5 reasons why everyone should work for a small business at least once in their career


Most of my working career has been spent working in small businesses, either as an employee or as an owner.  The education that I received in the “on the job training” has played a very crucial part in shaping the person that I am today.

The definition of “small business” may vary depending on who you ask.  Whether the business has 5 employees or 50, there are some very valuable lessons that one can take away while working there.  Here are 5 reasons why everyone should work for a small business at some point in their career.

1. Close to top of the ladder.
This may be an obvious one, while at the same time may not seem important.  Most of us don’t get a job hoping to stay at that same level forever.

The smaller the company that you work for, the closer to the top of the ladder you will be from day 1.  This means that it will be much more likely that your hard work and great ideas will be noticed by the real decision makers of the company.

There is less competition to stand out and this could set you up for future advancement and responsibilities.  At the very least, having your ideas heard and also acted upon will build your confidence.

2. Self Discipline.
A smaller company my not have as strict rules or procedures.  This usually comes with a certain amount of flexibility in either hours worked or the amount of work completed.

The flexibility is a perk that must not be taken advantage of.  It takes real discipline to do what’s right for the company when you are responsible for your own time.

I learned early on how much my decisions affected the success of the small businesses that I worked for.  No one had to force me to show up and give it my all.  I could see how it affected everyone if I slacked off.

This become an important strength of mine once the tables were turned and I was the boss.  From the years of working as an employee in small business, I was able to consistently show up and put in full work weeks… even though there was no one forcing me to do so.

3. Learn management.
You will have a closer relationship with management.  This will give you a better understanding of how they make decisions and why.  If you’re like me, you will be exposed to as many bad management styles as you will be to good ones.  Learning how NOT to do something is another valuable lesson.  You will learn what you would do if you were manager.  This will come in handy later if you find yourself with such a title.

4. Understand Cashflow.
As a small business owner, I was shocked by the mentality of employees that I hired from the bigger business world.  It’s like they had no idea where the money for their paycheck came from.

Working in a small business will show you how your output directly affects cash-flow.  Come payday you may notice the change in attitude that the business owner has while handing out paychecks.

If you can imagine entrepreneurship as a roller coaster, then think of payday or the day the bills are due as the dip in the journey.  Things are sometimes tight with cash-flow and as an employee in small business you get a front row seat to it all.  When you strike out on your own one day, you will not be blindsided with the reality of cash-flow.

5. Learn to wear many hats.
In a smaller company you will be exposed to more.  There are times that you may be pulled away from your job title to help the team in other ways.
Your responsibilities are half what you were hired to do, and half whatever is needed from you based on the work load.  With the right culture this can be to your advantage.
This taught me to work well within a team while also being responsible for my own workload.  I was also able to learn how each person’s role supported everyone else’s.  I was then able to look past my duties to see that there was a big picture aspect to what we did on a daily basis.


Photo: Flickr/paramita