HR/BENEFITS

Why Small-Company Perks Always Beat Big-Company Benefits

Sure, large corporations can offer nap pods and team building, but you'll always do better where you're closer to the real action.
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People of San Francisco: Resist! You are right to protest the busses that are ruining your town and transporting your brightest souls away to the dark campuses of Google and Facebook. Resist them! And resist Yahoo's efforts to lure you to its downtown offices too by placing recruiting signs at those bus stops and offering coffee to their competitors' employees. This is snarky and predatory. This is the wicked world of working for a large company. If you choose to work at a company like Yahoo, Facebook or Google, you will soon regret your decision. Have you not seen The Internship?

You may think there are great perks. You may believe that working there is like going back to college, with half-dressed people lounging around in the sun, riding their bikes, sleeping in nap pods and playing GTA4 all day. But it is not. You are misguided.

A big company is not the place for you.

You don't want to work for these guys. You want to work for an established small company. Or even a startup. Why? Because it's a way better life.

At a small company, depending on your experience and value, you'll have more say as to just who your boss is. Your boss will rely on you more. You will likely forge a closer relationship. Not only that, but you will probably work for many bosses and do many things. Your likely boss will be the owner, not some midlevel manager.

Go ahead. . . work for that big fun. But don't complain to me when you're forced to do team-building things, like play Quidditch. In big companies, there always seems to be extra time for this sort of nonsense. But if you work for a small company, you're busy doing real things in the real world trying to make real money.

At a big company, you'll have to deal with college kids that think they're smarter than you, like Lyle in The Internship. OK, Lyle's kind of a sweetie. But big companies have the resources to hire super-smart MIT and Stanford grads to work for them. These kids may be smart but here's a secret: Most of them are virgins. No, not about that. I mean about corporate life. Managing people. Handling pressure. Meeting with customers. Dealing with problems.

At a smaller company you may have the potential for more equity and even greater riches. You will have more flexibility with your time.  You will be an instrumental part of the machine. You will come to work every day feeling like you're truly doing something with your day, not just reviewing lines of code or going to meetings. You will learn more about how a business runs after spending one month at a small company than one year at Google.

You will work much closer to the owners, senior managers and investors of the company, giving them the chance to see what you can do and creating relationships that could last for the rest of your (potentially very lucrative) life. You will be taking more risks, not just collecting a paycheck, and this will motivate you to work harder and give you a buzz. And guess what? You'll be the envy of those people working at Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Why? Because they want to be working for a smaller company too. They want to be entrepreneurial. They want to be risk takers. They want to be owners.

OK, so working for a small company isn't all roses. Your office may be in an industrial park. Your boss may be the owner's dopey son. OK, big companies can often offer better pay, benefits and job security. There seems to be a lot of those cool glass walls that you can write on. And of course there's the opportunity to hang out with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. But those perks, like Vaughn and Wilson, will get really old, really fast.

You don't want this for your life. You want more. You want excitement and the potential to make real money and to feel like you're really contributing to something. You want to be working at a smaller company. That's where the action is. That's how you will learn to be a leader.

IMAGE: Everett Collection
Last updated: Dec 18, 2013

GENE MARKS | Columnist | Owner, Marks Group

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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