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Why working for SME's is a good start for job seekers

“Choose your destination, create a map and set sail. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions, for you may never face the perfect conditions.”

In my 20 odd years of experience, I have met several thousands of young men and women with various levels of educational qualifications and experience. They may not have had many things in common, but one thing that stood out among all of them was their desire to work for large, multinationals.

The definition of a dream job for many of these youths was “working in a plush office, five days a week from 9am to 5pm”. And they are willing to wait endlessly for such a job to knock their door. There is nothing wrong to have such a burning desire.

How else can one achieve their goal, without a burning desire? But cutting it down to reality, large organisations are able to contribute to only about 18-24 per cent of the job market in most countries. The rest are contributed by small and medium-sized enterprises, roughly about 75 to 80 per cent.

This is no new phenomenon and the situation has been the same from times immemorial. Youth have their own inhibitions around SMEs, in fact many. Here’s a quick count of the top three concerns most youth have around working for a startup or an SME:

Small businesses are fragile:

The scary statistics about startups is that 90 per cent of startups fail within the first two years.

Most youth consider SMEs to be an unstable source of employment. Most of them are looking at either building a stable career or moving into a steady job and they feel startups or SMEs do not provide them the stability they are looking for.

You are expected to be the jack of all trade:

The very nature of SMEs demands a handful of people to manage many things across the organisation.

So most youth feel that the pre-condition for being able to work for a small business if your flexibility and adaptability to multi task, which means learn new things or new ways of doing things every single day. This might cascade to long work hours and irregular work schedule.

Small businesses are not great pay masters:

First you are required to multi task, second you are required to work long hours and third, you are not paid as much as you think you deserve.

That’s what most youth think of about small businesses. It is often felt that SMEs are always trying to find ways to cut costs and so pay little to their staff.

As mentioned earlier, these are the impressions in the minds of the youth about startups and SMEs. Some of these apprehensions may be far off from the truth. I have myself started my career working for a start up and then worked with a large multi national.

And from my experience, I feel the grass is always greener on the other side. While youth are looking at getting into large organisations either to get power, position or pay, after a few years of experience in large organisations, most of them are willing to take a pay cut, settle for less fancy jobs to experience and contribute to the growth of the SMEs.

In reality what a small business can offer towards the growth of an individual is worth much more than the money you earn.

  • You are a big fish in a small pond: Imagine a pond of thousands of fishes. Most of them do not stand a chance to shine unless they are of an exceptionally good breed. Whereas in a fish tank, where there are fewer fishes, the presence of every single fish is realised and recognised. Your opinions, your actions, your thoughts and more importantly ‘you’ matter, thereby providing you an opportunity to demonstrate your skill and capability.

  • Fewer structures fuel creativity: It’s the case of half full, half empty. Small businesses rarely have firm structures. This is to help them navigate the path of growth in an agile and flexible manner. Fewer structures pave the way for more options of working and solving challenges. This goes a long way in fuelling your creativity. People with a creative bent of mind, grow more rapidly than the others.

  • Dynamism fuels performance: SMEs are dynamic; the circumstances they operate in are dynamic and are mostly influenced by external environments. They are required to be agile in responding to the market situations and contexts. This dynamism pushes individuals to think and act swiftly.

  • Small businesses are better risk takers: The very nature of SMEs is that they are natural risk takers. The hunger for success and growth allows them to take risks (calculated risks), go through pains. They believe in the mantra of “No pain, No gain”. This allows them to be open to newer ideas and newer ways of doing things. In a large organisation, you might be boxed, leaving you not much scope for risk taking, unless it passes through multiple layers of vetting.

  • Experience and exposure: Last but not the least. You may not be paid as high as you would by a large organisation, but working for a small business gives you experience and exposure to varied fields and facets of business. Irrespective of the years of experience you have, you may get an opportunity to directly work with some of the best brains or those who have vast experience which would add experience and exposure to you.

Mr Bharatam is the founder and chief mentor of Kuza Biashara Ltd, a capacity building organisation coaching youth and SME owners across Africa. Sri chairs Entrepreneurs’ Organisation for Africa. He can be reached via @Sbharatam or

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