When Choosing a Place to Work, Does Size Matter?


Last month, we discussed overall opportunities for women in the workplace and how the dimensions of the workplace influence long-term success. Now, in the coming months, we’ll take an in-depth look at each dimension referenced in the article.

The first dimension we’re discussing is size. When considering a place to begin or sustain your career, women have to be aware of the impact the size of that business can have on their career choices.

Let’s take a look.

The Family Business

There are family businesses of all sizes. The “Mom & Pop Shop” where you may have worked as a high school or college student, the successful family business doing $500,000 to a million dollars a year and the super successful family business like Mars Candy, ran by the Mars brothers. I spent 10 years in a family business and would offer nothing but caution. It’s very hard to fit into the family dynamics, and in my opinion, they’re less likely to be on the leading edge of change when it comes to women. The family business may be a great place for you if you want to stay status quo, can deal with the drama, have a relatively calm career and aren’t interested in climbing the corporate ladder.

The Startup

Obviously, there are startups of all sizes. A couple of decades ago, I opened a small chain of weight loss centers and lost everything but weight. The importance of that is that you realize startups — large or small — come with the highest potential reward and the highest potential risk. Make sure you’re ready for either. Startups are a great place for women, because all they want is results. Deliver results and you have a place. But remember, you could personally deliver outstanding results and the business could still fail and you’re out in the street. In a nutshell, startups are a great place if you’re a risk taker.

The Corporation up to $10 Million in Sales

Although this group makes up a majority of all employment, they’re still a small business. It’s important to know before you join if their history is one of high turnover or one of good ol’ boys. Most businesses this size are like the family business: not necessarily concerned about the leading edge of change, such as hiring women and complying with all the laws. They’re most concerned about making a profit and generating cash. Make sure you know what you’re getting into and you keep your eyes open. The advantage of a business this size is that you can touch and feel the entire business and see what’s being accomplished. It’s a great place to learn and stay if you can find a fit.

The Corporation up to $500 Million in Sales

In a business this size, you get the feel of a ‘large’ corporation without all the bureaucracy, at least in most cases. Women should have an advantage in a business this size because most have a large desire for growth. My observation is that most corporations this size are interested in being on the front edge of change and are at the point of welcoming new people for what they bring to the business. You could run into old line, good ol’ boy companies here, but they’re stagnant and shouldn’t be of interest to you for that reason. A business this size is an ideal speed for most people and a place where woman today, for the most part, are enthusiastically welcomed.

The Corporations Into the Billions in Sales

These are the corporations that are huge. Few of these corporations offer jobs that allow you to touch and feel the real business. That doesn’t make them bad; just huge. It does make them, as a rule, more progressive toward women and minorities. You’ll find higher pay and greater benefits and, in some cases, more opportunity. Keep in mind, though, that corporations this size are managed by department, site, building and many more divisions. Your experience will be in direct proportion to the management of the unit you work in. The large corporation is where you’ll likely find your greatest opportunity if you want a career climbing the corporate ladder.

The Branded Giants

These are the corporations we all recognize. We see them every day in our home, on billboards, on TV and the Internet. You really can’t generalize, but if you want a high-flying career, you can either get with a startup and take your chances or get with a proven winner and be prepared to work your butt off. I believe there’s the greatest opportunity for women who want to succeed in a big way to do it in one of the branded companies. This is the place for the totally career oriented.

In all probability, given today’s career paths, you may work for all of these before your journey ends. Considering the size of the business is but one dimension — but an important one. It’s a personal decision based on your goals. With social media today, you have the ability to check on the business you’re considering joining. Make sure you do your homework, keep your eyes open and work hard. You will succeed.

Next month, we’ll take a look at how the type of business you enter as a woman can influence your success.