Question: I work for a small financial service company. My bosses are a husband and wife team. They have very unconventional ways of operating their business and most of the time I find it quite refreshing. However, sometimes I miss the regimen of working for a large firm. How do I weigh the pros and cons?

Answer: Simple. Write down on a piece of paper what you like the most about working for a small business and what you like least. You'll be able to judge for yourself if one side outweighs the other.

But remember, even if you think you might enjoy working for a large corporation, don't ever underestimate the political problems you'll encounter there. Large corporations are often so political that it's almost impossible to get ahead or have your work be appreciated or even acknowledged.

Working for a small company is not only a great training ground for you as an employee, it can also help you become an entrepreneur yourself. So don't ever underestimate the value of working with unconventional methods in many cases throughout history, it's the unconventional that becomes the accepted way of thinking for the next generation.

Q: My partners and I have run a construction business in the Los Angeles area for more than 15 years. When we first opened shop, we used to get a lot of business from the government. During the last few years it has gotten more difficult. Is there any relief in sight?

A: President Clinton (if he's still in office by the end of this year) has been preaching "mend it, don't end it," as it relates to affirmative action. Along those lines, he is instituting new federal procurement procedures intended to ensure that owners of smaller, disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) can effectively compete for government contracts.

That by no means will guarantee that you'll get one; it will simply ensure that you can get back into the game. Of course, if you're not economically or socially disadvantaged (defined in this case as being Asian American, African American, Latino or American Indian), you will have to submit an application to a regional SBA office describing how you might have been discriminated against in the past.

The change will be effective as of Oct. 1, and will affect an estimated 30,000 small businesses nationwide by the end of the first year. Government contracts given to SDBs account for about $11 billion in business; less than half that amount will be directly impacted by the new rules.

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