Working at small businesses can be a lot of work — employees may put in extra hours to get things done, or they may have to take on several roles. But the benefits of working at a small business are legion, and are often a draw for hiring talent.
The opportunity to be heard
One of the biggest advantages of working at a small business is the ability to collaborate so easily. Amanda Cohen is the marketing coordinator at Homescout Realty. Every Monday, the company has a meeting in which everyone discusses progress on projects, metrics that have been hit, what is and isn’t working for the company, and so on. “I have been able to form a close and engaging relationship with all levels of the company hierarchy, from our two co-founders to the sales team, allowing for great communication, culture and success,” she says.
A smaller staff also means it’s easier to get your ideas in front of company leaders. Hannah Diamond is the marketing coordinator for UrbanGirl Office Supply, and she says she loves working so closely with the owner. “I am never in the dark about anything going on, and I can ask her anything,” she says, and there is no bureaucracy or busywork.
This access means her ideas have a chance to be heard, and she can act on them. “I had the idea to create a holiday, Woman Owned Business Day, on May 1. It involved getting 500 other woman-owned small businesses involved. It was a large undertaking, and to anyone else, probably seemed like a crazy idea,” she says. “All I had to do to was ask, the owner said yes, and I was allowed to go from there.” At a larger business, she says, she might not have had the opportunity to try something new.
Eli Kirkley, communications specialist for Lake Homes Realty, also put his own idea into action at his small business. He created a feedback survey that was implemented at the organization’s annual agent summit, and he also improved a process for collecting data about lakes to inform potential clients. “I feel as though my opinion and input actually matter when I have discussions with my boss,” Kirkley says. “In weekly meetings we discuss marketing strategy and I regularly see my ideas put into action.”
Flexible work arrangements and spaces are often cited as an advantage for working at a small business. Jake Hamilton is director of content at LazBro Inc., where he works from home part of the time so he can spend more time with his 18-month-old son and save money on daycare.
“Family is important to them,” he says of the owners. “For this same reason, they have always provided healthcare benefits to their full-time employees, covering 100 percent of the cost. They believe in taking care of the people that take care of them.”
Hamilton says he worked for a Fortune 500 company for 12 years before coming to LazBro. “I stepped away when my wife was pregnant with our son and I wanted a better work/life balance. I have not regretted it,” he says.
It’s often more apparent at small businesses when people aren’t getting their work done, and that can lead to a culture of trust. Heather Fink is the online services manager at Municibid.com, an online auction site for government entities, where she has unlimited time off. “This is where trust comes in — my co-workers trust that I am doing my job and getting what I need to get done, so who cares if I need to take a day off here or there or work from home? My company cares that their employees are happy while the job is getting done and revenue is being generated,” she says.
Living the values
Because smaller companies have fewer layers of decision-makers and are more nimble, many employees find it easy to live out their values. “We live our values in our work space because as a green company, we strive to be green in the office,” says Lindsey Conger, publicist for Prime Five Homes, an eco-friendly real estate development company. “We use solar panels, wind turbines and recycle in order to be as eco-friendly as possible.”