You can sit and listen to rants and raves all day long, both about working for big global companies, as well as working for the small ones such as family-owned businesses or startups. I’ve always been interested in the differences in working culture at various workplaces, and I’ve wondered about the reasons behind these differences, as well as the motivations of employees to switch from one to the other.
It would take me weeks to list and explain all the nuances, but what I can offer you is an insight into what awaits you when you decide to transition from a big to a small company.
Attitude is everything
Especially in a leadership role, you’re used to the importance of positive attitude — in terms of influencing your own results as well as motivating your team to do better. However, in a smaller company attitude really is everything. Smaller teams are often fueled purely by their own personal motivation, and the mission tends to be much more important and far less abstract. People also have more direct influence on each other, so the mood you wake up with might end up affecting the whole company.
Emphasis on individuality
Another point, directly linked to the first one, is that in small businesses it’s close to impossible to disappear into the shadows, something that people in a big corporate environment often tend to do when trouble comes up. Every single voice is heard, every particular success is celebrated, and also every error is visible and directly linked to its author. That doesn’t only mean more power and influence, but also much greater responsibility.
But individuality aside, small teams also have demonstrably higher levels of camaraderie, because you know everyone’s name and life story.
This is where the beauty (and also the biggest challenge) of working in a small company really stands out. In a big company, there’s one job per person, everything is clearly defined, and the bureaucratic sieve doesn’t let through anything more or anything less than that (of course, there are exceptions, but for most people most of the time, I think this is true).
Smaller businesses, on the other hand, expect you to wear many hats at once. So you might find yourself being a sales manager, art director, accountant and office manager at the same time. One skillset, no matter how refined, is clearly not enough. The good thing is that smaller businesses realize how demanding this is, and often offer space and are very patient when it comes to their employees learning and development.
I’m sure that if you’re working at a big business, some of the people on your team have never seen the CEO. You have, once, on a Skype conference call. No wonder, when corporate resides all the way in BFE.
That’s definitely not the case in a small company. Chances are that you’ll be sharing the table with the owner. Not only does this allow very efficient communication and effective leadership, but it also supports the feeling of responsibility and connectedness.
All in all, working in a small business is not for everyone. If you’re considering the transition, definitely consider the pros and cons of both ways first, because it may become a big cultural shock, coming from an open-space of 100 people to a small shared co-working space of 15.