When my degree was nearing a close, people started to ask those dreaded questions ‘what’s next?’… and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ was usually my answer.
Luckily I was given a piece of advice that has stuck with me to this day – instead of frantically trying to define a career path for life, why not focus on the type of company, and people I’d like to work for.
So in my remaining months at university, I started a volunteer job with a start-up magazine and got my first taste of working for a small, lively team of like-minded individuals. It was really exciting helping lift a new project off the ground, and from this, I made a (very early!) assumption that a smaller-sized business in the ‘earlier-stages’ would suit me.
Five years later, it’s led me half way across the world to my role here at Knowit in London, and I wanted to share a few reasons why I still love working for a small business.
When you’re working in a start-up environment there’s usually a clear vision and direction from management, and this embodies the passion that will motivate the team around them. We have an internally-facing company purpose, and values that we strongly believe in. This is embodied in everything we do, and in everyone we hire.
In a growing business you get to be a part of nurturing that growth and leaving your own personal mark. Not only is the process rewarding, but the results are great for your personal and professional development. Future hiring managers love candidates who can prove they’re capable of contributing to a brand-new project.
I write this as I’m sitting in a cafe down the road from our office, to get away from the distractions of our buzzing sales floor. While it might not seem like a big deal, it’s not uncommon to feel chained to your desk when you work in an office. In a small business, it becomes promptly apparant whether or not you can get the job done – you can’t slip under the radar. So while it may be easier in a smaller organisation for management to keep tabs on you, if you’re in the right one, it can actually mean it’s small enough to have a closer relationship with management therefore you can earn your stripes a lot faster and be managed in a way that suits you best.
With trust, comes flexibility!
At Knowit, we have a close relationship with management and our ideas are welcomed and encouraged. Off the back of a cultural survey we ran, we have been given benefits like two-hours free a week (time we don’t have to make up!), unlimited holiday if you’re on target, 1.5 hour lunch break for the gym and two days a month where we can work from home. Plus, I get to wear jandals to work. (Aka. flip-flops to those in the 95% of non-New Zealander’s reading this).
Job seekers are no longer motivated by the same factors as previous generations, and a steady pay check or a “job for life” no longer appeals as much as it once might have, which is why employers should be recognising the modern needs of employees. Like most people, I value a fair work-life balance, and this is something that smaller companies can be more flexible with.
I love being involved in different areas across the business, as opposed to being solely restricted to my job description. Start-ups definitely tend to have an attitude where everyone helps where they can and there is more of a non-hierarchical structure. Also working closely with different members across the company means you gain a strong understanding of the business and how it’s run.
With a varied workload, you also have ample opportunity to prove your worth and have your potential realised. We put a strong emphasis on a collaborative culture. If senior level employees are roped off like in larger organisations, it can create tension in the ranks. I’ve seen first-hand that working in a culture that values transparency, accessibility and an “open floor” policy, naturally breeds trust and loyalty.
Our Director’s love it when we speak up with idea’s. It’s harder to take a back seat in a small company, which means you don’t get complacent and people who tend to shy away (I definitely used to) are encouraged to put in their two-cents. This has helped my confidence around management immensely.
5. Process involvement
Two thirds of employees say their company’s broken processes prevent them from maximising their potential.
Being involved at early stages of internal processes means you get the opportunity to set up internal procedures in an efficient and effective way that works best for you and your team. There is nothing worse than having to follow dated protocols that don’t make sense anymore because “that’s the way it’s always been done”. Just because it’s worked for many years, doesn’t make it the best way to do it. As a team, we regularly review our processes and are always looking to improve and expand our current service offering. As the old adage goes – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
The top broken corporate processes cited by Nintex survey respondents include:
1. Access to tools and documents that enable good job performance
2. Annual performance reviews
4. Employee onboarding
These processes must be clearly defined in order to drive efficiency, efficacy and employee satisfaction.
This is a big one for me. I’m very social, love to travel, play sport, go out for drinks, and explore London’s endless activities. It was really important to me that I joined a company that had a friendly and fun culture, so this was a big question I had for employers when interviewing.
I’m lucky enough to now work somewhere where we have monthly night’s outs, do a bunch of fun activities in and outside of the office. We also regularly travel abroad on holiday incentives (I’ve already been to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, and we just got back from VEGAASSS!). This type of culture definitely isn’t for everyone, but if culture is important to you, make sure you ask about the types of things they do to maintain a good one.
It goes without saying that with any start-up/SME there will be early-stage teething problems. Getting a new company off the ground and what follows in those early years will bring about many challenges, and can sometimes lead to feelings of uncertainty and disorder. Decisions and “stuff-ups” made can be very personal in the early stages, especially for the Founder’s. The chaos of a young business is definitely a whirlwind and keeps me on my toes, but suits my working style.
Granted, any company looking to succeed can’t stay small forever. We have big growth plans for the future, but growing with a company is rewarding and my experience in SME’s so far has been a really positive one.
Whether you’re looking to take your first, or next step up on the career-ladder, think about where your values lie and then see if that aligns with your next employer.
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Here at Knowit, we are currently a small team made up of 15 people, with offices in London and Manchester. Get in touch via. the buttons below if you think you would be a good fit.