Working for a small company

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7 mins
Updated: 2nd May, 2021

The new generation of workers have been shaking up, demanding and redefining a new era of expectations from the workplace. With so many options to consider and expect, when you first began your job search did you ever consider taking the size of the company into account? 

I left university with a very broad sense of what direction I could go in and instead of frantically trying to define a career for life, I focused on working out the type of company and people I want to work for.

I made a very early assumption that a smaller sized business would have a better rapport. Five years later, it has led me halfway across the world to my role here at Few&Far and I wanted to share a few reasons why I still love working for a small business.

1. Sense of Purpose 

Us millennials (sorry, hate this term) are known to be more purpose-driven, so it’s important for upper management to communicate the company mission and values and most importantly, be true to those things. When you’re working in a start-up environment there’s usually a clear vision and direction from management and this embodies the passion that will motivate the team you.

In a growing company, you get to be a part of nurturing that growth and leaving your own personal mark. Not only is the process rewarding, but the results are great for your career. Future hiring managers love candidates who can prove they’re capable of contributing to the success of a project or a new business. Smaller companies are always going to make you feel like you’re part of a bigger cultural story and a compelling vision should inspire you.

2. Flexibility  

We are no longer motivated by the same factors as our previous generations and a job for life no longer appeals as much as it once might have. I value a good work-life balance and a sense of purpose beyond financial success. This is something that smaller companies can be more flexible with. 

While smaller companies may not be able to offer you as much money, the flexibility around many other aspects of your day-to-day working life should be just as important.  They should be flexible and not just have a "one-size fits all" policy, we all have different needs and are at different stages in our lives.

Many businesses are starting to adjust their leave policies to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our generation. This follows the lead that the tech industry has established, improving loyalty and performance by offering in-house perks and flexible time-off policies. These changes set an example for other industries; showing that understanding the real needs of your employees encourages loyalty, makes for a better workplace and increases productivity. 

3. Skill-sharing 

I love that I’ve been involved in lots of different areas across the business as opposed to being solely restricted to my job description. This has given me a thorough understanding of how the business overall and has made me feel more invested in the company. 

Organisations should put a strong emphasis on a culture of “Skill Sharing rather than Knowledge Hoarding.” If senior-level employees are “roped off” it can create tension in the ranks. I have seen first-hand that working in a culture that values transparency, accessibility and an “open floor” will most certainly breed trust and loyalty. 

In smaller business, you are more likely to be working alongside senior members of staff and get your ideas listened to. This is opposed to larger organisations that will often have many more voices shouting to be heard. I’ve found my ideas and opinion not only welcomed but valued. Even when perhaps not in my “area” of expertise.

I love the attitude where everyone helps where they can, the hierarchy is more a level playing field and we wouldn’t give someone work that we wouldn’t do ourselves. Understanding what it's like in someone else’s shoes creates empathy and compassion among your team members, a basic human trait that is lost in larger organisations.

4. Fast Progression

Working in a small company can mean more chances to showcase your ability and get noticed versus larger companies where challenging work can often go unnoticed. And when a company starts to grow, it is far more likely they will look internally before spending time sourcing and interviewing or spending thousands on recruiter fees. 

It's also likely that you will have a more varied workload, therefore, you will have ample opportunity to prove your worth and have your potential realised. I’ve discovered strengths I didn’t know I had and new subjects that have piqued my interest.

As someone who entered the workforce as somewhat introverted, being encouraged to share my opinions and ideas has boosted my confidence as opposed to sitting back, listening and taking orders. It also means you can grow alongside the early-stage team meaning you'll end up in higher place of seniority than you would be having entered into a larger corporation.

5. Room for change 

Another plus is being involved in the early stages of internal processes. I’ve had the opportunity to set up internal procedures in a way that makes sense for the company at that current point in time. I can tell you there is nothing worse than having to follow dated protocols that don’t make sense anymore. Just because ‘it’s worked for many years’ doesn’t make it the best way to do it. As the old adage goes – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Innovation shifts that position and should be continuous. 

If the company is still relatively young, it's also likely you can have more of a say in your career progression, management style, review processes, 1:1's, company ideas, and so on. Being able to define your own path and build your team is really empowering in the early stages of your career.

6. Culture 

I often hear people say they left a company because of a bad or toxic culture. And I'm not talking about a lack of perks. Things like free beer, lunch clubs, and pool tables and are great tools for the interaction of employees but it's bigger than that. I've experienced that in a smaller business, employees voices are heard, listened to and most importantly actioned. Problems may arise faster but there's nowhere for them to hide and are likely to be handled and resolved in a timely manner.

Ideally, you will get to meet the team during the final stages which will be a good indication of the team you’ll be joining and a great time to ask questions like this. Make sure you ask about the types of things the company do to maintain a good team culture during the interview process and try to delve beyond things like nights out, etc. While that stuff is great, you want to know how you're going to be supported.

While I’ve talked about many of the benefits of working within a small company, it goes without saying that with any start-up there are going to be teething problems. Getting a new company off the ground brings about many challenges and can sometimes lead to an initial feeling of chaos. Decisions and stuff-ups made can be quite personal in the early stages of a company, especially for the Directors. 

However, I feel we are lucky enough to be working in the disruptive technological era, where smaller companies are biting the ankles of the large corporations and giving them a run for their money. 

To sum up, don’t be afraid to take a chance on where you go next, sometimes the lesson is learning what you don’t want for next time - so don’t be discouraged if you made a mistake or the job wasn’t what you thought it would be. 

Think about where your values lie and then try to align that with your future role in mind. We all want to be more than just another cog in the machine and I’m glad to say that I’ve found a good way of approaching my working life and the type of people I want to work with.

- Lilli Sampson, Marketing at Few&Far

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