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small company owner's opinions wanted

small company owner's opinions wanted

small company owner's opinions wanted

Hello, I'm not starting or running an engineering business, but I am interviewing at a small consulting firm that's been around for 20 years. I've only worked for large companies, so I hoped some people who run their own small consulting companies could provide some advice on interviewing.

1. I am interviewing for a staff job with a small amount of experience required, yet the interview is with the owner, who is a published subject-matter expert. What traits do you as biz owners most value in employees? Obviously, I can't match him on subject matter knowledge & experience.

2. I don't want to cross the line when asking about the business. Is it inappropriate to ask about questions about the future business plans, like "Why did you discontinue business in X?" "Do you plan to get involved in Y?" The large companies I work for share this info with employees, and I answered these questions for interviewees who asked.

3. My bennies are excellent. What's "normal" for a small company?

Any other tips or stories of stupid interviewees are welcome. I am sure I'll be quite out-of-sync with small company culture.

RE: small company owner's opinions wanted

First of all, I hope you are relaxed and interview like it is a professional discussion between two people.  I only have a real opinion on item # 2, based on experience at large and small companies.  

I think you have to read the owner - it is more about people than who they are professionally or the even the company or industry.  Some people are open and like the questions since it means you are interested in the long term as well as the short term.  Others are more reserved and you have to pick that up early in the discussion.  Hopefully, there is a little small talk so you can get that read.  And do not be afraid to use a little humor to relax the interviewer - who is probably also a little nervous.  If he is not moved by your humor, assuming it is appropriate, that may tell you alot about the person.

Good luck.

Don Phillips

RE: small company owner's opinions wanted


You should be as concerned about the future of the company as they are about hiring you.  You should ask pointed questions about the business plan, where the company is going, what the startegies are, how much growth they had this year, last year, expectations for next year, who are the major clients, what is the backlog of work.

Personally as a very small business owner, it would not bother me in the least, in fact if I were interviewing someone and had a small business, in this market place, I would be selling myself to the candidate as much as he was selling himself to me (if I thought he were someone I wanted).

Benefits for a smaller company will vary widely, but small comanies are a little more flexible in what they can and will do for employees.  If he wants to hire you, you know what you have, you'll know what he's offering, set up a spreadhseet on it and do an analysis.  If somthing sticks out, ask about it.

Chances are, he'll be looking for someone with a good attitude and that is flexible (apart from direct skills for the job).  Working for a small business (and I don't know how you define small in this case, 5 people, 20, 100), but you have to be flexible.  You can't always hire a person for every slot a larger company can, but you have baiscally the same needs, so you have to be able to wear a different hat or 2, but more importantly be willing to do so.

My 2 cents.

Greg Lamberson, BS, MBA
Consultant - Upstream Energy
Website: www.oil-gas-consulting.com

RE: small company owner's opinions wanted

My last 4 positions have been at small companies.

I have learnt that to interview you future boss as much as he interviews you, not only conveys confidence and genuine interest, but also gives you a better understanding of the role that you will be entering into.

I find that small company owners tend to treat people more like equals than at large companies.

An ideal employee, in my opinion, would be one that could work with a good deal of autonomy on the majority of tasks, but would be willing to admit it when something is out of their depth.

Dont be intimidated by the guy, he does not know everything, and he was once just like you.


RE: small company owner's opinions wanted

A job interview should be a two way exchange of information.

You should sell yourself to the company and the company should sell itself to you.

Ask about the company’s future plans and prospects. If you join the company then these are also your future plans and prospects. Most owners will talk at length about their plans for their ‘baby’

If the owner gets upset about your questions when you ask them in a respectful and professional manner then losing a job opportunity at that firm is not too much of a loss as it doesn’t sound like a good place to work for in the first place.

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion

RE: small company owner's opinions wanted

I am President and Owner of a small (23 employees) consulting civil, mechanical and electrical engineering firm.  We have recently hired an EE with 24 years experience from Houston, Texas.  We flew he and his wife to ABQ for his interview; provided a rental car, nice hotel and gave them the option of staying an extra day or two to have a chance to look at our city and check out housing, schools, etc. Our offer, $95k/year with bonus (based on projects he brings in & productivity), 2 weeks paid vacation, sick leave, personal leave, 401K, profit sharing, 100% medical/dental paid by the company. The company pays for his license renewal in our home state and any other states we ask him to be licensed in; paid time off for PDH's, membership in up to 3 professional associations and $5,000 toward moving expenses.

What we look for?  Someone that is motivated, energetic, productive, experienced, team oriented, willing to put in long hours if needed, understands the importance of QA/QC, quality work, multi tasker-will think outside of the box, a desire to help the company succeed, unselfish, accepts direction and assigned projects with a positive attitude and outlook, accepts assigned tasks and projects without hesitation or complaint, gracious and respectful attitude, loyalty, markets the firm....to name a few.

Quirky requirements:  must be tolerant of bird-our macaw is in the office about once a week-she stays with me but can get loud; non-smokers preferred.

Starting with our runner up through our Principle engineers, we expect all the employees to contribute what is necessary to get the work done and out the door.  Everyone is treated equally-prima donna's are shown the door.

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