Monday, August 13, 2007

Further Follow up To strathclyde uni

Big or small?

I have a pretty unique career profile in having worked for multinationals as well as local start ups, and as a supplier in a small-medium to larger companies.

All the things they say about small vs large, are of course true !

There are a lot of the obvious ones- you get a wider hands on in a small company with less cash to splash. You do endless paper work in a large company. You get a social life (if you want it) through a large department, although sales and marketing don't usually mix too well with the nerds outside the MDpt.

In asking this question of me, you really should ask yourself about who you are and what you like doing. Are you comfortable as a small cog, getting along famously with lots of people ? What type of ambitions do you have in ten years? Where do you want to have your first five years of career or where will you relocate to? Are you risk aversive? Do you thrive with new hands on tasks or prefer strategic analysis, report writing and think-tanks?

If you answer these and combine it with your wish to either be a corporate fat-cat or an entrepreneurial marketer/ business person then you will start to move in the direction. BUt a lot of small company, especially consultancy/agency land start ups, have significant experience in big companies. COnversely though, a lot of consultants fail becuase they can't make the cultural change from comapny structured to self driven day to day work life. A mixture of the two through your career is what I personnally recommend if you have ambition to be in the start of something exciting and small.

In terms of people you may no more escape egotistical lunatics in a large company than in a small. Those little hitlers are a curse in life and are often not avoidable. In a big company at least you could move sideways or report their fondling to HR, whereas in the wee bit ltd you have to put up with them or leave.

In a small company that peripheral mussolini in accounts can unfortunetly have a much bigger say in your life, by pur prescence. I had one cut my travelling lunch allowance..what did I do? stayed in the office to eat my sandwiches and saw clients either end of the day, spending far more time OUT of the office just driving on the by then extended commutes. In a big company departments put up barriers to stop staff poaching and encroachment of authority, while pussy footing about trying to set up interdepartment projects.

For your CV, big names and big projects are always more impressive. But for you personnaly having a wider and deeeper responsibility and effect on a small company can be more rewarding. Also you can argue for goodies and get promoted often easier in the wee company - which probably lacks any job descritpiont heirarchy, fixed pay increments and 'must habve' qualifications. If you get green back or save money in a wee set up, you get seen.

Which brings me to another point. The old S&M debacle. Tow closely knitted functions being run by competing and highly different personality types. Sales managers being arrogant boers ready to take credit for anything yet blame marketing for all bad quarters. Marketers being failed sales people with a part time diploma, or little empire bulding bitches who are good at sucking cock upwards while pushing ass downwards. In a large company you can get some distance and hold them off with your bosses, whereas in a small you have to be able to get along with them and any case, you will probably be doing some sales or handing over hot leads personally so the cultural difference is not so noticeable.

In a small company the cultural barrier is often not there or is quickly broken. You may as I say be S&M manager anyway. But you will be involved more closely with getting new leads, doing presentations and winning individual deals. In agency land you will be actively selling with the idea of the next contract or the other bit of business in the forefront of good account execs who go on to build have got to be able to find a sale and sell the guys on it! In a specialist agency you may get to work hands on with large companies doing small, focused work for them and this can expose you to both in a nice way.

On the 'get rich quick side', big companies offer stock options which are most often a lottery when they mature and hence worthless...small companies often avoid offers, but when pushed they stock options which are most often a lottery when they mature and hence worthless.... But stock-pay can be worth it's wieght in gold..getting paid full stock in lieu of a higher salary. All small companies should offer this to their key 'doer' personnel and their managers as well as the founders and bloody backers. But few do outside california.

Adivce? Well you may have the luxury of a choice in job say at Marketing Manager level twixt large and small - ask yourself-

1) who do I like personally?

2) what is my motivation for this scene? to get to the next? to make money? to make na impact? Do you want to go self employed / start a little enterprise?

3) what do I want to do day-to day? Do I accept wider responsibility and more detailed work in the small or the enivatble paper work reportage, monthly 'all employee meetings' and other 'wish you weren't here' crap in the large? Do you want to push little agencies about?

If you are unsure about what you want and you stand with an offer, all else like location and pay being equal, then go for the large company will get more from it on your CV and you will get a chance to be promoted internally.

Having said this last point, there is always value of working in the small, micro economy because you get to know the anatomy of a real's necessary diet and fat reserves, it's good and bad customers, it's reportage to the tax people instead of "the street". If on the other hand you are an MBA type, then your analytical tool box, strategic planning and outright ambition are probably wasted in a small enterprise and if you want more responsibility then poke at a medium sized one, in rapid growth if you want to make a big impact. Otherwise you can join those happy bands of middle managers with wierd job titles and wierder subordinates, slicing, dicing and powerpointing their way up the corporate ladder. They tend to do a lot of analysing, talking about and getting ideas from the people who actually do the work while actually not really doing anything very much...if an MBA graduate finds a 2% extra profit margin out in the woods and no-one is there to see the powerpoint, do they make a sound??

As I say, a mixture through your career is good becuase

1) the large builds your tool box, while the small sharpens it

2) you make an impact in the small faster than in the large

3) you learn the nitty gritty in the small, while the strategy in the large

I've had great fun in both and it really comes down to your immediate work colleagues, who may not be so proliferate in number in a large company anyway. Having a local watering hole is just as important as the size of the department you work in as it's here that relationships are forged. So steer clear of those soul-less business parks and industrial estates if you can and find out if there is a good local for friday pay cheque nights and birthday lunches. Come to think of it this is what has really 'made' jobs for me...the relaxed pint and pub lunch and after hours beers.

In terms of impact, I have been able to proabbly conversly make larger impact with senior big company execs BECAUSE I worked for small companies and in so doing I'm not afraid to deal at this level and cut to the quick in data, even if I shoot from the hip too much without backing up my data & checking it thoroughly. Now I see only small companies as attractive becuase I don't want to get lost trying to make authority for myself in a large company with intrenched department heads!

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