In this candidate-driven market, where talented accounting professionals are receiving multiple job offers, an important decision they will need to make is whether they want to work for a large or small firm. Although common belief is that larger organizations offer the best of everything, the truth is that both large and small firms each have their advantages. So which is right for you? A large accounting firm or a small-to mid-sized business?
“There really is no right or wrong answer as to which is better,” says Laura Gutierrez, Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance Division. “It’s simply a matter of preference and what your professional goals are; which is why it’s important to know the differences between the two in order to find the best fit.”
Here are 3 key differences to consider when assessing which sized firm is right for you:
An accountant’s work environment can vary greatly across different companies depending on a variety of factors. For example, larger established firms are generally more traditional and tend to offer a more formal work environment, while smaller firms offer a more relaxed setting. Some may find that they enjoy working in a more formal work environment because they like the structure it offers, however, others may prefer a casual setting where they have a little more freedom with their day-to-day responsibilities.
Larger accounting firms, such as the Big 4, generally have a more corporate structure compared to smaller firms, and as a result, will have a taller corporate ladder to climb. This depth often allows more opportunities for mobility within the company throughout your career. For example, if you start off in an entry level position, there might be more opportunity to move into more senior roles, and potentially a partnership position. Therefore, if you like stability and are interested in staying with one company for the long run, a larger accounting firm may be best for you.
On the other hand, smaller firms have a more shallow corporate hierarchy allowing employees to work closely with upper management – enabling them to have more of a voice within the company and the opportunity to provide more input. Therefore, if your goal is to make an impact and get more exposure to decision makers, working at a smaller accounting firm may be a better fit.
It’s common to find that the extent to which your job function is defined is often reflected in the size of your organization. For example, the bigger the company you work for, the more defined your job function will be. This is due to the fact that there are more personnel to cover the necessary tasks to conduct business, allowing employees to specialize in one line of work. On the other hand, employees at smaller accounting firms often find themselves taking on a variety of responsibilities. For instance, at a larger accounting firm, you may specialize in one line of work and only work with private equity clients, while at a smaller firm, you might find yourself working with a variety of clients such as hedge funds, private equities, broker dealers, etc. Depending on whether you want a role that requires you to wear multiple hats, or a role where your responsibilities are more focused, there are different options for you.