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Pros and cons of working for a big or small business

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When considering a career move, one of the most overlooked considerations is the size of the company. Candidates weigh up the role and the salary, and often the type of company and location, but there are a number of differences between large and small companies, from cultural fit to career progression, that should have an impact on the decision of which size organisation to join. We’ve come up with a top three pros and cons for businesses big and small.

Large organisations: pros

  • Brand name – an established, blue chip or major employer is instantly recognisable and often a seal of approval on a CV, impressing future employers in the sector. This can backfire however, when a household name publicly falls from grace or goes under. 
  • Benefits packages – bigger companies tend to have better benefits because they can afford them. Their workplace environments can be better geared to employee wellbeing too, with more emphasis placed on employee satisfaction than with smaller organisations.
  • Locations and opportunities – bigger companies often have international presence, sometimes with offices all over the world. For the candidate who sees him or herself working abroad at some point in the future, a large company may present this opportunity.

Large organisations: cons

  • Anonymity – it can be a very large, impersonal environment if there are thousands of employees. The larger the team, the more frequent the churn too, so it’s a case of constant new faces and less team bonding.
  • Bureaucracy – there are often a number of hoops to jump through in a large organisation to get certain things done. If you want to make an impact individually, this may become frustrating, as decision-making processes can be slower.
  • Potentially less job satisfaction – back to the impact point, you’re less likely to see end results of your role when you’re just a small part of the machine. Seeing a project through from inception to finish is rare, as there could be multiple teams involved and your part can be minimal.

Smaller businesses: pros

  • Impact – hit the ground running and make a real difference in a much smaller team, where the manager will know your name and understand your aspirations.
  • Career progression – if the small business is a start up or going through a period of growth, then opportunities to progress may be frequent as the organisation expands.
  • Skill set development – without dozens of people for each role, a small company is likely to want to make the best of its resources and up-skill its existing staff. Opportunities to add skills to a CV should be plentiful.

Smaller businesses: cons

  • Salary/benefits – it’s unlikely that a smaller business will pay more than a larger or be able to offer the same level of benefits and perks. That said, they will always strive to be competitive and there may be other incentives such as profit shares available.
  • Accountability – there is nowhere to hide at a small organisation, so being a team player that can pull their weight is more important. However, if embraced, this environment can be more incentivising. 
  • Options to move – as well as fewer international opportunities that a large firm may offer, there is often more of a loyalty bond to a smaller employer, meaning that staff may stay longer and not move on quite when their career elsewhere might.

As you can see, there are up and down sides to both large and small businesses. It doesn’t always follow that the bigger firm will be the best option, and not just from a personality or cultural fit perspective. Witness Uber’s recent failures to crack the APAC market, where the smaller, local competitor has succeeded. It may be a huge employer and a worldwide brand, but it has suffered reputation damage and a strategy fail that had nothing to do with its employees. In contrast, the smaller local organisations that forced them to retreat are now expanding and celebrating.