It's generally assumed that large corporations wield more influence over the political process than small businesses.
Politicians are extremely sensitive to the needs of small businesses as a group, but when it comes to the interests of individual companies, large corporations have the upper hand because they can afford to employ paid lobbyists who represent their interests with legislators.
Although they appreciate the legislative efforts of small business trade associations, most small companies are frustrated by their inability to influence legislation and gain an audience with lawmakers. Recognizing the frustrations of small business owners, some lobbying firms are now offering services specifically tailored to the needs and budget limitations of small companies.
Sometimes called "boutique" firms, these lobbyists understand small businesses and the issues that are important to them. Will a boutique lobbyist invite you for a weekend junket in a leer jet? Dream on. But if your company needs to reach out to lawmakers or government agencies regarding a specific legislative issue, a small business lobbying firm might be your best bet.
Small business lobbyists serve their clients by incorporating a couple of fundamental principles into their approach. First, even though they recognize the value of lobbyists to small business associations, they don't try to compete with or duplicate the efforts already being done by lobbyists for trade associations. Instead, they focus their energy on serving the political needs of individual small businesses – a big change from the way small businesses have typically interacted with lobbyists.
Second, small business lobbyists are very sensitive to financial realities. They understand that small companies simply can't afford the same rates as large corporations and take a more frugal approach to the process. For small businesses that regularly deal with federal agencies for contracts and other issues, these lobbyists offer a highly affordable political solution.
What to Expect
For starters, don't expect your small business lobbyist to shell out big bucks for congressional junkets or lavish dinners. Their model is based on frugality, so you may not receive all of the perks of a high-end lobbying firm.
However, you should also expect your small business lobbying firm to include you as a partner in the process. Most of their clients are working with lobbyists for the first time, so a good small business lobbyist should go out of their way to explain the process and keep you in the loop.