In the process of interviewing candidates for an open position at our firm, we encountered some misconceptions about working for a smaller firm, namely perceived limited opportunities, less structured training and uncertainty about the stability of a smaller organization. We thought the advantages of working for a smaller firm were obvious (!) but here are just a few:
- You’ll be learning from the owner/partner rather than a manager. That whole “open door” thing is very real at small firms. You’ll have access to the owner or head of the firm that you’d never get at a large company. A formally-structured training program cannot compete with being mentored by the owner of the company.
- You’ll gain more experience, faster. In larger firms, each team member performs his/her narrow task. In smaller firms, one associate may manage all aspects of a client’s account. You’ll be more well-rounded, and therefore more valuable to the firm and to the client.
- You’ll get a broader knowledge of your subject matter. In our case, accounting. An associate at a large firm may only see their small piece of the puzzle. At a smaller firm, the associate will see the big picture and be able to understand how each piece impacts another. Opportunities often come more quickly in a smaller firm because you do not have to work through layers of management, but if not, you’ll be far more marketable when you look for your next position.
- Opportunity to define your personal brand. At a large company, you will be one of many servicing an account and may be completely interchangeable. In a smaller firm, the client will get to know you personally. You’ll be noticed, and can grow quickly.
- “Family” corporate culture. Many smaller firms naturally feel more like a family than an impersonal corporation. When there are only 10-20 people or less in a firm, you’ll know everyone personally; none of you are “just a number”. It’s no coincidence that many employees at small companies are more satisfied than employees in companies with more than 500 employees.
- Flexibility. Smaller firms tend to be less bureaucratic and more flexible. They can adjust policies to accommodate employee schedules or specific needs when situations arise.
Much of the job growth today is coming from small companies (defined as fewer than 100 employees). Before you limit yourself to positions with easily-recognized company names, consider the real opportunities offered by smaller firms.