Five Things to Expect When Your Small Employer Becomes a Big Business

You're working at a small company. Everybody knows your name and you know theirs. Every day feels like casual Friday. You can stroll in whenever you want as long as you get your work done. Deals are made with a handshake.

Then one day this little company becomes a big business. Maybe it's because it was purchased by a larger corporation. Or perhaps Oprah mentioned how much she loves your company's widgets on one of her shows and orders went through the roof. However it happened, change is upon you. Suddenly, there's new staff and new procedures -- and possibly new owners. Will you be able to adapt?

This week, Job Tip of the Week offers five things to expect when your small employer becomes a big business.

1. More Pressure

A sudden increase in a company's size usually means a sudden increase in pressure on everyone -- from the CEO to an entry-level employee. A once laid-back management style may give way to an unforgiving one.

Expect to hear a lot about accountability and goal-setting - and then expect to be accountable for meeting those goals. The upside to this is that formal accountability will make it painfully obvious who's not pulling his weight. It also may motivate you to raise the bar for yourself and move up the ladder - now that there's actually somewhere to go.

2. More Procedure

When a company is small, decisions often get made on the fly. A conversation between you and the owner may have been all you needed to get a new product, new ad, or new hire greenlighted. Those days are long over.

All such decisions - and most others - will probably be decided by committee and will have to go through a formal (and often lengthy) approval process. You may feel as though you are losing a bit (or more) of your autonomy and that time is being wasted; however, the bright side of this is that you will not be held solely accountable if the decision turns out to be a poor one. In other words, there's safety in numbers.

3. More Meetings

At most companies, meetings are a part of the daily culture, but none more so than big companies. So get ready.

Some meetings may seem like interrogations; you could be repeatedly asked whether or not you're on track to meeting your goals. Don't take it personally; everyone is accountable to someone else now, including management.

Also, keep in mind that when you're asked to attend a meeting, it is often because a co-worker doesn't know exactly how to do something. He wants your advice. Are the resources, the technology, and the budget available to make a project happen? Do people think this is a good idea? Consider your attendance as such meetings a nod to your know-how and imagination.

4. More Formality

A new corporate structure often yields new rules that will rub a lot of folks the wrong way. Even the hippest of small companies lose their laissez faire attitudes when they expand.

What this means is you can expect stricter office hours. A dress code may be forthcoming. Lunch hours and your comings and goings from work could be monitored. Expense reports will get extra scrutiny. Your sick and vacation days will be closely counted.

Take heart: Knowing where everyone is will actually help you do your job better. You won't have to sit around waiting for Joe the Slacker to roll in at noon to help you with a project. Nor will you have to sit idly by while Jane the Spendthrift takes all her clients to four-star restaurants on a regular basis on her expense account.

5. More Perks and Protection

Sure, your time in and out of the office is being monitored more closely. But having a formal human resources department and all the procedures that go with it actually work to your benefit.

No longer can your small-biz boss tell you that a raise just isn't in the budget. Most large companies budget at least for annual cost-of-living increases even in the leanest times. Bigger businesses are also more likely to have better healthcare (dental, anyone?), more generous retirement plans, and profit sharing.

Also, having an HR rep to speak to confidentially about issues with co-workers (or your boss) makes it easier to air your complaints and get help with professional or personal issues that are affecting your performance.

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