Bigger Isn’t Always Better

There are many different types of companies you can work for. You can work for yourself, the government, a publicly traded large company, a private large company, a small family owned business, and many others. Personally, my past two employers have had more than 10,000 employees each. I thought bigger was better. More name recognition meant a resume that was stronger. Bigger meant bigger pay. Bigger meant more opportunities. Bigger meant better benefits.

My current employer has less than ten employees. Quite the downsize in companies. I am not going to lie, I was pretty hesitant to make the transition. Can they weather a bad economy? Can they pay comparable salaries and offer competitive benefits to the big guys? Would it hurt my future job prospects?

I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of working for a small employer1. First, I want to note that EVERY employer will be different. No matter how big or small the company, there will still be owners and managers out there that make an employee’s job a nightmare. My advice is to try and avoid those people at all costs, not matter how prestigious the company may seem.

Pros:

Less bureaucracy – This is the BIG benefit that I have noticed. Want to work from home one day a week, or everyday? Well, talk to the owner. If she/he says sure, then it’s done right then and there. No asking your manager, who has to ask their manager, who has to consult with HR and the employee handbook. All to be told they can’t allow you to do it because they would have to allow everyone to do it.

Want to bring your dog to work? If the owner likes dogs, you’re probably in luck.

More flexibility – Appearances may matter less with a small business. When, you work in an office where all 1,000 employees show up at the office between 830 and 9am, and leave at 5pm, it might not look good if you decide to show up at 7am and leave at 330pm even though you got your 8 hours in. But at a small office (or working from home), coworker Dwight doesn’t care that you leave at 4pm Mondays to play volleyball, because he gets in late on Wednesdays for Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Different business model – A small business (if closely held) doesn’t have thousands of shareholders to make happy. They don’t have earnings numbers to hit every quarter. They can make smaller margins than their competitors if they want. They can compensate their employees more than industry average because they are happier with retention than a bigger bottom line.

Feels more like a team – When you are working with only one to nine other individuals, it fees like much more of a team environment, trying to reach a unified goal. It’s easier to build bonds with ALL of your coworkers, if there are less than 10, and therefore those personal relationships will make the environment feel less cutthroat or competitive.

Cons:

Dependent on the owner – If there is one owner, the business’s success and failures may be too dependent on that one person.

Things can slip through the cracks – Small business owners have to wear many hats. You might need to follow up regularly since they are juggling so many roles.

You are the admin and HR function – Want to change your 401k contribution? Probably not an easy click on a website. Want to fix something regarding health insurance? You’re probably doing the leg work. There isn’t a team of administrative and HR personnel. You are the admin and HR team, along with the other employees and owners.

Overall, the size of a company alone should not be the determining factor of whether a career path would be a good fit. It should be considered along with the many other factors that go into finding a company that is right for you.

1 – Note this will be most applicable to white collar jobs.

2 thoughts on “Bigger Isn’t Always Better

  • Another con with smaller companies is the pay scale. I worked for over thirty years for the same company but we were owned at first by a publicly traded corporation, then family owned and then a large Fortune 200 company. The publicly traded companies paid much better and had more growth opportunities since you did not have to compete with “the family” for the top jobs but they also treated you like a tool much more than like a member of the family. I liked the work atmosphere better when the family owned us but liked the pay and stock options way better at the publicly traded large corporations.

    • Steve – I think this could be correct overall, but there are definitely some small employers that pay more than the big companies. You just have to look hard and/or luck into finding them.

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