Best Workplace for Marketers: Small or Large Company?

Photo Credit: Manu_H on Flickr

Most of us dream of running our own company. But until that day arrives most of us will have to pursue a career in the corporate world.

The company you work for can have a great influence on your career path, turning it into a rewarding journey or an experience you want to forget. The company size plays a big role in the final outcome.

Which brings me to the question I want to address today: As a marketer is it better to work for a smaller, private enterprise, or for a Fortune 500 company?

New graduates often dream of working for a well-known established company that brings credibility to any resume and provide career advancement opportunities, flexibility and training.

But is this still the case?

Are these Fortune 500 companies the ideal workplace? The answer is not that obvious and starts with your personal definition of the “ideal workplace”.

Let’s take a look at some advantages and disadvantages of working in small and large companies.

Advantages of Small Businesses:

  • More diverse Marketing responsibilities. A smaller Marketing department means that you will most likely be involved in a variety of projects, which will give you hands on experience in multiple areas. Large companies tend to hire specialists in each specific area: research, strategy, communication.
  • Your work will be visible.  In small companies your opportunity to make a quantifiable impact on the business is generally higher.Your positive contribution will be noticed and your opinions taken into account, since there are fewer levels of management that can take credit for your accomplishments.
  • More work flexibility. Small companies are more willing to change the rules on which the company operate and accommodate your needs better, in particular if you are considered an important member of the team.
  • A closer relationship with your co-workers. If you are a sociable person this is something you might appreciate. In small companies you will be treated like a human being, not just like a number, which is the case with large companies.
  • A faster way to express your concerns and grievances. Many small businesses lack an HR department, so you can discuss your issues with your manager and even the owner.

Disadvantages of Small Businesses

  • Lack of marketing resources. Small businesses cannot afford the marketing budgets the big guys spend every year. As a result you will have to accomplish more with less.
  • Difficulty attracting A-level Marketing agencies.  You would think in today’s economy every business would be happy to add to their client list. However many big name agencies and PR companies have certain budget expectations that small businesses just can’t afford.
  • Your failures will be noticed. In a small company you’re less likely to be able to hide or blame somebody else for your mistakes.
  • Benefits package might be smaller. Small companies are usually not able to offer benefits such as pension plan, free training and medical benefits that employees of Fortune 500 companies enjoy.
  • More vulnerability. For small companies each customer is important to the company survival. A loss of big customers or an unfavorable market condition might lead to insolvency and loss of jobs.
  • Fewer possibilities for career advancement. In most cases the only opportunity to advance in your career is to change companies.

 Advantages of Large Companies

  • Big marketing budgets. It’s no secret that big companies can afford to spend more on marketing. Your biggest challenge will be not to get the money, but how to effectively allocate the budget. You will also work with the best agencies as they tend to gravitate towards large companies.
  • Better opportunities to advance in your career. If one of your career goals is to move up the corporate ladder then a big company is more likely to fulfill your ambitions. These corporations have precise rules in place on how to get promoted so you will have a clear picture of what you need to accomplish to move up.
  • The benefit packages are better. Big companies are big for a reason-they are very successful at what they do, including attracting and retaining the best employees. Working in big companies usually means a better benefit package, although things might change for the worse in the near future. A lot of billion-dollar companies these days prefer contract work and outsource as much work as possible in their never ending quest for bigger profits.
  • Less vulnerability to external threats. Unlike small companies where one customer can account for the vast majority of the business, big firms have a more diverse customer base. Consequently, a temporary market disruption or the loss of an important customer will not have a huge impact on its performance (but it might have on yours if your responsibility was to make that customer happy).

 Disadvantages of Large Companies

  • Performance is always under scrutiny. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you have to justify your existence on a weekly or monthly basis. Like it or not Wall Street is unforgiving, and all employees work towards the common goal: better dividends.
  • Very difficult to make an impact. One of the biggest source of dissatisfaction among employees of large companies is that their work is not sufficiently acknowledged and recognized. This might be temporary-once you climb up to a position that will offer you more direct access to the decision makers your work will become noticeable.
  • Change is slow. Large companies are famous for their decision making process. Multiple layers of management and a very formal communication process contribute to frustrating delays and even abandonment of projects.
  • A more impersonal workplace. If you work in a place that employs 2000 people chances are you won’t probably know all your co-workers. That being said, you might be lucky to work in a small team inside a big company, so you can get the best of both worlds: the family-like environment of a small company and the big resources of a large corporation.

 What about Job Security?

No company can guarantee your job, regardless of its size. The safest job is the one YOU create for yourself. That is, owning your own business.

You might think that you are safer in a bigger, more financial solid company. But that’s not necessarily the case. Layoffs are frequent in large companies, usually affecting hundreds or even thousands of employees at once.

The only way to influence your job security is to arm yourself with a set of in-demand skills that will allow you to land on your feet in case you loose your job.

I am very interested in hearing your personal experience: do you prefer small companies or big corporations? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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