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Submitted by alexdifiore on


I’m 27, been in the ‘real world’ for 4 years now and am facing an exciting opportunity. I’d like the M-T community’s perspective.

Straight out of school I began working for a multinational, publicly traded industrial minerals company. After 3 years, I moved to a domestic, well established, family run industrial supply company. Part of the reason I joined the new company was because they would pay 100% for business school, provided it was a night program. Since then, I’ve come to the personal conclusion that I can only do a full time program. Simply taking classes at night will not offer the same leadership experiences I’m looking for in an MBA experience.

I’ve always had it in my head, that I would do the ‘corporate thing’: get an MBA, work for a large company, and work my way up the leadership chain as high as possible.

However, an old mentor of mine has approached me with an opportunity in the consulting company he’s started. He has been a technology executive for years, and has decided to strike out on his own. We chatted over a meal recently and his concept is VERY exciting.

I believe I’m at an important decision point: do I continue down the ‘corporate’ path (MBA, large company, working my way up)? Or do I jump at the opportunity to help develop an exciting business from scratch?

What are your experiences? Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?

Thank you very much for any consideration you can offer!


stewartlogan's picture


Ultimately, the choice is yours.

I started in a small family business, then went off and was part of the cog that is a large organization. Now I own my own business, and I couldn't be happier.

I would have loved sales management for the large company where I worked, but we were looked at as the red-headed step-children after a merger. We were in the worst performing market (due to mis-management, but that isn't the point!) and were afforded little opportunity. Coincidentally, many of the managers who were performing were let go since they "wouldn't be willing to try the new way."

Now, I'm on my own. There are no corporate politics, except for what I feel is best for my people and my organization. I make decisions based on what is going to make life easier for our customers and aid us in attracting new clients.

Just my two cents, but I always enjoy a challenge. Owning and growing a small business is just that.

Good luck!

arc1's picture

If the opportunity is remotely sensible, seize it.

It might not come again. Jobs with large boring corporates certainly will.

jhack's picture

I've worked in both environments. Startups require great flexibility and an ability to swallow your pride (if the garbage needs to go out, you take it out....answer the phones....staple and collate...for this you need an MBA?). BTW, small companies have politics, too.

Your role will change, and if the company grows, you may find the scope of your responsibilities narrowing. This is where many folks flounder. You used to run all of operations and finance, now you just have finance. The company's three times larger, but it feels like your role is smaller (smaller percentage of a much larger pie).

And you'll be a generalist, having to know a little about everything.

At a large company, you'll be more specialized, and you'll be better at that one thing. You won't have to wear a lot of hats. The scope of your responsibilities will change more slowly, and it won't be narrowed (unless there are problems). You'll be more secure, and opportunities for large responsiblities may come your way.

Bottom line recommendation: follow your passion.


tcomeau's picture
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My wife has done both: She worked for a very large firm, and didn't like it. She started her own firm with a colleague, and it folded. She's now an associate in a small firm.

The big firm had lots of paperwork, done on forms somebody else designed. Her own firm had lots of paperwork, done on forms she designed. Her current form has lots of paperwork, done on forms she negotiates with her boss.

The big firm made lots of money, but she only got a little of it. Her own firm made very little money, but she got to keep all of it, until the end, when it quit making money entirely. Her current firm makes a medium size amount of money, and she gets a modest amount of it.

If you want to do something on your own, maybe even something that will change the world, and you think you can, do it. If you want to do the kind of thing small organizations simply can't do (building billion dollar space observatories, for example) find a place in a big organization where you can contribute.

But whatever size organization you end up in, what you learn here will help you. The size you pick, and the opportunities you grab, are up to you.


BartMasters's picture

Hi Alex,

I agree with arc1. If you have an opportunity for something exciting, daring, and possibly risky - give it a shot. It sounds like you are young and don't have a lot responsibilities (kids, mortgage etc), so if the consulting company goes belly up all you've lost is x months of your time, and you've gained a lot of very useful experience. If it goes well, then the sky's the limit.

And there are plenty of solid large corporate jobs out there - so there is always the opportunity to go back in there if you decide you don't like the smaller firm.

kenstanley's picture

My mentor told me about his Italian grandmother. She said three things:
1. Never pass a public toilet, you never know when you will find another.
2. Don't stand when you can sit.
3. Always do what makes your heart sing.

Sorry, I have to reiterate what the others have said. Do what you find most inspiring and interesting.


US41's picture

The big company job can wait. This opportunity cannot, and when you are older and more encumbered with family obligations, it will be much much harder to take such a risk. Take the risk now. Go for it.

TSY1512's picture
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The corporate life will always be there. Opportunities like this will NOT! THE TIME IS NOW! Arrange your life (finances, etc.) so that you can give this a shot.

Over the last year you have shared your work experiences and career goals with the Atlanta M-T meet-up group. I think your intelligence, drive and enthusiasm are not fully appreciated in the unique culture of your current company.

As you put it, this is a "VERY EXCITING" opportunity AND it's with a mentor - someone you know and respect. What are you waiting for?

(p.s. Was that clear? :lol: )

p.p.s. Yes, I'm encouraging you to "act now", but you know not to expect an immediate 360 change in your life. New businesses take time to build up. Who knows, with this "VERY EXCITING" idea, things may skyrocket, but plan for the hard work and uncertainty involved in a startup.