Isn't Always Better
Q : I’ve heard that small
companies always lead our country out of recessions, yet the media
tells us little about this work force “best kept secret”. What is
the case for giving up the big-business power and perks to move to a
A: Anthony M. hung up the phone,
slightly amazed that he had just declined an offer to become vice
president of international marketing for a Fortune 500 company. It's
the second unsolicited offer he has rejected in the past two months.
Why does he turn down the big
companies that beat a path to his door, offering money, power and
perks? Very simply, Mr. M. is happy where he is: building three
companies in the live music, web commerce and TV arenas. Wearing a
variety of different hats from COO to talent manager, Anthony
produces musical productions for the Big D Opry, guides the careers
of emerging stars and develops strategies to draw more customers and
build sales for A Texas Style, a website dedicated to products made
in Texas by Texans.
Kay D. left a high-level position
with a prominent retailer to deal with her son’s medical issues and
find a career that will give her the opportunity to help people in
her community. She’s become very interested in moving into nonprofit
management where she can use her exceptional people skills and get
paid for the events and fund development activities she’s done as a
volunteer for years.
Jim L. became manager of hard tooling
for RSP Manufacturing, a Fremont, California firm that makes
stampings for the computer industry. He loves being with a small,
fast-growing employer that's committed to making high-quality
products and providing exceptional customer service.
Despite having different backgrounds,
these professionals share a common bond: they left big corporations
for smaller, more entrepreneurial organizations. The move allows
them to make a greater impact on their companies, colleagues and
cultures, while charting their own courses. Although their
transitions weren't completely idyllic, none misses the greater
prestige and resources inherent in a large organization or wishes to
return to that territory. They're having too much fun.
Large-firm professionals and
executives who are weighing similar career moves often hear that
working for a small firm can be frustrating, arduous or financially
unrewarding. But many negative comments about small companies are
myths based on stereotypes or sour grapes from jealous colleagues.
While these myths aren't new, laid-off professionals still smarting
from corporate downsizing or merger and internal politics may be
hearing them for the first time.
To help you separate fact from
fiction, consider the following myths and facts about small
Myth: Small businesses don't
employ as many people as large ones.
Small firms attract relatively little
publicity, so their impact on the economy is discounted. For
instance, for a number of years firms owned by women, which tend to
be small businesses, employed more people than the Fortune 500,
according to the National Association of Women Business Owners
As a group, small companies form a
powerful, dynamic economic community, which tremendously affects
domestic and global growth. In a recession, they, not their large
competitors, are the businesses that are in the forefront of hiring
Myth: Salaries are lower and
benefits are less generous at small firms.
While many firms, especially
slow-growing, family-owned operations, often pay less, other small
businesses offer equal or greater compensation packages than their
larger counterparts. These companies are often started because of a
founder's desire to earn greater income. While going it alone may be
riskier than working for someone else, those who succeed in the
right niche reap handsome rewards.
Start-up companies funded by venture
capitalists may pay well because they need to produce immediate
results for investors. Often, a young organization will bolster its
employees' cash compensation with generous stock options. If the
corporation goes public or finds a buyer, the options can be worth
Myth: Jobs are less secure at
Not anymore. The golden days of
employment-for-life are long gone at large organizations. In fact,
many small companies are founded by executives who have repeatedly
been downsized or re-engineered and want more control over their
careers. They trust their abilities and decisions more than those of
a large employer. Employees at small, well-managed firms may feel
more secure about their jobs because of a personal relationship with
the owner. Small-business owners aren't pressured by stockholders'
expectations for profits, and will move heaven and earth to make
payrolls. At these firms, layoffs typically are used as a last