By: Taunee Besson
Q : I’ve heard that small companies always lead our country out of recessions, yet the media tells us little about this workforce “best kept secret.” What is the case for giving up the big-business power and perks to move to a smaller organization?
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 a 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 companies:
Myth #1: 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 Foundation.
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 new employees.
Myth #2: 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.
Startup 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 millions.
Myth #3: Jobs are less secure at small businesses.
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 payroll. At these firms, layoffs typically are used as a last resort.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.