When I was going through the recruiting process in my final years of college, I had a hard time deciding whether I wanted to work at a large or a small firm. I talked to firms of all sizes and accepted an offer with a small firm in Tampa, Florida. Now that it is a few years later, I think I made the right choice for myself. But after working for a few years I now think the size of the firm is less important. I now realize that it is more important to me that I enjoy my work and that I continue to gain experience and grow professionally. These are a few of the experiences I have gained while working at a small firm…
When I am asked if I have any specializations, I usually say no. I was usually assigned work depending on what had come into the office. If I ever felt like I was missing experience in certain areas I would ask and usually was able to work on projects if they became available. This would apply even outside of taxation. Often our clients had needs outside of typical tax preparation and even outside accounting in order to run their businesses. I think this gave me some unique experiences that gave me a broader perspective of managing small businesses.
Small firms tend to have less hierarchical structures. The firm with which I started working had no titles and a very flat structure. I worked directly with my firm’s partners and often worked directly with our clients. This was hard for me when I first started but I began to enjoy working with clients as I gained confidence and experience. I also had very little formal training and had to learn on the job. Many larger firms have more resources and more formal training programs, which I think can be helpful especially for recent graduates with little work experience. However, in spite of receiving very little formal training, I think I learned better how to solve problems and how to find answers on my own.
Small firms generally will have fewer, if any, publicly traded companies as clients. I think this is a particularly important consideration. Some employers will look for this experience in their hiring decisions. Although I have not worked with any publicly traded clients, I have enjoyed working with smaller business owners. Often, these business owners have little knowledge of accounting. This can be challenging but it also presents opportunities to create value. By helping clients with their financials, we can help them run their business effectively and understand how they are performing.
Jill McSpadden, CPA
Okaloosa Gas District