In this article we explore whether you would thrive in a larger or smaller company. We suggest you ask yourself questions about your motivation and risk tolerance.
President, JB Homer Associates
by Louis Gerzofsky
Director, Technology Recruiting & Executive Coaching
When we assess a candidate's potential fit during a C level search, core competency is only one of our considerations. Along with chemistry and culture and many other elements there is one key factor that can be the differentiator for us in the selection process: motivation. Is the candidate moving towards our client's opportunity or doing his level best to escape from an unsuccessful predicament?
This discussion will center around the reasons why a senior executive might engage in an interview process with a company that's either much smaller or much larger than his current employer. What are the likely questions that a potential employer might ask you? And, most importantly, what are the questions you should be asking of yourself?
Here are two scenarios that address some of the specific questions and concerns you should be prepared to address:
You are moving from a large organization to a much smaller enterprise: You might be interested in joining a company that reminds you of an earlier and happier point in your career when you were helping a new company grow. Perhaps you now find yourself mired in a steady state - or declining - budgetary environment. Has the bureaucracy in your large company turned basic decision making into a Byzantine process? Or does the company you are considering exist in a vertical for which you have always had a special passion?
If your company is in a steady state budgetary environment, will it dwarf that of your prospective employer? How will you move the needle with fewer resources than what you've grown accustomed to? Even though you don't like the bureaucratic nature of your mammoth organization, someone may wonder if you have become a victim of 'bureaucratic capture' (i.e., You might have developed habits and expectations that will make the transition to a smaller, more nimble, more cost conscious environment especially challenging).
You are moving from a small organization to a much larger enterprise: What is your management style? Are you a micromanager? Are you a delegator extraordinaire? What is your track record when it comes to building your team of direct reports? A large team needs an executive with the ability to effectively deploy and lead people who may work in dispersed locations.
Self -awareness matters: Know your unique abilities and then surround yourself with people whose strengths and passions are different from your own (e.g., If you're more of a strategic, big picture thinker you may wish to hire executives who are more tactical and delivery oriented). Successful executives are only as good as the teams with which they surround themselves. Leading a much larger organization will mean there will be many people whom you barely know. Will you miss the familiarity and rapport that aided your success in your current company? Your ability to delegate will be sorely tested in a much larger organization. The challenges and opportunities will fly at you at a much faster rate. That may sound like an exciting way to accelerate your learning curve but your margin for error - particularly as the new executive on the block - will be much smaller. Is this the type of risk you're prepared to experience?
I've asked these questions because there really isn't one right or wrong answer to them. Depending upon the circumstances, you may be the ideal candidate to assume the lead in a much larger or smaller organization than the one you're currently running. Over the past twenty years, we have participated in many success stories in which executives take a big leap up or down in organization size -- and you might be one of them. I would appreciate any anecdotes or advice that you might have on the subject.