I read another story today where a local publicly traded company laid off a hundred people. It reminded me of a question that frequently arises during the interview process: “Is your “small” company capable of sustaining my employment?” It comes out a little differently each time, but that is what they’re asking. In an effort to be transparent, I have always said anything can happen; however, don’t let size fool you. You will always have a better feel for what’s going on behind the iron curtain at a small company than you ever would at a large one.
Know Where You Stand
If you’re a contributor, you typically don’t have to worry when working for a small company. Your contributions are valued and you see your work making a difference, either internally or to the clients. It’s when you don’t feel like you’re contributing that you should be concerned. A small company cannot afford to carry the financial burden and will look to cut bait much earlier than a large company. With a small company you should always have a feel for where you stand.
Not Just a Number
At a small company you are a real person, and not just a line on a balance sheet. Everyone knows you, your family, and what’s happening in your life. The larger sized companies (i.e. 150 employees or more) make it much easier to be out of touch with the people that keep it going. They also have to answer to others, whether it is shareholders, another business entity, or a management team that does not know you. As a result, these companies will cut bait when the numbers don’t meet expectations, as seen with the article I just read.
No Room for Ride Along
Large companies do have a higher tolerance for mediocrity. For those that have a tendency to ride the proverbial wave, this might be seen as a positive. The problem is if the numbers don’t line up, no matter if you are a contributing employee or a mediocre one, you’re measured the same. You need to always feel you are pushing and/or pulling the cart and never riding in it.
I’m not suggesting that small companies do not fail, or change course alone the way, but do not fool yourself into thinking large companies are too big to fail. Company’s like SmartFile typically find a way to keep moving forward. It’s in our DNA, and we know what it takes to be innovative and scrappy. More importantly, do what you love, and let your passion and artfulness be expressed in your work. No matter what happens, your ability will always open new doors of opportunity no matter the size of the organization.