Small is Bountiful

Working for a big brand has its advantages, but a stint in a smaller company can be beneficial especially for those who contemplate starting their own business, says Prasenjit Bhattacharya.

Working for a big brand has its advantages, but a stint in a smaller company can be beneficial especially for those who contemplate starting their own business, says Prasenjit Bhattacharya.

Globally, even big brands like McKinsey have only two-thirds of their offers accepted. In India there is a craze to join large organisations which are big brands. Why take the risk of joining a small business, seems to be line of thinking. The trend however, might be changing. The number of students in the premier business schools opting to join small businesses is increasing. Most consider this a step towards starting their own venture.

Many people prefer to join a small business due to following reasons:

Opportunity to work with the owner/ entrepreneur

The owner always plays the most significant role in making an organisation successful. His/ her role is multifaceted. S/he is often the most knowledgeable person about the organisation´s products / services or the industry and plays a key role in building relationships with key customers.

Since the entrepreneur handles a wide gamut of responsibilities, working closely with her/him means that one gets to learn about multiple aspects of running a business- from hiring to joining venture partnerships to negotiating with stakeholders.
This is a great opportunity, particularly if you plan to start your own venture.
The owner’s reputation with his people

Check how an owner treats his employees. Does he come across as a benevolent, kind hearted person known for his generosity? Do his managers often despair at his enthusiasm to help his people during personal emergencies?

Indeed, people often willingly work for low salaries in lieu of the “respect” they get from the owner. Also, if the small business you plan to join is not able to connect you with one or two of their ex-employees, it is a red flag.

Willingness to look beyond your formal qualifications

If you have missed out on one or two years in your academics due to personal exigencies, or have a gap in education or experience, hiring filters in large organisations will not allow your CV to pass through. Smaller businesses might be more willing to bet on you.
Freedom to experiment, make mistakes at the operating level.

Many small and medium enterprises provide employees great opportunities to learn. Unlike larger organisations, roles and procedures are not cast in stone. You can do what you are capable of doing and not just be limited by what your job description says. A competent operations head may also look after projects. The challenges provided, and hence the opportunities to learn, are far more than what can be expected in a larger organisation. Very often, an organisation acquires a new technology or process, like for instance an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) tool, but doesn´t invest in training and development. It may use expensive technology or machines but may not provide employees with adequate equipment. But this setting provides one with a great opportunity to learn, innovate, improvise or continuously improve. Knowing that the business has not provided employees with adequate support, the entrepreneur is more tolerant of peoples’ mistakes.

Vision to create an organisation of substance

Regardless of what the owners say, you can make out from their actions if they are planning to build the organisation big. A long term player will never compromise profitability for just growth, and will always re-invest part of profits in growing the business. Apple, Google, Infosys are all well-known names today, but all started as small businesses. The difference is that the entrepreneurs were clear from the beginning that they were not creating the businesses to sell out at the first opportunity.

The author is the CEO of The Great Place to Work® Institute, India.