The Pros And Cons Of Working For An SME Over "Blue Chip" Organisations
You’ve graduated with a degree. Chosen your dream city. Now it’s time to find work.
But what kind of business do you want to work for?
No doubt you want to be successful and have an impact. But there’s more to choosing your workplace than brand name alone. For top-quality applicants, the choice between working for a small or medium enterprise (SME) or a blue#chip organisation is a difficult one, and one that will come to define your career and approach to work.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between the two and lay out the pros and cons of working for an SME over a blue-chip organisation.
What are SME and Blue Chip organisations?
An SME is a business with fewer than 250 permanent employees. Other definitions see SMEs noted as businesses that achieve a turnover of less than £50 million.
The SME umbrella generally encompasses anything from medium-sized businesses to micro-enterprises. They make up around 99.9% of all businesses in the UK, playing a vital role in the economy and keeping millions in work.
Blue-chip companies, by contrast, are larger organisations that are reputable, financially stable and long-established within their specific sector. The term comes from share dealing, where these companies are referred to as blue-chip stocks. Some of the better-known companies in the world (such as Apple, IBM and Boeing) are blue chip companies.
Let’s start by taking a look at the pros of choosing a career with an SME over a blue-chip organisation.
Job satisfaction and impact
Studies have shown that only 64% of people in the UK are satisfied with their current job. While low wages and long hours play a part, the potential to do more in your role is also something people are searching for.
More often than not, rigid blue chip companies can’t offer this sense of versatility, with people feeling trapped in structures that don’t offer much room to make an impact.
When you work at an SME, you’re usually part of a much smaller team full of creative and passionate people generally balancing one or two roles at once. The pressure doesn’t suit everyone, but for enterprising employees looking to make a name for themselves, it offers a brilliant opportunity to make an impact and ensure your CEO, recruiters and other industry professionals are taking notice.
If you want to feel like a bigger part of your team than just another cog in the machine, SMEs are the way to go.
The opportunity to do good
Many top candidates want to make an impact not just in their workplace, but in the world itself.
This is why charities and nonprofits are such popular places to work. Not only do they provide an exhilarating experience and the opportunity to test yourself, but they leave employees with a sense that they’re making a positive difference in the world.
While corporate morality is all the rage now, there is a general consensus that smaller charities and SMEs have a greater impact on the everyday lives of regular people through their specialist services and approach to wider issues.
In fact, working for an SME allows you to focus on the actual aims of these organisations with greater intensity. If you’re particularly passionate about a cause, it makes sense to work for an SME, as it’ll be more than just a subsection of a company’s attempts to incorporate more social enterprise into their output.
These businesses benefit from hiring passionate people too, particularly ex-professionals. Take vulnerable veterans as an example. Whether it’s receiving correct compensation through VA Claim Pros or overcoming homelessness with Soldiers Off the Street, these SMEs make their claims more legitimate through the passion of their team members, many of who share similar experiences. If you have unique experiences and want to help people who have faced the same challenges as you, SMEs are a great way to get your voice heard.
More opportunities for creative thinking
While a blue chip organisation may have four or five layers of bureaucracy to go through before you can get to work on creative ideas, SMEs are run in a fashion where there’s more creative freedom.
Even though they have the capital and name value to absorb it, many blue chip organisations are reluctant to take a risk on a creative idea. Whether it’s an innovative social campaign or a website redesign, these changes can take years to get approved from pitch to launch.
With SMEs experiencing such heavy demand and workloads, there simply isn’t that system in place to shut down ideas. You can pitch almost-finished projects, see how a new approach to content goes and even introduce new working systems such as flexible hours into the mix without the fear of getting dressed down in a month.
This isn’t to say blue chip organisations are wrong to shut down these ideas. They’ve found ways to make themselves very successful, and you need a lot of industry cachet and experience behind you to prove your ideas have substance. If you’re just starting out, it might be better to home those skills and get your big mistakes out of your system.
If you value your ability to follow your own ideas and trust in an innovative vision, SMEs are a better choice for that opportunity.
Now, let’s take a look at the cons of working at an SME over a blue chip organisation.
Fewer obvious job perks
Perks are one of the first things everyone thinks of when they weigh up the pros and cons of working for a major, blue chip company.
Not only can these enterprises offer better pay, they add the little bonuses that make a less-than-inspiring job worthwhile. Company cars, lifestyle benefits and modern working spaces. These things matter in a world where job security is precarious and people are less willing to take a risk on their career in a new profession.
In the USA, everything from fast-food enterprises such as Chipotle to world-renowned brands such as BP continue to attract committed staff by offering to cover the cost of education, as this Forbes article details. This, along with benefits such as gym memberships to stay fit and cycle-to-work schemes to streamline the commute, has shown how larger companies can make employees' lives easier through perks and benefits.
Resources, structure and order
Messy Dropboxes and poor PR structures get you down? The lack of resources and structure at an SME can cause headaches for even the most enterprising workers.
Larger companies can simply offer more. More resources, more people to speak to, more contacts and more control. While you may have to split your work between two or three teams at an SME, corporate structures generally outline exactly what everyone needs to be doing at a particular time. While this can make creatives and entrepreneurs feel trapped, it offers just as many people assurance they can get their head down and focus on their work.
Having a company with the clout, budget and structure behind you to let a project breathe and reach its full potential is crucial for increasingly important roles such as those in digital marketing.
Large companies will also contribute significantly to training programs. Typically, this won’t be exclusive to internal training either, as companies have continued to offer staff the chance to hop on external courses or learn from CEOs of other major companies, as Airbnb have.
More obvious job progression
While the typically smaller size of an SME can make it easier for most professionals to make a mark on their role immediately, these companies do lack the typical progression a blue chip organisation can offer.
Larger, corporate enterprises pride themselves on easy to see career paths. From McDonald’s to Apple, step-by-step growth with yearly rewards has become an integral part of what makes a blue-chip organisation so appealing to people looking to carve out a career. While non-profits, such as The Aerospace Corporation, have also managed to make this a hallmark of their operation, blue-chip companies do have a monopoly on job safety and obvious paths to success.
While clear rules for raises and promotions might seem stifling to someone who’s only ever worked for small agencies and non-profits, they can be quite reassuring to people outside of more creative enterprises or looking to learn about the processes of business themselves, should they harbour dreams of launching their own.
The high staff turnover and multiple locations to work at also open the door for greater opportunities. While you might be waiting years for a manager to leave at your innovative tech startup, a position may become available once a year at a blue chip, offering enterprising staff the chance to grow in the company or bolster their CV.
If you want to see the world and get a variety of job titles under your belt, blue chip companies offer this opportunity.
Ultimately, the type of organisation you choose to work for is a matter of personal preference. Some will enjoy the comfort and assurance a larger company can offer, while others will enjoy the hectic, yet creative and loose feel of working within an SME.
Consider how your lifestyle and approach to work may fit into this argument, and make your decision from there.
Author: Stevie Nicks - Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine – a website that covers the topics you care about. You’ll find articles about lifestyle, work, travel, fashion, trends and relationships on our site – each of which is written in our unique style.