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Corporate life or SME? The choice is yours, but here are the pros and cons…

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I entered the corporate world at a very early stage of my career.  To be honest, it was more of a fluke as opposed to a deliberate choice, but very quickly I could see the opportunities and a lot of advantages in working for a blue-chip organisation.

I worked for that big firm for over 13 years and learned a lot during that time.  I was enveloped in the corporate training and development system, I benefited from the perks of being part of a national organisation, including company-wide incentives and opportunities to travel, and had huge back-office support and access to national marketing expertise, to name but a few of the many things available.

Slowly but surely, however, the pros of working within a corporate environment were outweighed by the cons and I realised that maybe this wasn’t for me after all.  I began to feel like I was just a number.  I wasn’t in a position to be able to influence decisions or company-wide policies as they were made way above my pay grade.  I felt that, due the size of the organisation, colleagues became selfish and team working became a soundbite as opposed to a reality.  It was also a very KPI-driven environment and I personally felt there wasn’t enough focus on customer service.  It came to a point where I couldn’t see what the long term future was for me.  What was potentially on offer wasn’t what I was interested in – for example the opportunity to travel, access to overseas secondments, relocating – all the things that come with working within the corporate world.  I wasn’t really enjoying my work.

I then got the opportunity to consider working with Chris Peace at his eponymous company.  Peace Recruitment is very much an SME.  I did some reading and found that an SME is invariably described as ‘a company that is run by energetic, passionate, ambitious entrepreneurs who value the business knowledge of like-minded professionals.’  After several meetings with Chris I felt this is a pretty good description of Peace Recruitment so I decided to make the move and (so far!) haven’t regretted it for a moment.

Clearly, working for a smaller company comes with its specific challenges, but, for me, these are far outweighed by the new lease of life it has brought me.  I now feel valued and not simply one of many spokes in a very large and somewhat impersonal corporate wheel.  I am now genuinely involved in decision making and it’s gratifying that my recommendations or ideas can be actioned far more quickly than they could (assuming I was allowed to make them!) in a large, relatively slow-moving and compartmentalised international business. 

In addition, I now have a solid overview of the demands of a growing business and I can see clearly where my influence and fees make a difference.  I have autonomy and flexibility that I didn’t have before and overall I now enjoy my job again!

Does this mean that SMEs are better than large corporates?  Not necessarily.  Everyone is wired differently and some people thrive in one environment and not another.  However, there is one, highly significant difference, namely that you are closer to the action and better able to influence the decision-making in an SME than you ever could be while working at the same level in a corporate. Yes, you may have to give up a few perks and you may not have the same worldwide opportunities, but if you have talent it is far easier to be spotted in a smaller team than in a worldwide operation of thousands of people.  If you currently work for a big corporate and have the same thoughts or feelings as I did before I made the move, perhaps it’s time to consider the advantages of working for an SME. 

Alison Blake, Manager, Peace Recruitment


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