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Startup vs Large Company, What’s Right for you?

Dec 13, 2022
Startup vs Large Company, What’s Right for you?

It’s the time of year when you may start thinking about New Year's resolutions and ultimately, whether it’s time for a change of role. This is completely natural - change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing! 

So, there are various options on the table, and knowing what will work best for you can be a difficult question to ask yourself, especially if you’ve been off the employment market for many years. The hiring world has also drastically changed, so understanding the nuances of organisations is crucial in finding the right one for you.

We’re going to unpack the differences between startups and large companies, so you can make an informed decision - whilst debunking a few myths along the way…

How can company culture differ?

Company culture is a huge deciding factor when finding a new organisation. The culture, in essence, dictates the “vibe” of the office (or remote atmosphere, depending on their working model). It can, in essence, make or break your experience. So, how can culture change depending on the size of the organisation? 

There’s research and data to back up that company culture changes once you exceed the 150-person mark, and that this is considered the “sweet spot” number for a lot of organisations. But, there can be startups that are this size too - which is why we have to look at everything with a sprinkling of nuance.

Startup culture

Depending on the size of the startup, the culture is undoubtedly going to be different from an organisation with 300+ people. It’s important to figure out what is important to you from culture; is it a family feel, togetherness, and a close-knit team? Or, do you prefer the layers within organisations where you can be slightly removed in some aspects? Neither answers are right, nor are they wrong - it’s all about personal preference. 

You can find both within a startup, but notoriously startups are known for being more fast-paced, having a closer, family-feel culture and ultimately susceptible to a lot more changes due to the nature of how traditional startups operate.

Corporate/”big” company culture

Big corporate organisations will still have a sense of culture - and there is definitely more room for sub-cultures within regions, offices, and even teams (in some corporates, teams can exceed 50 people!). 

You’ll find that with corporate organisations, there will be more structure to the culture - and it may have had time to mature, especially if there are managers/individuals that have tenure. This can be seen both as a positive and a negative - depending on what is important to you.

What would your progression look like?

Do you really become a smaller part of the puzzle in a big company? Is the perception that you can play a more significant role in the company's journey with a startup realistic? 

This all depends on a couple of factors: firstly, what do you want your progression to look like? And secondly, how much responsibility do you want? For some, joining a larger, corporate organisation can make a lot of sense for their progression: exposure to business processes, exposure to more senior people, and ultimately a great (potentially a household) name on their CV. 

Whereas for others, who could have been in a senior role in a smaller organisation, may feel restricted or that it’s a “step back” from what they were previously doing. 

It’s so important to assess where you’re currently at in your career - and make an informed judgement from there. What will this organisation give you, regardless of its size or status - and does that fit with what you’re looking for? 

And finally, there’s a risk with any organisation

Although it can be more common to see a “revolving door” in startups, or teams ebbing and flowing in a short period, there is a risk when joining any organisation. Ultimately, if this is crucial for you, do your research and ask the difficult questions: what is that organisation’s retention? Why do people leave? What do they do to keep their people? 

All of these questions are valid - and should be asked at some point during the interview process.

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