Working for a small or big company – which is best?

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Is it better working for a small company or a big one? The answer will depend on what’s most important to you in your career. There are eight key factors that separate small companies and their larger counterparts, and looking at each in turn could help you decide what’s best for you.

Whether you’re considering leaving a corporate job for a small company, or vice versa, it helps to take stock of the main differences.

1. Perks and rewards

You’ll generally find that the larger a company is, the more it will offer in a typical employment package. That could mean free private healthcare, more generous pension contributions or even wellness packages. Some corporates provide subsidised coffee shops, cafes and/or onsite gyms.

Employee Assistance Programmes are also common, offering free counselling, legal advice or other support to members of staff.

These elements may be available with some smaller companies, or there will be different, more bespoke benefits. A small wellness centre might offer you free spa treatments, for example, or a holiday lettings firm might give employees free or discounted weekend breaks. Many small organisations automatically give you an extra day off for your birthday.

2. Resources

If you’re used to certain tools to do your job, check whether you would have access to these in a smaller company. Smaller firms tend to keep a close eye on budgeting, which often means that expensive software or equipment may not be a feasible investment.

On the flip side, larger organisations often lack budgetary management, which means that costs aren’t managed effectively which can affect profits and ultimately, bonuses.

3. Working in different locations

The norm for a small business is that it operates from a single location, or a small number of offices. A large corporate may have locations nationwide or even globally. If business travel opportunities are important to you, it is often easy to transfer to new destinations within a large company.

This is obviously less available in a small business. That said, in an entrepreneurial environment you could have the option to create your own branch or franchise in a brand new location.

4. Predictability

Some people thrive in an environment where they know what’s expected and their job is steady and cyclical. Others find this doesn’t give them the variety and challenge they seek at work.

A larger business is more likely to present you with stable, predictable working conditions, while a small company could be more fluid, with unpredictable new challenges, opportunities and directions. Which suits you best is down to your personality and preferences.

5. Recognition

Different sizes of company will recognise people in different ways. At a large business your success might be recognised at an annual award event or a conference, or via an email from someone senior.

A smaller business might take a more personal approach – a literal thank you, a celebration event or a gift chosen especially for you. In a small business, good performance is often much more visible and is likely to lead to progression at work.

6. Career pathways

Are you motivated by a clear pathway of progression, or the opportunity to follow your passion wherever it takes you? Many large businesses set out career pathways, giving everyone clarity about what they can expect in terms of development and progress up the corporate ladder.

In a small business, you can certainly request this level of clarity, but in reality your role may evolve alongside the company. It’s a more organic approach that some people love – where they develop their skills and expertise to meet business demands.

7. Colleague relationships

One of the most-mentioned benefits of working with a small business is that it can often be a much more collegiate, supportive environment than a large organisation. In a big company, people can see one another as career competition, which gives rise to office politics and, sometimes, bullying at work.

In a smaller organisation, where everyone knows their role and strong teamwork is the route to success, it’s common to find greater trust. Small companies rarely have to work on their culture, which is a regular focus in big organisations. That said, if individuals in a small company do clash, it’s a more difficult situation to manage.

Working for a small or big company…?

In assessing the benefits of working with a small business vs a large one, it’s usually a very personal decision. Working for a small company can really suit some people, while others might find the environment stifling or chaotic.

Making the right choice for you is a blend of assessing the practicalities and going with your gut feeling. It’s sure to be a good move, either way.

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