Thinking Small Can Mean Big Opportunities

Why You Might Want to Work for a Smaller Company

Thinking Small Can Mean Big Opportunities

The number of small businesses continues to grow. Here are some reasons why you may want to make the move from MegaCorp Inc. to MiniCorp.

Higher Accountability

“At my previous job, I often felt like a cog in a very large wheel -– unknown, anonymous and unimportant to the company’s owners,” says Deborah Bach, a senior account executive with the Fearey Group, a public relations company in Seattle. She left a company with more than 20,000 employees to join this 12-person PR agency.

“I didn’t feel that my contribution was as valued or as critical to [my former] company as it is at my new job,” Bach says. “Here, we’re a very small team, which requires a lot of collaboration, and also means that the work I do plays a substantial role in the company overall.”

More Individual Effort -- and Teamwork

With fewer people to handle the workload, employees in small companies often juggle many tasks and pitch in on larger projects.

“In a big company, there is a lot of structure to depend on,” explains Lauren Healy, who left a cosmetics firm with more than 20,000 employees to be the third hire at a technology startup back in 2000. “If your computer is broken, IT will fix it. If you have a benefits-related question, HR will address it. If your product needs to be introduced to the marketplace, marketing will brand it, and sales will sell it. All those processes in a small company -- especially a startup -- need to be built from the ground up.”

How did she manage the change? “In some cases, I developed the processes [myself],” says the Minneapolis-based Healy, now director of corporate marketing for Iconoculture Inc. “In addition, you surround yourself with really smart people who can help you get your processes built, your questions answered and the job done.”

Increased Opportunities

The stress on teamwork can lead to job growth and promotions. “Working for small companies, I've been thrown into helping out with projects that aren't part of my job description,” says Rose Eldred, a Seattle admin who’s worked for both small and large organizations throughout her career. “I was working at a packing company, answering phones. One day our sales guy rushed in, grabbed me and said ‘I need you to call all the QFC seafood managers and ask them what they need for next week. I just don't have time.’”

Eldred was uneasy doing sales, because she’d had no formal training. But she figured the sales manager wouldn’t have asked her if he didn’t believe she could do it. “After about 20 minutes, I loved chatting these guys up,” she says. “I ended up taking over this part of the sales job.” With sales added to her resume, Eldred was eligible for a broader range of jobs. She currently handles customer service and administration for the 11-person company

Emphasis on Initiative

In small companies, individual initiative is crucial, because there are so many things to do and so few people to do them. “You have to take initiative every minute, hour and every day,” explains Elvin Yavuz, a client associate with The Revere Group, an IT consulting firm in Chicago. “You might have to lead yourself. No one is going to hold your hand. You have to structure your own day, and sometimes that is very difficult to adjust to.”

Yavuz managed the adjustment by thinking differently. “I put my consulting hat on and asked myself what would I change most about this organization to make it more successful,” he says. “What can I personally do for them that they currently aren’t doing?”

Focus on Diverse Skills

Healy says she has sharpened some of her skills in making the transition to a small-company environment. They included managing work expectations, knowing when to say no and thinking critically about her projects.

Though not for everyone, working in a small company has its advantages. The environment may be small, but the opportunities are large.

For more information and tips to help you advance your administrative career, see all our advice for admin professionals.