Understand that time spent now is time saved later.

To the refrain that lobbying takes too much time, consider this: at some point, you'll confront a regulation or tax law or issue that requires contacting the government. If you don't know anyone or how things work, you'll waste days, weeks and even months.

ReShonda Young can confirm this wisdom first-hand. She is operations manager for Alpha Express Inc., started by her father 21 years ago in Waterloo, Iowa. Raised in a politically active environment, her first step after joining the family business was a local Chamber of Commerce membership just to sit in on meetings and start to learn the issues. It was an invaluable start. "You don't have time not to be politically involved," says Young. "If we didn't fight against certain things, it would have had an impact on our bottom line. Yes, you are ridiculously busy and have a lot of things to juggle, but the laws that are passed have such a direct impact on our business and our people."

For years, Alpha Express struggled to find affordable employee health insurance coverage. A frustrated Young joined The Main Street Alliance, a national group of small business owners, and wound up testifying before Congress on health care reform. She says small business input resulted in better offers from insurers even before President Barack Obama signed the bill into law last March. "Our old monthly rates averaged $414 individual and just under $1,000 per family," she says. "Now, they're $238 a month individual and $556 for families. Employees considered health risks no longer are excluded."

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