- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Participate. Practically every federal agency sponsors small-business conferences, in Washington and around the country. Best of all: Key aides are usually present.
- 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.
- 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.