I’ve worked at all sizes of companies. I’ve been a barista at Starbucks, a gigantic company, and I’ve worked my way up from the bottom up to a manager at a small movie theater chain. However, the job that has stuck with me the most was when I was an assistant at a family-owned photography studio. So far the small company has been the best company to work for.
Getting the job
Oddly enough, the position at the photography studio was my first work experience. Sure, I had worked small odd-jobs before, but this was the first time I had to fill out a W-4 and get used to a schedule.
The studio is owned and operated by a family that I’m relatively close to. One of my best friends in school was the oldest son of the couple that owned it. Needless to say, they heard that I was looking for a job, and I didn’t have to try very hard to get the position. I guess you can say that I got lucky.
The somewhat-skilled gopher
Since this was my first job, I basically had no job-related skills going into this. However, that ended up being a non-issue, since one of the great parts of working for small companies, is that everyone wants to teach their new comrades how the business operates.
Before I knew it, I had the whole studio teaching me new things every day. That is, whenever I wasn’t running simple errands like taking out cardboard and sweeping the sidewalk.
In fact, most of the work I did could probably be labeled as “miscellaneous,” because I was just a glorified gopher for most of the time I was there. I had no problems with this, however, because I enjoyed it.
After a while, one of the biggest perks of working at a small business started to rear its head. I started to learn more, and so the position started to yield more variety in what I did.
There were a lot of different things I could be doing when I was at work. Eventually I learned how to use Adobe LightRoom and Adobe Photoshop to tweak photos before they were finalized. Sometimes I would be in the basement, listening to heavy metal music and framing portraits that customers had ordered. Other days I would be ripping apart the floors in the upstairs offices that the owners were planning on renting out.
Needless to say, my work felt a lot less robotic and redundant when I was working at the studio. This was a huge small business advantage. And variety, while being one of my favorite parts of the job, wasn’t the only bonus of working for a small company.
Bigger isn’t always better
So far every job that I’ve worked at has been for a different size company. Thus far, the “feel” at each one has been different, and the smaller business has been my favorite. It has a much more personal vibe to it, and even though I was just an assistant, I felt valued and appreciated.
Less employees mean that everyone is highly valued, and it’s likely that each employee is more specialized than they would be while working a low-level position at a smaller company.
Also, because there are less employees, everyone has more responsibility. For some people, this can be seen as a negative, but I loved it. Knowing that I had skills that other people didn’t gave me pride, and I felt like an important part of the small-business machine.
When I was working at the studio, I also got to see all aspects of the business. I was part of the customer experience from beginning to end, and it was extremely gratifying.
I feel that this is especially prevalent in photography, since I would see customers come in for a consultation, then a few weeks later I would be framing their final product and shrink-wrapping it for them to pick up.
Big-time lessons from a small-time company
At the larger businesses I’ve worked at, it’s all about efficiency. They want quality, but speed has been more important in my experience. When I worked at the photography studio, quality was always more important than anything else, and this is a small business advantage that makes small companies stand out from their larger competitiors.
This taught me the importance of quality, and that a quality product is what allows a business to stay small, yet be very successful. Everything in the customer’s buying process needs to be top-notch in order for a small company to succeed. These are important things to know at any business, because every business, big or small, needs their customers to keep coming back.