HR Blog: Corporate vs SME

As an internal recruiter in the SME technology space, I talk to many candidates who are looking for a career move and this can be for many different reasons, be it a fresh challenge, job security, something closer to home, more money – the list is endless!

Since joining Envitia, which is a rapidly growing Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) in the Data Solutions space, it really got me thinking, do candidates do their vital due diligence when searching for their next career move to ensure the size of organisation they are joining is well suited to them as an individual?

As humans, we are programmed to continually thrive for personal improvement, we always desire and seek something better, something more interesting, something that might make our lives a little easier. Changing jobs is something we don’t do all that often, so as candidates, how can you make sure you are joining the right type of organisation that aligns with your behaviours and personal values?

The Difference Between Corporates and SMEs

Corporates are recognisable experts in what they do. They (most of the time) have enviable reputations with a large financial backing. In a corporate, you will likely be a specialist in what you do. You will operate in a very structured, defined environment. You will be encouraged to develop through the company if you are good at what you do.

But a corporate doesn’t always have that personal touch of an SME. You will probably never speak to the CEO or senior leadership team, for example, so middle management often run the show and decide what is communicated up the chain and also what is filtered down to the employees. Your line manager will be there to help you, oversee what you do, check your work and give you lots of guidance, support and protection through hierarchy.

In a corporate there can be plenty of red tape, meaning prolonged decisions for the smallest thing. It can sometimes be hard to get your voice heard or be recognised for your efforts. Influence on senior leaders can be challenging and a blocker to your personal growth.  Even worse, sometimes no-one is willing to take a risk or make a decision for fear of making a mistake.  This paralyses progress so the pace of life in a corporate can be much slower than a SME but it’s at scale so the stakes are much higher.

SME life – the good, the bad and (sometimes) the ugly!

Working in a small company is like a family. You know everyone – their pets’ names, people’s favourite biscuits etc, it’s lovely!

SMEs can offer more flexible approaches to working, they are not 9 to 5er’s, they do what they need to do to get the job done. There is no red tape – for example, if want to book a training course, it can normally get sorted in a few hours. Your voice will always be heard, you can share your ideas with the CEO over a coffee and have the opportunity to make a real difference.

You will need to be a “jack of all trades” and a subject matter expert  as often new opportunities arise where there is no expertise within the business so we must adapt to meet that need. You will need to be flexible and must have the ability to learn fast and react to change quickly. You may often be asked to jump into a task way out of your comfort zone – it is very much an ‘all hands to the pump’ approach, and team work is key.

Your success in an SME will start with you, if you don’t have passion for what you do, you will stand out like a sore thumb. You will quickly realise you are a big fish in a very small pond, where your work, attitude and behaviour will be visible to everyone, from the work placement students, right up to the CEO.

SMEs do not have a capacity to carry people, so if you aren’t adding value, it will be noticed quickly. You will need to be a real team player, your success over time will be a team effort and I cannot emphasise enough – you must be OK with that. You need to be very good at learning lessons, sharing them and putting these into practice moving forward. No one is accountable for your work other than you and sometimes, support can be minimal.

Cultural fit is a priority for us when hiring at Envitia, so much so, that for some of our roles we will select from cultural fit first and capabilities thereafter.

So, next time you go to hit that ‘Apply Now’ button, ask yourself – will this organisation I am applying to bring out the best in me? From my experience, will I be a success? Or will it be completely new territory for me and am I OK with that?

Corporate or an SME? Do you have what it takes to make that cultural shift? There is no right or wrong answer, it all starts with you.

written by Kayleigh, People Manager