Recently while out walking the dog I had a great conversation with a colleague on the difference between the corporate world and the world of the business owner, something that I have quite a bit of experience with over my own career.
Having come from a family of small business owners, brought up working in my parent’s small business, married into another small business, and spent most of my professional life working in the corporate world, I think it is fair to say I have quite a balanced view of both environments. If I were to say they are chalk and cheese, it would not come close to describing how different the environments are to work in, there is an honesty in both from a different perspective and what perspective fits you, varies on you as a person and the stage you are in your life and your career journey.


As I said, I have worked for much of my professional life in corporate environments in varying industries. The formal learning and teaching in these environments are very strong, the opportunity to learn and develop through training and further education is there if you want it. Structure, hierarchy, clear direction is some of the fundamental approaches you will have in the corporate world. Through this structure you will learn to become the best in your field but only if you really want to! The honesty is this world is in the people you work alongside every day. The relationship you have with your colleagues, the reliance you put on them to back you and have your back, how they get to know you and you knowing them, to enable the agreed objectives to be met and navigate through the politics of the corporate environment.


This environment is what I’ve known through family business and my early years as an accountant, what you learn in the SME is that there is no division between personal and business for the owners, it’s one and the same, you learn how to work with and for people who depend on you to deliver because if you don’t it directly impacts the availability of funds to pay the bills. This is a very different world, where everyone is valuable and can be difficult to replace, it is a world where learning and development are through experiences rather than formal teaching. The honesty in small business is where the owners declare help is needed and the team responds with loyalty, no carrot or stick just an honest relationship where people depend on each other, but not without its politics either, where flamboyancy and eccentricity would not be unexpected in the owner/managers.

There are many I have met in my career who have transitioned from one world to the other and back again, thinking the grass is always greener on the other side. My learning is that the grass is different, once you know that and can anticipate the differences and have the flexibility to adjust you can fit to either world. Those that have experienced both worlds are well rounded in their experience and very valuable to the organisations they choose to share their experience and mature with.

Noella Carroll
Managing Director, Pinnaklo Ltd