I had an interesting experience with extremes today.
I am helping the president of a small company find amazing talent for a couple of key management positions. As a result, I find myself thinking about and articulating what´s great about working for a small company. As leaders in smaller organizations know, it can be a challenge to find great talent because the pay scale and benefits are often a bit lower than the big guys. The overall experience, however, can be much greater in a small organization.
So here´s the extremes part:
This evening I attend a networking presentation and dinner held by one of the local organizations. The speakers, who were from Microsoft, talked about their new career development process. The speakers did a great job and were very engaging. The experience was weird for me, however, because the speakers were sharing a very complex matrixed framework that is supported by technologically driven survey tools and takes up more resources than exist in the entire company with which I am consulting. I´m not knocking Microsoft or their career development process – when you´re that big you need entire teams of people creating these processes and frameworks and stuff.
In small companies there is often dead silence when someone asks about development. But you know what? The best small companies offer great development opportunities and you don´t have to fill out tons of forms, memorize 853 core competencies, or get through 127 career ladders. You do great work, you contribute in a big way, and you get to play in many aspects of the business.
I think middle and senior managers from small and medium sized businesses are often more well rounded and have learned more than their counterparts in larger companies. Everything about the business is intimate and close. You´re not applying frameworks and developing processes and theories – you´re making it happen, real time. You can have a great idea in the morning, hash it out with a few folks in the afternoon, and be implementing the next day. Leaders of small companies need to be better, because to provide a great work environment where everyone can grow and feel challenged is more difficult when you don´t have large (any) support departments like training or OD.
I´ve worked for four large Fortune 500 companies during my career, but not for a few years. When I was younger (a yuppie), the thought of working for the big guys seemed impressive and made my career feel more successful. And yes, the pay was generally great. My fondest work memories, however, are from experiences with smaller companies – my accomplishments there far outshine what I was able to do elsewhere. If I ever do work for another large company (one never knows), I am going to keep this in mind and try to make the place feel smaller.
Well managed and led small companies offer an EXTRAORDINARY work experience.
If you want a tremendous challenge and an opportunity to make a significant impact, perhaps it´s time to think small.