Working for a small business can be substantially different from working from a medium sized or large business in ways that many people don’t realize. Personally, I have worked for several small businesses and think it’s an interesting and highly beneficial experience that everyone should have at least once. Here’s why.
1. Ability to learn about all parts of the business operation: In a large company, each person is likely to have a specific role, like bookkeeping, payroll, tax preparation, or management. In a small business, a single person will generally need to take on multiple roles. If you haven’t figured out where your interests lie yet, this can be a great way to explore multiple job titles without having to change jobs or to get hired for a position that you haven’t yet mastered. Also, when it’s time to move on to your next job, you’ll be able to market yourself for a larger number of positions. If the company you want to work for is hiring a bookkeeper, you can say you are a bookkeeper, and if they’re looking for an HR person, you can say you are an HR person. If you think you’d like to run your own business one day, you’ll also benefit from being able to observe firsthand just how much work is involved.
2. Ability to learn directly from the CEO: In a large company, you may never interact with the head honcho, but in a small business, you’re more likely to interact with them frequently or even work directly for them. If you have any interest in running your own business in the future, particularly in the same field, the things you can learn from this person will really be invaluable.
3. More responsibility: This can be good or bad, depending on what you’re looking for in a job, but when you work for a small company, there will be times when decision-making tasks will fall on you whether they are supposed to or not and whether you want them to or not. You’ll quickly learn to handle the stress of decision-making and how to make the decisions that your boss wants you to make. A high level of responsibility looks good on resumes and builds character.
4. Less office drama: Statistically speaking, the fewer people you work with, the less likely you are to encounter gossips and drama queens. On the other hand, if you do have one in your small office, you’ll have to deal with them a lot more often (but at least they’ll have fewer people to talk about).
5. Less red tape and more flexibility: To some extent, this benefit will depend on your boss’s personality, but the reason large companies often have so much red tape is because with so many employees, there need to be standardized procedures to make sure that work is streamlined and employees receive fair and equal treatment. Of course, we all know that the systems at large companies, especially government agencies, are often flawed in ways that make them incredibly inefficient. At a small business, if you need a new computer, you tell your boss and she either says, “Okay, I’ll order one for you;” “Okay, order one that’s under $1200;” or “No.” If your request is approved, you go online, order your new computer, and it arrives in as little as a day. At a large company, you have track down someone in IT, then they have to get approval from someone else, who has to get approval from someone else who will stall for six weeks, then another department has to do the ordering, and finally IT has to set up your new computer for you even if you know how to do it yourself.
6. Easier upgrades: Along those lines, in the large companies that I’ve worked for, they’ve often used very outdated software because of the great difficulty and expense involved in updating so many systems. At a small company, it’s much easier to switch to the newest program or version because only a few people will need to make the switch. This concept also applies to non-computer issues. If you come up with a more effective way to do payroll, it will be much easier to implement in a small business than in a large one, which means you’re more likely to get approval to put your plan into action. If you like to do things your way, a small business setting can facilitate that. As an added bonus, you’ll be more effective in improving your company and more likely to get a raise.
7. Decreased workload: In some cases, when you work for a small business, there will be fewer people giving you assignments, which means that you may be less likely to be overworked. If you value being able to go home at the same time every day and/or don’t handle stress well, a small business environment can be a great asset to your mental health.
8. More casual atmosphere: I’ve never worked for a small business that asked me to dress up. Small businesses are more likely to be located in homes, meaning that the company doesn’t need to worry as much about projecting a certain image to neighboring businesses and probably won’t have clients over very often, if ever (I’ve found that small businesses like to project the image that they’re much larger than they are, and inviting a client to your one bedroom apartment destroys that image). When working in a non-traditional office setting, you’ll probably be able to wear jeans to work. You’re also more likely to be able to take breaks when you need them, eat snacks whenever you’re hungry, and listen to music while you work.
9. Getting noticed/getting credit for your work: Even if your boss is so busy that she doesn’t seem to be aware of many of your contributions to the company on a day-to-day basis, you’ll have a much better chance of getting credit for your work when you’re not competing with 100 other employees who also want the boss’s attention. When you are more closely involved with your boss, it can be easier to justify raises and promotions because the person who can give you these things will have plenty of firsthand knowledge of what you’ve done for the company.
10. Ability to work independently: Are you one of those people who thinks that the best way to get something done and done right is to do it all by yourself? In a small company, you’re more likely to work on tasks alone. You can also take full credit for your successes when you’re the only person working on an assignment.
While most people probably think that working for a large company that offers lots of benefits and upward mobility is the best way to advance your career, I’ve found that working for a small business can have many benefits that will be just as helpful to you, if not more, in both the short and long term.
While there are some great pros to working at a small business, also realize that there are a number of cons to working for a small buiness, too.