Other than size, as measured by revenue, the number of employees, or perhaps, physical presence or reach, the biggest difference between large and small companies is the level of internal support that they provide. Support can cover a wide range of activities varying from well-defined internal “silos” in which certain tasks are relegated to specific departments, to companies that expect individuals to “Do whatever it takes” to get their job done. Based on one’s experience, an individual can become accustomed to operating anywhere within the operational support continuum.

In today’s economy, many individuals operating within well-defined corporate environments, long to become involved in the apparently free-wheeling, do whatever it takes, startup world environment that appears so glamorous. At the other extreme, many individuals operating in a startup environment long for the presumed stability of the corporate world. These examples follow the proverb that “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Unfortunately, the grass may be greener, but it usually contains unforeseen landmines! It is easy for any of us to remember the problems and things that we don’t like (people, processes, and events) about our current company, while not taking into account all of the good things that we take for granted. Often, only after it is too late, do we begin to appreciate the “good things” that are missing in the new environment.

Before someone makes the big-to-little or little-to-big company transition, it would be prudent for them to write down those activities that they have become accustomed to in their current position. Similarly, a company should be very candid in describing the real-world environment that the candidate will become part of if they join the company. Some individuals will thrive in one environment but not the other. A common example is a highly successful sales rep that works for a large and dominant company may be attracted to a small, nimble startup. Likewise, the small, nimble startup may be highly interested in hiring a successful sales rep from their largest, market dominant competitor. On the surface, it may seem that the fit between the two is excellent. However, the sales rep from the well-established company, longing for the freedom and flexibility of the startup environment, may find it difficult to work with little support. Documentation or company reputation that is helpful in establishing customer relationships may not exist. The company, in turn, may be disappointed with the lack of quick sales success and the seemingly endless requests for support items that are not available.

The candidate must think carefully about the differences and focus on the elements that they take for granted; can they live and thrive without them? For the company, is the previously successful, large company sales rep the right approach to take or should the company hire a “scrappy” sales rep that is used to the “underdog” sales situation?

Although the example given above focused on sales reps, the same situation exists for virtually every other function within an organization.

  • An engineer with startup experience may become totally frustrated with the need for detailed design requirements and functional specs that are part of the standard operating procedures of a larger company.
  • A financial specialist from a small company may be overwhelmed with the compliance requirements of a publicly traded company.
  • An employee in a startup may be totally frustrated with the seemingly endless number of meetings and the time it takes to make a decision in a large organization.
  • A senior executive from a large organization may have a difficult time making their own airline reservations and coordinating their own meetings after they become the CEO of a startup.

Both the candidate and the company need to determine if the new position is the right position, for the right person, at this point in time, in the existing environment.