Career Advice

Do You Have The Personality To Work At A Small Business?

Small businesses and large corporations aren’t created equally, nor are the people that work for both types of businesses. A personality trait that may make you excel in a large corporation could ensure you crash and burn in a small company. Before you take a job at a small business, consider these six ‘must have’ personality traits:


For many people, before even getting their first job out of college they have their career path mapped out.  In five years they will be a manager and in ten years they will hold the president title. That’s great if you plan to work for a large company that has a clearly defined trajectory, but in a small business, titles and roles are less defined so you need to be flexible.

“In a small business, the ideal person is someone who doesn’t have a predetermined time line to exactly where they want to be in x number of years,” says Kathleen Downs, a recruiting manager at Robert Half International. “Small businesses aren’t constructed that way.”

2. Extrovert

If you crave interaction with co-workers, want to work in a family atmosphere and don’t care if the people around you know a lot about your personal life, then a small business is for you. Often small businesses are more social than large corporations simply because there are less people working in close proximity to each other. In a large company, you could go days or even weeks only interacting with your team or with no one if you have an independent job. “In some ways you give up your privacy,” says Susan Heathfield, the guide to human resources for “In a smaller company everyone knows what you are up to.”

3. Independent

When you work for a large corporation, chances are your job title will be narrowly defined. If you get a job in the accounting department, you’ll likely be doing some form of accounting work day in day out. At a small business, your job role may not be defined, leaving you to work with a level of autonomy. If you are the type that needs direction and hand holding, then a small business may not be right for you. “You live more by a job description in a large business,” says Chuck Fried, president and chief executive of TxMQ Inc., a technology staffing company. “In a small business, the job description is the starting point.”

4. Humility

When working for a small business, you need to leave your ego at the door. If you think a job is beneath you, then chances are you aren’t going to last long in a small business. Even if you were hired as the CFO of a small business, there’s great likelihood that you may have to make a trip to Kinkos to get copies or empty the trash can at the end of the day. At a large corporation all of those “not my job” duties are handled by someone else. “If you walk by a conference room, you clean it up,” in a small firm, says Fried.

5. Passionate

If you are primarily driven by compensation or need a top notch benefits package then a small business isn’t for you. People that thrive in small companies are those that have a passion about what the business is doing or about their role in the company. Small businesses can’t compete on compensation with their large brethren and typically that can’t offer the same benefits package. But they can give you the opportunity to take ownership of a project and see it to the end, giving you job satisfaction.

At a small company you “get to see the fruits of your labor,” says Heathfield. You’ll see the end result and the impact on the customer whereas in a large company you may be very removed from the customer, she says.

6. Positive Attitude

If you are the type to see the glass as half empty, are known to complain or possess a general bad attitude, then a small company may not be for you. That’s because your attitude can be infectious in a small company, either boosting or sapping morale from everyone around you. In a large company, you can complain and grumble or hunker down in your cubicle, but in a small company there’s little places to hide and your negative outlook could hurt morale and even result in you losing your job. “In a small company, the attitude you bring to work every day is much more important,” says Heathfield. “In a small company your attitude and outlook directly impacts so many co-workers.”