Three Enterprise vs. SMB Workplace differences

May 17, 2023

What do you need to know as you’re making the switch between small business and enterprise-sized organizations?

While a new job is exciting, the transition from a small firm to an enterprise-level organization or vice versa may come with some surprises. In a small firm, any individual worker can perform a wide range of duties and therefore have a greater impact relative to the size of the firm. Alternatively, highly specialized organizational structures tend to characterize enterprise-sized firms.

Although both large and small companies can have both positive and negative company cultures, there are some common cultural differences between small firms and large firms.

Read on to see the top 3 differences:

1. Structured onboarding

Larger firms tend to have structured onboarding and set probationary periods for all employees. For example, United Wholesale Mortgage requires all hired underwriters to take nine weeks of paid training before they start handling cases. These policies are fairly customary for big businesses. When a lot of people need to get on the same page, the easiest thing to do is to require they all take a standard program. (1), (2), (3)

2. More rigid delineation of responsibilities

Larger firms require employees to own more specific responsibilities. Perhaps that means owning one relationship with a sell-through partner as a full-time job. Perhaps that means owning specific sales accounts in a specific region. Perhaps that means working on a team called Acquisitions Specialists who conduct market research on the least expensive products so that when the branch director issues everyone their company-branded mug there is documentation to prove they chose the most cost-effective ceramic company. Specificity is archetypical of big business (4)

3. More legacy and process-oriented documentation

To enforce fair policies among many people, there needs to be standard rules and documentation: lots and lots of it. In a small company, personal relationships which create a sense of duty often suffice for standards enforcement, but that cannot work for a big company. Leaving policies up to chance might create legal exposure by not enforcing standards, or, worse, enforcing standards unfairly. Therefore, enterprises tend to rely more heavily on process documentation. (5), (6)

That is not to say that large companies are bureaucratic: often they’re not. The agile system of governance, for example, has served IBM, Microsoft, and Apple well, because that method of oversight functions as an antidote to the complacent fulfillment of expected duties. Moreover, don’t think that because you work in a large company you are not going to be able to nurture deep relationships. On the contrary, there are more people to connect with! Your team can feel like a small business, even in a huge enterprise organization.

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