What to Consider Before Joining a Small Company

There are pros and cons to working for a small business.

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Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter
It's no secret that small businesses are the new big business. Huge conglomerates have downsized and outsourced to a point that many who are employed by these corporate world power players are feeling less sure of their own career futures. For this reason, many who once aspired to these "Blue Chip" companies are now looking in the direction of privately owned small businesses that seem a bit more stable and community-oriented.

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Let's start with some of the advantages of working for a smaller company:

1. Connectivity. There is something to be said for the anti-corporate feel of a company where the owner/president has an office adjacent to yours. If you have an idea or a problem, this arrangement lends itself to immediate results that are nearly unheard of at larger companies where management may impede any type of resolve.

A smaller office can have more of a "team" feel as well. This means that everyone feels a sense of being a part of any accomplishments the company makes, and that they are much more willing to help each other in achieving shared goals. As an example, the comptroller demonstrates a willingness to answer phones because the receptionist is out buying materials needed to finish a project.

2. Security. Smaller companies are often niche-type businesses. Because of this, whatever "niche" they are filling most likely was developed by someone who is still very involved with the company, either as the owner or another high-ranking officer. That being said, this person will have much to say about the direction the company takes in terms of expanding, and will have plans to keep a loyal workforce. So, the outsourcing that has become so common with huge corporations is almost nonexistent. This in turn helps to foster a sense of security that your position is unlikely to be eliminated.

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3. Loyalty. Since almost everyone from the CEO to the maintenance person calls one another by their first name, there is a little more consideration where raises, vacation days, and even disciplinary actions are concerned. Again, these situations aren't handled by some unknown entity as they typically are in larger companies; in many cases, this means these events are dealt with in a more even-handed manner.

But there are some things to be aware of when applying for a small business job. For example:

1. Familiarity. You've probably heard the old axiom, "familiarity breeds contempt." It's an unfortunate fact that small companies without strong leadership can be the breeding grounds for contemptuous attitudes. While I would never paint all small companies with the same broad brush where this is concerned, it may be something to consider, especially if you are taking a position that has been vacated numerous times in a short period. If this is the case, it could be a red flag that you need to study a little harder.

2. Compensation. Salary and benefits packages are sometimes lower at a company where the bottom line is being scrutinized. Since small companies usually don't have access to the seemingly bottomless financial reserves of megacorporations, they do tend to pay conservatively.

3. Staffing. By definition, a smaller company has fewer staff persons. This means it's much more reliant on the staff it does have, so being absent for any reason creates a hardship that's hardly felt at a larger company. In some cases you might be the entire department, which means that taking time off can be met with resistance, especially if no one else in the office is qualified to do your job.

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This is by no means an all-inclusive list of considerations, but hopefully it does give you some things to ponder when making the choice to leave the raging oceans of the corporate giants for what may seem to be the calm waters of the small business cove.

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog over at at http://careertrend.net/blog. In addition, Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords) listed on several “Best People to Follow” lists for job seekers.

Twitter: @Glassdoordotcom