country. Best of all: Key aides are usually present.
  6. Roll out the red carpet. Host a workplace tour for your rep, including a chat with workers. Then, tactfully raise the issue that matters most to your company.
  7. Be an entrepreneur. If you feel that no existing group truly represents your interests in D.C., then join forces with like-minded CEOs to start your own.