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  • Writer's picturePhyllis Agbo

Downsizing: Embracing Small Company Culture

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

From a global giant to a single digit workforce, here’s what I’ve learnt in my first nine months.

I joined Stories as employee number five (now nine total), not because they are a small company but because the company’s ethos really resonated with me. Getting the chance to be a purpose led developer that cares about people and planet, not just profit was an opportunity I couldn’t ignore.

As expected, there are differences in operation, working style and working culture compared to the large corporates I’m used to. I’ve jotted down some pointers from my personal experience for employees thinking about a similar move, as well as advice to employers taking on these individuals.


  1. It seems obvious, but please note, there’s nowhere to hide! Depending on your personal demeanour, this can definitely work in your favour. For me, this has been a positive as it’s given me a lot more autonomy in my role and my work, plus the chance to spread my professional wings beyond my job title. It also gives me direct visibility to our founding directors who are invested in my personal development path. So if you want to coast or be anonymous (and there’s nothing wrong with that), this move may not be for you.

  2. Be prepared to wear many hats. There is no marketing team, no IT department, no Colin from accounts. You’ll need to step up, sometimes outside your comfort zone and take on a broader range of responsibilities. My writing this blog for instance. Or helping set up the company’s Cycle to Work scheme.

  3. Your professional relationships will matter more. Take the time to get to know your colleagues. Both nurture and grow your wider network. This will serve you well for collaboration and winning new business. I have already created new architect connections that have exposed me to innovative methods of construction.

Employers, when taking on an employee from a large company…

  1. Ensure the company vision and ethos are clearly articulated right from the start. To be fully effective, they need to understand what you stand for and why, and how they can convey this in their own words to help develop the business and create new opportunities. I’ve been told it’s obvious I enjoy what I do when talking about Stories.

  2. Take the time during the first week to set out your role structure and give a good overview of company culture. You are likely taking on someone who is coming from a wealth of templates and most likely a multilevel hierarchical structure. If some or all of these things are not part of your company’s culture, initially it may be hard for them to feel grounded and know where they fit. Take the time to hear from them about any suggestions they may have from their prior experiences that could be beneficial.

  3. Ensure there is something in place for tracking personal development and that growth opportunities can be identified. What is the route to advancing their role and how is progress documented? This will aid their continued investment in both their self and the company. I have a quarterly review with clear goals to work towards which keeps me focussed. I’m happy with my move to Stories. It has not been without its challenges (I do love a template), but I’ve leaned into it. There are so many rewards to reap in a small company, including the chance to really impact its direction and identify with its core values. I even found our current office! Plus, with a company like mine, I can make a lasting positive difference and be proud to call myself a developer.

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