General discussion


Preference for MNCs over SMEs

By lists.moriah ·
Over the past two weeks I have been in discussion with people who wants to make a move in their career, as well as those who choose to stay.

One of the recurring themes that arose in our discussion is that the majority of people gravitate towards employment with MNCs over SMEs. The reason is due to a few perceptions, summarized as follows:-
1) Get a better overview when join a MNC
2) Stability
3) Can be a consultant
4) Have overseas projects

Being the highly curious person that I am, I was not able to accept the points just at face value. (I mean come on, who hasn't heard of all those "reasons"before .. probably it has appeared in a blog somewhere and people have been reciting it off as if they were answering a test question).

I've attempted to recompile all my interviews and put it in a dialogue below so that it is more readable.

Q: What do you mean by overview?
A: Just the overview. You know, how everything works.
Q: Why is it important for you to know the overall or overview?
A: Well, I just want to know what is the overview. I guess I can work better then.
Q: Fair enough. And you think that by joining an MNC, you will be able to have an overview of things. And that if you joined a SME, you will not be able to get an overview?
A: Yeah.. that's right. MNCs are big - so you get the big picture.

Here is where the misconception lies. MNCs are BIG. You want to have a Big Picture, join the MNC. BIG>BIG>BIG.

In my observation, the truth is that the only people who ever sees the BIG PICTURE in organizations big or small is usually the boss or the key-man e.g. the businessman behind the business. The closer you are to the key-man, the more you see. Big organizations that are run efficiently are very specialized in their departmental functions. Everyone has specific roles/jobs and where people rarely know each other well, a lot of control measures have to be put in - therefore, you can't really cross over and do the jobs assigned for a different section. Wherein lies the argument for overview in an MNC?

On the contrary, SMEs operate very tightly and many times, every employee including the boss is expected to wear different hats at different times. The person doing the accounts is also the person paying your check and monitoring the marketing budget as well as doing sales... as well as running the company. The technical person is expected to plan and lay out networking cables around the office floor, be the help desk, tune the database and server as well as perform application development functions. You don't just see the "overview", you are practically drenched in it. You do not need to go and request to be involved in more areas, it comes after you. Like it or not.

Or perhaps there is another definition of overview which I am missing out? Do post me a reply so that we can discuss about it.

Q: What do you mean by stability?
A: You know, financial strength of the company.
Q: How is that important to you?
A: MNCs paycheck is bigger than SMEs/ I want to make sure I get my salary every month.

I think the above are valid reasons and I wouldn't contend much. However, I would also like to point out that one of the primary contributors to any country's economy is the SME industry whether it is in the US or Malaysia. Check out the stats for yourself. It is also a known fact amongst many SME business owners that one of the worst paymasters for credits are MNCs. Many times, SMEs are unfairly accused of financial instability when the fact to the matter is that they happen to be at the receiving end of a business chain. A lot of SMEs get orders/ outsourced projects from MNCs (and some governmental organization). They finish the job and then, the MNCs/government delay their payment. When they call up the MNCs/gov for collection purposes, many departmental staff throw the company's weight around instead of making haste to honor the payments. Some will, upon completion of the job or delivery, start to find various reasons to discount off the price originally agreed upon. Of course, I'm only referring to some MNCs and not all of them. I am sure there are also a lot of SMEs that have been mismanaged in a similar manner and are equally guilty of causing a chain reaction of "financial instability" in the economy.

Therefore, what I am arguing here is that having a MNC status does not necessarily augment a company's financial position from one that is unstable to one that is. It does not happen automatically.

Now let's take a look at the second reason behind the Stability argument. "MNCs paycheck is bigger than a SME". This isn't necessarily so. I have known of people who have worked with MNCs for years whose pay is only half of what they should be receiving out there in the market. I have also known of talented people who have worked only a year in SME companies whose take home pay can easily match those who have worked 3 years in an MNC. Note however, that I said "TALENTED PEOPLE".

MNC's paycheck isn't necessarily bigger than what a SME can pay. What is true, however is that there are more managerial positions/ senior management positions available (in numbers) in a MNC than what is available in a SME. Now if we put that in ratios, Management Staff:Total Staff, it's a different story. But that is another matter ?. Coming back, let's peel off all the perceived hoo-hah's and get down to details.

MNC's paycheck is bigger than SMEs. Say John Doe was evaluated by an independent Recruitment Consultant and be qualified to have the competencies of managing finances of up to RM200K, and a set of responsibilities. Now place John Doe in a SME, what would likely be his title? Director of Finance perhaps? Now take John Doe and place him in a MNC. What would likely be his title? Finance Manager perhaps? Now look at what John Doe says, "MNC's paycheck is bigger than the SME. In a MNC, the Director of Finance is getting an annual package of RM300k plus car etc, while in the SME, the Director of Finance is only getting RM120K and he drives his own car". Does this sound familiar? It is unfortunate but a lot of people have gotten into the bandwagon of shallow debates without investigating the facts. Beware. We live in a day where even the receptionist is called a consultant. We have gotten so far on the path of self-denial and inferiority complex that we can't even tell ourselves and those around us what we do with pride and honesty. In an ideal economy, people will be paid for their ideal worth which equals honest competency. The rest is either an act of grace or some form of bribe. (ok ok? I think I'm beginning to go a bit far here.. But hey, the internet is a free "country" right .. )

Q: You want to be a consultant?
A: Yes.
Q: What do you mean by consultant?
A: You know, go out and meet people, gather their requirements, advise them on what to do and not really do the details. Can you get me a consultant job? (this is a person with <1 year's experience).

This is something that really leaves me flabbergasted. The fresh grad comes out and wants to be a consultant. A one year technically experienced person wants to be a business consultant right now? Let us get back to basics again and define CONSULTANT. At the core of it, honestly speaking, a consultant is supposedly the guy/girl who gives sound advise to another party based on his/her experience or training. Of course we can have many levels of consulting, you have the junior consultants, senior consultants, associate consultants? whatever ? again it's all titles, titles, titles? what is the truth?

I think it is valid for someone to tell me that it is his/her objective to become a consultant in the next 5-10 years and that right now, he/she is moving on the path towards that. What I feel is invalid is that the trained plumber comes to me and says that he wants to fix my home's electrical wiring tomorrow. :-s Talk about being confused. What really freaks me is the end statement - and NOT do the details? Heck, can you understand my phobia about getting advice from "consultants". As if it's not enough that the plumber has ambitions of becoming the electrical consultant tomorrow, he doesn't want to even put his hands on it and hopes to advise and have somebody else carry out his instructions!! I need panadol.

Q: You want to join the MNCs because they said there is overseas assignment?
A: Yes!
Q: Why do you want to go overseas?
Various Answers:
- I can go on holidays! / I can go to many countries and not pay for the airflight.
- Do they pay per diems?

Some answers with better integrity:
I would like to experience working with people of different cultures...
Q: Why would you like to experience working with people of different cultures?
A: It's just an experience I'd love to have..
Q: What do you intend to do with that multi-cultural experience?
A1: Huh? I don't know? I just want the experience.
A2: I can use that experience when I work with people from other cultures ?

I do post-mortem interviews for those who gave me the second answer? after finding out that some of them do not enjoy working with people of different cultures at all, I repeated the same question. This time, the answer I got was - "I went for the per diems".

The motivation for outstation/overseas assignments for the majority frightens me. If I were the shareholder of the company with lots of outstation assignments and per diems paid out, I'd quickly find ways to take my money elsewhere? before the years catch up on bad company culture or before I become part of the cause /source of financial instability in the economy (read the financial stability point above).

I'm sorry if I happen to bruise a few big guys out there today but having heard all these things about SMEs, I can't help but feel defensive for the underdogs - the SMEs. SMEs have a very important role to play in every economy and it isn't fair that they get such bad publicity all because they put in very little money into branding and marketing and more money into prudent investments. I'm sure all business owners work very very hard for business profitability, be it MNC business owners or SME business owners. One thing I would like to highlight is ownership and competent leadership. If we were to put a score on each and every employee in a company for ownership and competent leadership, I am sure the ratio of those who make the mark in a SME is higher than that found in MNC. That's my two cents for the day.

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