Date posted: 08/11/2022

What's it like working for... a small business?

Is working for a small business right for you? Learn how your accounting skills can work in any business, no matter the size.

An accounting degree can lead to diverse career pathways in organisations of all shapes and sizes. Each has unique characteristics and benefits but knowing the right fit for you can be a challenge.

If you’re after ample exposure, hands-on experience and access to mentors – a small business could be the perfect workplace to hone your skills and develop your career.

Finding a work environment where you can thrive after university can be tricky. For many accountants, small businesses provide a gateway to gaining experience, confidence and connections in the early stages of their career.

Gabriel Sedlak is a Provisional Chartered Accountant working at Koh, an eco-certified, allergy-friendly, and high-performance home cleaning products brand established in 2016. Having recently moved from a larger corporation into a full-time accounting role with Koh, Gabriel has realised the benefits of working for a smaller organisation.

Gabriel Sedlak

With that in mind, let’s explore some of the key reasons why a small business could be the best place to start your accounting career.

A holistic view of finance

If you value context, curiosity and working with a tight-knit team, it’s likely a small business environment will be an effective place to pursue your career goals.

According to GradAustralia, smaller companies allow employees to work across a broad range of industries and clients while offering a more tailored and personalised service – opportunities that don’t always arise in larger firms.

For Gabriel, working in a small business helped activate his curiosity, willingness to get involved and an ability to connect day-to-day tasks to the business outcomes at Koh.

“If you’re someone who likes to investigate, roll up your sleeves and learn, a smaller company will offer you support and provide that exposure to fulfill those areas of interest,” Gabriel says.

“We analyse everything From Financial reporting, taxation, payroll. We do it all.”

Workplace culture perks

Another advantage of small business is relationship building and opportunities to strengthen interpersonal skills - areas Gabriel has gained exposure to at Koh because of the close-knit nature of the team.

Gabriel says these relationships can follow you throughout your career and provide critical mentoring opportunities.

“If I had to start my career all over again, I would choose a smaller company with good mentors,” he says. “If you have good mentors, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot.”

Gabriel also points out that public accounting firms have a reputation for long hours and a heavy workload. While few of us want to shy away from hard work, the desire to strike a good work-life balance is stronger than ever.

“It’s very much dependent on personality and what someone wants for themselves and their career,” Gabriel says. “But in small business, you tend to have a better balance between your professional and personal life.”

Advice for graduates?

If the perks of working in a small business have piqued your interest, you may be contemplating where to start. Gabriel’s advice is simple, “Get an internship as soon as possible,” he says.

“The earlier you get exposure, the earlier you’ll get to learn, network and find your footing.”

Gabriel also says gaining a solid technological foundation from the Chartered Accountants designation has helped him to stand out in the accounting industry.

“Account information systems are very important but the good old Excel and some coding skills, they've been a game-changer for me, especially when it’s a complex format and when you can format things in a way the board of directors would like to see, this kind of skill is extremely important.”

However, Gabriel recommends that graduates don’t concern themselves with becoming specialists right away – especially where small firms and businesses are concerned. Small businesses provide graduates flexibility and exposure to a wide range of specialities prior to locking one in. Therefore, Gabriel suggests becoming a generalist first and a specialist second.

“Good generalists in the market will always have a good job, offers and opportunities,” he says. “Take the time to find your interests and passions.”

Gabriel adds that a continued focus on accounting fundamentals is paramount to success.

“Accountants experience more day-to-day problems on the basic side than on the complex - what may seem the simplest is often the most important,” he says.

“Don’t forget the Accounting Principles. Review as much as possible because that will be the key to a very bright future.”

Achiever Programme

See yourself working in small business and want to get your foot in the door? Take a look at our Achiever Programme and apply for an internship today.

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