Should I Work for a Large or Small Contractor

Posted by Rob Riggins

Mike BruniWhat do you want from your job? Security? Resources to accomplish your goals? Autonomy?

One of the things for you to consider when seeking a new cleared job is the size of the firm that you want to work for. We recently asked Mike Bruni, Director of Talent Acquisition at SC3, about some of the things cleared job seekers should consider when deciding what size company is right for them.

Advantages of Larger Firms

The pros of working for a larger company are recognition on a bigger stage, a larger support structure with fully fleshed out departments such as Marketing or HR, and larger budgets to accomplish your goals. You’ll have more resources whether it’s someone helping you with technological issues or others immediately recognizing your company name. It’s often a good solution for those who prefer a larger team environment.

For example as a recruiter, you would have a full suite of resources at your fingertips whether that is technology, job fairs, job boards or other channels to source and hire new employees. You’ll have many peers that you can interact with and bounce ideas off. There is a lot more diversity in the types of positions you’re seeking to fill.

Disadvantages of Larger Firms

In a larger firm you are one of many and you would not typically have access to senior executives. Larger firms are inherently more bureaucratic due to process and policy, so it takes longer to get things done.

In the Intelligence Community some of the most sought after talent are not drawn to larger companies as they are seeking smaller, specialized firms.

Advantages of Smaller Firms

Teams are smaller and there is more spotlight on you so you have more ability to shine. New ideas are reviewed and implemented more quickly and you may interact with the senior executives in the firm. From a branding perspective the mission of the organization is more tight-knit which some cleared professionals prefer.

You’ll often have more autonomy and flexibility in a small company than in a large company. On the whole they are more experimental, will try to do things faster, and are less risk averse to try new strategies, although that is not always the case.

Smaller firms specialize in a niche capability that they are known for. So while the brand recognition may be smaller, it might be of a higher quality. Large primes do a lot of things, but smaller niche companies fill a gap that a large company likely doesn’t specialize in.

Disadvantages of Smaller Firms

With smaller firms budgets are smaller and you often have to wear many different hats. Each individual has to pull their own weight, have multiple responsibilities, and be more self-sufficient. Your job description likely will be less defined. Some people like that and some don’t.

Another disadvantage of a smaller firm is you are more likely to be purchased. You may love your small company, but it may be acquired and if so, you’ll likely be incorporated in the larger company.

What are Some Issues that Job Seekers May Not Realize

Smaller firms may have better overall benefits packages. There are a smaller number of employees so your group rates and such tend to be less and you can get more creative and more competitive benefit packages.

In the Intelligence Community small can also benefit you due to the trend to small business set asides. Quite a bit of work being put out for competitive bid is for small businesses only. That narrows the competitive field in a lot of cases.

Which is Safer When a Contract is Lost or Layoffs Loom

With a larger contractor should there be a layoff they can absorb the staff better if they have a diverse portfolio. Smaller companies don’t have the overhead room in the case your staff is affected with a contract cut. They can’t keep folks while trying to find them something else to do. At a large company that is not guaranteed, but chances of being held on overhead or finding an alternative position in the company is a much higher probability.

What if I’m an On-Site Employee

Some companies have a good reputation with communication for on-site employees and some don’t. Larger firms have more structured programs, but they may or may not be implemented well. When companies do it well those folks tend to have lower turnover and higher retention than a company that just puts their employees out there and doesn’t do much. In that case the professional is more connected to the mission and customer than they are to their employer. Aside from a paycheck, they may rarely hear from their actual employer. As you would expect, that is reflected in a higher turnover rate.

Where is it Better to Build Your Career

Chances are with a smaller company you’ll have more autonomy and flexibility to make your mark. If you’re a leader and you like to drive initiative and contributing ideas, chances are better at a smaller company. It allows you to get your hands into a lot of different pots. It can be a good training ground to create a more well-rounded professional, with broad knowledge.

However if you want to specialize and go deep in a particular subject or skill set, you may be better served at a larger firm where roles are more defined and specialized.

I’m Transitioning Military, Do I Go Big or Small

Transitioning comes down to the ability of the company, how dedicated they are to helping, and their reason for hiring.

Small firms can be more focused and targeted so expect more attention and handholding in a smaller company. But some larger firms have great mentoring and onboarding for transitioning military.

For someone coming out of the military there are a lot of unknowns and you’re going from a highly structured environment to one where it’s on your shoulders. Companies that take the time to orient and mentor you, whether they are big or small, will position you for success.


This entry was posted on Monday, April 18, 2016 9:19 am

One thought on “Should I Work for a Large or Small Contractor”

  1. Here are two other disadvantages to working for a small company that are related to benefits, and which I have experienced:

    1. For two different small companies that I worked for, I was declared and HCE, i.e., a “highly compensated employee” in the 401(k) plan, and even though I put in less than the maximum annual amount, I had to take out a significant amount — and had to pay taxes on it. So, even though we’ve all been told to save as much as possible for retirement, I wasn’t able to with these two small companies.

    2. I’m turning 65 years old this year, and will have to sign up for Medicare (even though I’m not going to retire). I found out that if you work for a company with less than 20 employees, you have to sign up for Part B which has a premium. Currently, I have free health insurance, and will have to start paying that premium which will likely be over $100 per month. If I worked for a larger company, I would have to option to stay on the company’s health insurance plan.

    If I had to do it over, I would have worked for larger companies.

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