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Small vs Large Company: What One Should You Work For?

There are many factors besides a job title a person needs to consider before accepting a job offer.

Where you want to work is just as important as the role. When deciding on a company for employment you need to consider their brand reputation, salary/benefits plans and potential growth opportunities. Unsurprisingly these factors are closely tied to the size of the company.

So, is it better to work for a small company or a large one?

To get started we need to know what classifies as a small company and a large one:

What’s the difference between a small and large company?

According to Statistics Canada, small businesses are businesses with one to 99 employees; Medium-sized businesses are businesses with 100 to 499 employees; Large businesses are businesses with 500 employees or more.

About 7,800 food and beverage processing establishments, with employees, exist in Canada: 91 per cent of establishments have less than 100 employees, eight per cent have between 100 and 500 employees, while only about one per cent of establishments have more than 500 employees.

That means there is a good chance that you could end up working for a small company, but that doesn’t mean that you will. How do you decide what’s best for you? There are many reasons why someone would work for either size company. Let’s break it down into advantages and disadvantages so you can more easily see the differences.

What are the advantages of working at a large company?

Career development and opportunities

Larger companies like Mondelez and Labatt’s generally, have formal training programs which provide structured on-the-job training and workshops. Additionally, many companies offer job rotations where you can try different roles to see what works best for you. Because these places are larger, they have more money to spend – something you generally wouldn’t get from a smaller company. Alternatively, you can make lateral job changes and try different roles without having to apply for jobs outside of the company.

Job Stability

A larger company is more likely to have well-established brands providing stability for workers. Think about your favourite brands which have been around for decades such as Coke and Pepsi. Even through the highs and the lows of the economy they still exist and are beloved brands. Larger companies tend to have enough cash flow to weather changes in market conditions or a temporary drop in sales. Unless something major happens or the unexpected, you generally will have a stable work environment.

Salary/Benefits

Generally, larger companies have better benefit packages than smaller companies. Many offer health care packages and benefit plans which are above provincial requirements. This includes retirement benefits, health plans including coverage of medical expenses and additional vacation days. You might even start off with a higher salary compared to a smaller company, but this isn’t always the case.

There are well-defined processes

If you are an individual who thrives when everything is well-defined and organized, you might be better suited to work at a large company. Because large companies are well established, they should know what works for them and have data to back it up. You can expect more extensive standard operating systems, documentation and tracking of items. However, this doesn’t mean that things can’t change and get better!

What are the disadvantages of working for a large company?

Documentation

On the flip side, with larger companies having more “well-defined processes” this means everything must be well-documented. Many roles involve tracking everything that they do, which can sometimes be detrimental to employees who do not thrive in these environments.

Flexibility

Some large companies thrive on having individuals become specialized in an area. For example, a quality assurance technician in a small company might take on roles such as performing line checks and performing microbiology tests on top of creating HACCP plans.

At a larger company, this wouldn’t be the case and an individual would likely be specialized to only work on HACCP-related items. Some individuals may become bored with too narrow specialization. Additionally, larger companies generally are more rigid with their processes leaving little room to innovate.

Slow adopting change

Due to the sheer size, there is likely a lot more resistance to change. If you want something to get changed this could mean multiple levels of management discussion and a lot of time. Something that can be changed in the span of a month (or even a day!) in a smaller company could take months in a larger company.

Facelessness

Many people feel that when they work in a larger company, they are just another number. This is understandable when working with hundreds of employees in one building. However, this isn’t necessarily true as each manufacturing facility has its own charm depending on who is working. You will become familiar with your team.

Overall, it can sometimes be challenging to see how your actions directly play a role in everything. Some individuals like this, however, if you are the type of person who wants to have their say and wants to feel involved in the direction of the business, this could be a significant shortcoming for you.

What are the advantages of working in a small company?

More personable

Smaller companies have fewer people and without trying it becomes easy to know everyone including the leadership team. There is a higher likelihood of getting to know everyone you work with by name. Many people like this because it makes work feel more like a family and more engaging. Although you can have this happen in larger companies, you’re likely more limited to the building or department you work in.

Broaden your skill set

Likely your responsibilities will stretch outside your formal job description so you will get a good understanding of what the company does as a whole. Due to the decrease in specialized roles, there are more opportunities to expand your skills set. For example, as a machine operator, you could be asked to jump off the line and help with sanitation. Meanwhile, larger companies often have teams that are specialized in sanitation and who never actually operate a machine.

You learn more aspects of the business

If you work in a food company with only one building, you will have a greater understanding of how everything works together. Continuing with the example before, as a machine operator, you could become more familiar with quality assurance operations because you talked with the QA tech often. Therefore, you will have more chances to work with others because you are performing multiple roles.

What are the disadvantages of working for a small company?

Salary

If you are just starting out in your career you might not receive as high of a salary at a smaller company as you would working in a larger company— this includes benefits. If the smaller company is just in its starting stages, this could mean no benefits at all. If you find out that the company doesn’t offer them and this is a priority to you, it might be better to search for another place to work.

Less perks

Small companies don’t have as much money to play around with compared to larger ones. This can sometimes mean they can’t afford the kind of top-of-the-line software and equipment that bigger companies can. You might have to work with older equipment, but this tends to mean that the product is more the focus than the perks. Even smaller perks like extensive lunchroom offerings might not be as prevalent in smaller companies.

Potentially fewer promotions

If a company is only composed of 50 people, there’s a chance much room to advance. If you want to get promoted, this usually means waiting for someone to leave, which may take time. For example, if you are in the quality department and there are only 3 people unless your manager quits or the company expands, there is not as high of a chance you will advance.

You could have unpredictable working hours

In small businesses, there’s more opportunity for working unpredictable working hours. If you need to wear many hats, this could also mean working more hours as the business has fewer people to rely on. This can be rewarding as you can see the direct impact of your work and could push you faster towards a promotion but can be tiring for people who prefer steady, working hours.

How do I decide what size company is best for me?

At the end of the day, you have to find what works for you. Think of your own personality. Do you have more fun at large parties or small social gatherings? This will give you insights into which environments would best suit you.

Consider what stage you are in your career and where you would like to be in five years. Some factors which are not important to you now could become more important down the line.

Do your research ahead of time and try to reach out to individuals who work at the company in a similar role you would like to be in. They could provide insights that could help you figure out if a small or large company is best for you.

Just keep in mind that there is room for everyone in the food and beverage processing industry and there are many companies that could be the right fit for YOU!

Explore career opportunities at both small and large companies with CareersNOW!

Ready to start your career in Ontario’s growing food and beverage processing industry? Then sign up for a FREE CareersNOW! Jobseeker account. As a CareersNOW! Jobseeker, you’ll have access to Job Ready skills training, online job fairs, mentorship sessions and other resources to learn more about the exciting opportunities in Ontario’s food and beverage processing industry!

Get ready for your future in food!

Over the next several months, Food and Beverage Ontario will be providing free career mentorship and virtual career fairs through our partners, FoodGrads and Food Processing Skills Canada. Tell us you’re interested by filling in the form.

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