It’s a question you can only answer once you’ve worked for both large and small companies, as I have. The real question, however, is this: which is best for you? Read on to discover this insider’s view of the advantages and disadvantages of large and small companies.
By large company, I mean one with over 150,000 employees worldwide and with distinct, fully functioning support departments such as HR, IT and finance. For a small company, I mean one with less than five employees and where all employees are working from the same location – a small consultancy or a startup, for example.
Advantages of Large Companies
- You’ll always get paid: if things aren’t going well for a large company, it will still pay its employees.
- You’ll have all the equipment, tools and resources you need to perform your work well.
- Usually, large companies will pay you more than a small company would for the same role.
- Large companies will typically provide better benefits than a small company.
- If you have a problem, there’ll be a department somewhere to help you sort it out.
- Large companies will usually have high turnover, which means promotion possibilities for you.
- Routes to promotion are more clearly defined: there’ll be various performance management systems to guide your advancement in the company, making large companies great incubators for ambitious graduates.
- Large companies pack more of a punch in a résumé than small companies, i.e.: they are more recognizable.
Disadvantages of Large Companies
- Red tape: you’ll have to contend with the bureaucracy that’s typical of a large company.
- Competition: you will find it difficult to stand out, you’ll probably find it difficult to get your ideas acknowledged, and you’ll find that the best jobs attract a lot of competition.
- Large companies (unless yours is like Google, Facebook or Apple) are often risk-averse and rarely deviate from what they deem to be ‘best practice’, making it difficult to try out new ideas.
- You will realize soon enough that you are not indispensable: there’s always someone else that can be brought in to do your job. Usually, it’s the company way or the highway.
- Open-plan offices are usually the norm in large companies and are like ’Marmite’ to most people: you either like them or loathe them.
Advantages of Small Companies
- Small companies tend to be creative hubs: they typically have fewer resources, so creative thinking is encouraged.
- Fewer processes and systems: you are less restricted when it comes to trying out new ideas.
- Flexibility: if you thrive on taking on new challenges, there’s usually plenty of scope for that in a small company.
- Better work environment: if you work for a startup, the chances are that you’ll be given exactly what you need, and no more. This could mean you’re less distracted by ’things’, which will boost your concentration. Fewer people around you will also help you to focus better on your work. Some creative startups and design consultancies put a premium on trendy office workspaces, so you may get lucky.
Disadvantages of Small Companies
- Perhaps the most obvious disadvantage of working for a small company is that you are unlikely to have the same access to resources, equipment, benefits and support functions that you would have working for a large company.
- If you’re working for a new startup, your job security is far from assured. A friend of mine recently took a job with a startup which has now gone bust – her job lasted barely three months.
- Flexibility also means doing those ‘menial’ tasks you thought you’d left behind: photocopying, posting letters, making teas and coffees, and so forth.
- Promotion usually means waiting for someone to leave – which may mean never getting promoted. If titles are important to you, this is worth taking into account when choosing to work for a small company, even if your pay does increase. Furthermore, performance management, usually the barometer of whether or not someone gets promoted or gets a pay rise, may not happen at all, and if it does happen, it may not be as rigorous as it would be in a larger company.
Size does matter. The important thing is to know what is important to you, and to pick the environment in which you will thrive in.
Which suits you best: a large or a small company? Share your comments below.