Whilst the advantages of working for a large business construction dispute business seems to be universally acknowledged, the benefits of working for a smaller one are often less obvious to some. It is apparent to me that many candidates shy away from opportunities with small to medium sized dispute and expert witness consultancies in favour of the large and more established names in the market. So, let’s take a look at the potential benefits of working for a smaller consultancy in the construction disputes sector.
1. Exposure to a varied workload
One of the most evident differences can be the day-to-day duties within your role. Large consultancies tend to work like a well-oiled machine, with each cog often responsible for their unique role within the process. However, with a smaller business roles can be less defined.
For example, it’s not uncommon for large disputes consultancies to split their business up into teams of staff working under individual experts on specific disputes. Therefore, for large periods, you could work solely with a small team of staff on an exclusive assignment carrying out a very specific task.
However, for a smaller consultancy, it is common to work in more of a collaborative way as a business. Drafting in members of the quantum team to help with the delay team and vice versa. Hence, giving you more varied experience which could give you more career options later in your career.
2. Flexibility on salaries, bonuses & pay rises
Smaller consultancies typically have less or no HR involvement when it comes to making contract offers. They often are not restricted by the strict salary bands and red tape relating to salary, bonuses & pay rises that larger consultancies are governed by.
This can mean that salaries are truly negotiable and this can particularly suit highflying candidates or candidates who do not neatly fit into the typical hierarchy of job titles you may be used to seeing in larger organisations.
I have certainly seen evidence of small businesses offering salaries outside the industry norm to secure their talent, as well as showing flexibility on package and bonuses such as guaranteed first year bonuses.
Everyone wants to feel valued at work, and if you're taking on more responsibility and feel that a pay rise is necessary; you do not want to be told you have to wait 10 months until the next company pay review comes around. With a small consultancy, you often have the flexibility to have a sensible discussion with your management about these matters knowing that something could be actioned immediately if deemed reasonable.
3. Involvement in strategic decisions
It is far more likely that you will be working closer to the management of the business whilst working for a smaller business. This can a refreshing change compared to a larger business where you may only see the senior management several times a year or never in some cases.
The benefits of this could be that with day-to-day interaction with senior management, you can at least be aware of strategic decisions being made within the business, if not part of the decision making process. As opposed to finding out about such decisions after they have been made, via an email on a Monday morning.
Being involved in, or even being aware of these types of scenarios can help your understanding of how and why important decisions are made. This can be a great learning curve for when you reach the stage of your career where you have responsibility for making these strategic decisions. It can also give you a sense of making a difference within the business that can sometimes be lacking for larger consultancies.
The HR Partner of one of the leading London based disputes consultancies once told me that when interviewing for senior positions, they are looking for people with ideas, not just the experience to do a role.
Being around strategic decision makers and having input in such decisions could help you develop these ideas.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying there are better promotion opportunities for a smaller company as it’s not as simple as that. Some larger companies we work for have fantastic schemes to enable career progression. However, I would feel comfortable saying that it is often easier to get noticed for hard work, showing initiative and other similar good qualities which can go unnoticed or unrewarded with a larger businesses.
This is yet another benefit attributed to having direct contact with management. Getting noticed for your performance tends to be easier. With large companies there are often layers of mid-management levels all looking to climb the corporate ladder and getting recognition from anyone other than your direct line manager can be difficult.
5. Promotions and rapid career growth
Following on slightly from the previous point, one of the common characteristics of smaller consultancies who enlist our services for finding talent, is that they have ambitious growth plans.
When a business grows at such a rapid rate, it can create exciting career opportunities for those who join the business at the right time. Not only are you more likely to be noticed by senior management in a smaller business, but the opportunities it can create unparalleled opportunities.
A common example of this in the disputes sector can be when a candidate is not getting opportunities to act as the lead testifying expert within their current employer. Maybe their employer’s workload only sustains enough work for their existing experts. Even when there is an opportunity, there are multiple people queueing up for it. Hence limiting your own chances of ever getting a shot at the role.
With a smaller growing business you may see more opportunity and less competition for such an opportunity.
6. Feeling like being a contributing factor to businesses success
As I eluded to earlier, many larger consultancies in the construction disputes sector work in teams within separate divisions of the business. With each doing their own thing it can be hard to grasp what other areas of the business are doing and how the business as a whole is performing.
It’s more common for me to hear a candidate from a smaller organisation telling me one of their biggest achievements was being an integral part of their business’s yearly growth for example.
Whereas a candidate from a larger organisation may talk of a specific achievement within their team or division.
For some, feeling part of a business’s success and the sense of achievement it can bring, is vital to their job satisfaction and can do a lot for their confidence and development. I find that can give you something to talk passionately about in future interviews, which can only be a plus.
I work with some fantastic clients that are large dispute businesses and have global offices around the world and who offer great construction disputes careers. However, the above themes demonstrate that the smaller and lesser known or certainly less obvious delay, quantum and dispute consultancies also have a lot to offer to ambitious career minded construction professionals.
Many of the smaller sized dispute and claims consultancies have been pushing forward with opportunities to recruit talent in the current potentially uncertain times, and have been proactively dealing with the logistics of remotely on-boarding new starters really successfully.
At Maxim, we’ve identified these smaller businesses that are likely to be the big success stories of tomorrow. If you’d like to discuss these construction dispute resolution jobs with one of our experienced consultants, please apply via the Maxim website and we can schedule an exploratory conversation.
Senior Recruitment Consultant, UK