Working for a Small Business
Understanding the Pros and Cons
When was the last time you talked with your company's CEO about how the business is really doing? When did you last have direct input on the company's goals, or spend your workday doing several different jobs instead of just one?
If you work for a small business, then you might answer 'very recently' to all three of these questions. If you work for a larger corporation, however, perhaps you've never been able to do any of these things.
There's little doubt that the working environment of a small business can be completely different from that of a large company. Some people find smaller companies exciting places to work, while others would much rather have a job with a more stable, established corporation.
In this article, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of working for a small business. Of course, each person may see these factors differently – one person's 'pro' may be another person's 'con.' But, if you've ever considered a move outside the corporate world, this may help you decide if working for a smaller company is right for you.
Advantages of Working for a Small Business
You may have heard stories of how fun it can be to work for an innovative startup company. Bringing your pet to work, dressing casually, and choosing 'fun' furniture for the office are just some of the bonuses, right? Actually, yes! Not every small business will allow your dog to sit by your desk, or encourage you to sit on multi-colored beanbags, but there are other advantages to working for a smaller organization. Here are some of the typical benefits:
- You can make a bigger impact – Working in a small business often means that you really have the power to make changes. The 'management hierarchy' is generally so small (or nonexistent), which means more people have access to the CEO. If you have a great idea, you can probably get it heard – and possibly get the green light to implement it, without having to go through a long, drawn-out approval process. And, if you like to control your own destiny, you'll probably have more of an opportunity to shape your future in a smaller organization.
- There is more variety in your work – In a small company, you'll probably get to play many different roles. You might officially be in charge of marketing, but you could also have the chance to help with customer service, research, or even training. The great thing about doing so many different jobs is that you'll develop a lot of different skills. If you become bored doing similar tasks every day, this could be very appealing. And, if you ever decide to market yourself to a large corporation, you'll be able to apply for a wider variety of positions.
You can work more efficiently – Smaller businesses tend to be much more efficient – especially in terms of the time they take to make decisions. For instance, if you currently work in a large organization, how long does it take to get permission to attend an industry conference? First, you have to ask your boss, who then asks his or her boss, who looks at the budget, and then consults with HR. It may take weeks to get an answer. In a smaller company, you would simply ask the owner, who would probably give you an answer immediately.
Their size means that small companies usually have very little, if any, bureaucracy. This can be a nice change for many people, because it means that you can spend your time on value-adding tasks, rather than doing paperwork.
- The atmosphere is more personal and casual – Smaller businesses often have a more informal environment. The team tends to be smaller, and everyone is more involved in the company's success, which can lead to a greater sense of loyalty and pride.
- Smaller companies may also offer a better work/life balance. They might be more flexible when you have to take a day off to care for a sick child, or they may be more open to ideas like flextime and telecommuting.
Disadvantages of Working for a Small Business
Although they can be a lot of fun, there are several reasons why small companies might not suit everyone:
- Compensation may be lower – Small companies often can't afford the same pay and benefits as larger corporations. You might therefore have a lower salary, fewer vacation and sick days, and a less comprehensive health insurance plan.
- A strong infrastructure may not exist – If you work for a small business, much of the infrastructure you'd normally have in a large company might not be in place. For example, if potential clients ask for a list of references in your proposal, what if your company doesn't have any yet? Or, what if you urgently need new software, but you don't have a company credit card, or an account with the supplier? This may slow, or even prohibit, the work you have to do.
Change may be constant – Small businesses don't always remain small; many have their sights set on growth. To be happy in this environment, it helps if you're comfortable with change. Your job responsibilities, your target market, your colleagues, your office – and even the company itself – might change, perhaps more than once. If it's hard for you to readjust your thinking and expectations, a larger company might be better for you.
Also, if you really enjoy working with just a few people – yet you've joined a small business with an aggressive growth strategy – you may soon find yourself in a very different type of organization. To learn more about the strategic and leadership changes you'll see as an organization grows, read Using the Greiner Curve.
- Specializing may be difficult – Being able to do a lot of different jobs in a small business can be both a positive and a negative. If you'd rather focus your skills on one 'niche' area – with a view to becoming an expert in your field – a smaller company might not be a good fit for you.
- Access to training and development may be lower – Small companies may have less access to job-improvement seminars and workshops. Larger corporations often bring in consultants and speakers to train and develop their staff, but this might not be affordable for a smaller business.
Working for a small business is an entirely different experience from working for a large corporation, and each has advantages and disadvantages. It's important to decide what's most important to you before making a move in either direction.
Factors like a more personal work environment, more flexibility, and a real possibility to impact change might be more important to you than higher pay, training and development, or more health benefits. Everyone is different, so consider your options and your situation carefully before deciding what kind of company is best for you.