COMPANY CULTURE / OCT. 18, 2013
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Big Isn’t Always Best

It’s almost like it’s been beaten into you since school: if you want to get on in life, join a big company. It’s just the way it is. Big companies pay better, give better benefits, and oh-yes, they have that all-important wow-factor when people ask ‘who do you work for?’

And yet the truth is, well...big isn’t always best.

According to the Centre for Retail Research, figures up to the end of September 2013 reveal that of the 21,848 jobs lost in retail in the UK, it was the biggest players who certainly fell hardest – the likes of Comet (again), Dwell, Past Times (again), and Dreams: all major brands, and giants of the high-street.

Against this backdrop however, it has been SMEs – those employing less than 250 staff – that have thrived.

According to the UK SME Finance Monitor (August) around 44% of all SMEs reported that they had grown in the past 12 months, with just over half of SMEs (51%) saying they expect to grow over the coming year.

This is the highest level of optimism since 2008, and these results are considerably better than what larger companies have been reporting.

If you stop to think about it, it sort of makes sense. In most economies, large companies are actually the exception to the rule. In the UK SMEs account for nearly 60% of private sector employment, while in Europe 67% of employment in work other than the finance sector, comes from SME employers.

It begs the question. Why apply to the statistical underdog, the large company?

And the good news keeps getting better. Not only have SMEs been creating ‘more’ jobs (85% of net employment growth in Europe comes from SMEs), but research conducted for the European Parliament suggests that (by some measures at least), SMEs are ‘better’ employers. It measured job security, the ability of their workforce to rise through the ranks faster, and the sense of autonomy and variety of work that working for smaller companies brought (all important indicators of wellbeing).

Oh, and to cap it off, just this week, was news more SMEs are now being run by women – up by more than a fifth in the UK since 2008. Female bosses are viewed (particularly by other female job seekers), as being more empathetic to their needs and their work-life balance.

So, still not convinced? If not, maybe you should give it a try. Instead of spitting your CVs out to just the biggest names out there, research the smaller players in your sector and approach them first. The chances are, they'll be very glad to hear from you. And, even if you do still want to go big, often the journey to get there is from starting small.

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