Sunday, August 4, 2013

Is Bigger Always Better?

Given a choice is it better to join a large corporate organisation to maximise your career development rather than a smaller one? The immediate thought might be yes; as its size should give security; it is likely to have more money and resources to invest in talent management; and you can get access to greater benefits, including share schemes that over time can prove quite lucrative – but maybe the first question we need to ask is, “what is a large company – how is it defined?”

The EU defines a large company as one with a headcount of more than 250 people; turnover greater than €50m; or a balance sheet greater than €43m. The EU definition is important since state support to ‘Large’ companies is strictly limited. Whereas in Australia a proprietary company is defined as large for a financial year if it satisfies at least two of the following paragraphs:

• The consolidated revenue for the financial year of the company and any entities it controls is $25 million or more

• The value of the consolidated gross assets at the end of the financial year of the company and any entities it controls is $12.5 million or more, and

• The company and any entities it controls have 50 or more employees at the end of the financial year.

But many people in today’s global economy would still consider these companies small, or at least medium sized, compared to the multi-national large corporate with thousands of employees around the world.

The biggest ‘employer’ in the world is considered to be the US Department of Defence with around 3.2 million employees – but if we look at ‘organisations’ we know as businesses then Walmart is the largest with around 2.1 million employees, followed by McDonald’s with 1.9 million employees.

When you look at these sized companies it can be difficult for many people to even imagine an organisation of this size and how it works, unless you’ve actually worked for one. People who haven’t worked in ‘very’ large corporates are often concerned that they will become faceless, nameless people – just a ‘clock’ number whose chances of progression are limited to doing something extra special that gets them noticed by the right people.

Maybe a better example of ‘large’ would be organisations like Tesco which has over 180,000 employees; or Barclays with around 140,000 employees and Shell with over 101,000 employees – these would be considered examples of ‘well known’ large corporates that look after their staff (or most anyway) – where employees quickly learn how to make the most of these organisations, adapting to the ground rules to progress in their careers.

Not everyone has the same career ambition and if you join a large corporate early in your career you are likely to be ‘developed’ into their culture and from your perspective have a very enjoyable and rewarding career, with good financial reward; excellent development opportunities and a very good pension, guaranteeing an enjoyable retirement (possibly an early retirement too).

The only question that you may not be able to answer is whether you have achieved your full potential.

And that’s the rub – whereas a large organisation is likely to give you financial security for life and year-on-year personal development; a small or medium sized organisation may be risky, but in fact can give you a greater opportunity to maximise your true potential and the real possibility to earn significantly more than with the large corporate.

If I was giving general advice and assuming your desired career path allows it – get the experience with the large corporate first, or early in your career – earn the money and invest it wisely; get the training and development; get global exposure by looking international ‘transfers’ every three years or so; and get exposure to as much as you can; and then assuming you feel that you still have so much more to achieve in your career and have reached the ceiling with the ‘big boy’, then look at sharing your experience within the sme market, accepting that they will teach you just as much as you will give to them – as you will be entering a different environment, a different decision making process, a different culture.

Of course some people go straight into the sme market and with their natural entrepreneurial flair make a huge success of their career and retire early and buy an island :-)
So think about what you want from your career and try to make the right choices early on – as this forms the foundation for your career moves in the future.


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