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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 22, 2004

Small companies can provide big job opportunities

By Andrea Kay

I've been telling people for almost 20 years to look for job opportunities in places they wouldn't typically think of — at small companies.

Most workers only think to look at the heavyweights like General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft or some huge healthcare system. But small companies are where most jobs are created, based on everything I've seen. Not everyone agrees.

Debates keep popping up over whether big or small business is pushing growth, in part because " 'big business' has all the lobbyists in Washington and resources to get things done on their behalf," says John Putzier, author of "Get Weird! 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great Place to Work."

"With the exception of the 1950s, small business has always been responsible for more new jobs added to the economy than big business," Putzier says.

More than 90 percent of workers are employed by small businesses, he says.

"That's not intended to be a slap in the face of big business, but it is a stat that most people are shocked to know because it's usually the big Fortune 100 companies that are in the news the most."

They are also the ones with the big buildings, which in most people's minds, is equated with more jobs, stability, pay and benefits.

Big companies may take up more room. But with the sheer volume of small companies, the jobs add up, overshadowing the total employment of Fortune 100 or 500 companies, adds Putzier.

There's also disagreement on just what defines a small or large company.

"The Small Business Administration defines small business as one with less than 500 employees," says Ted Sun, business professor at the University of Phoenix.

Others, he says, believe that this number should be lower — more like 100 employees — with large-business bureaucracy kicking in once you get more than 100 people in one place. The SBA also says that what constitutes a small business definition varies from industry to industry.

So who really employs the most people?

Joshua Estrin, president of Concepts in Success, a small business in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., explains that according to the SBA's Office of Advocacy, small companies represent more than 99.7 percent of all employers, employing more than half of all private-sector employees and generating 60 percent to 80 percent of net new jobs annually.

But even though small businesses have traditionally created more jobs than big business, larger companies bring people back from layoffs and ramp up again in a growing economy, says Roger Herman of The Herman Group.

During tough times, though, "large firms are bound by hiring freezes across the entire company ... and small business is more free to look at each situation with a careful eye," says Sun.

So where should you focus your job search? My advice is to take all of these statistics with a grain of salt. First, look at the pros and cons of working for a small versus large company and decide what's best for you. Then look for companies — big or small — that are raring to grow and succeed.

Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to survival and growth. Find the healthy companies.

These are the ones who are innovative and savvy in the way they do business, poised to grow with state-of-the art technology and who understand what their customers want and can deliver it.

Instead of looking for the most opportunities, look for big or small companies that are doing their work in the most innovative ways. Those are the kinds of companies you want to work for.