5 reasons you might have overlooked small and mid-sized agencies

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Posted: Nov 2021

You’re an agency hotshot and you’re looking for your next career move. You love the fast-paced agency buzz and the fact that no two days are ever the same. You enjoy working with exciting clients and collaborating with a huge team of colleagues on interesting projects. So of course, the most logical progression is to a larger consultancy where you will get more of what makes you tick. Bigger is better, right?

Not necessarily!

The advantages of a well-established and sizeable company are undeniable. Diversity, security and perks, to name but a few, and the kudos of an industry-renowned name on your CV is highly appealing. But do the bright lights of the shiny leading agencies, with their office bars and foosball tables, distract top talent from considering that a small or mid-sized agency might actually offer an even more promising future?

Here are 5 reasons that are often overlooked:

1. An entrepreneurial feel

Without the bureaucracy of a corporate machine, a smaller business has the freedom to be more agile and the ability to run with innovative ideas without red tape and multiple levels of sign-off. Indeed, with fewer rigid structures around timings of promotions and the ability to make things happen quickly, career progression is likely to be much faster too. Elspeth Rothwell, UK CEO at Financial PR & Marketing company Vested, agrees. “For the right person, a boutique agency can be a place to really accelerate their career as the chances to spot opportunities and run with them are usually greater. Whether that’s launching new services, creating a new sector focus, team upskilling or driving cultural change, or smaller more incremental gains, they often suit ambitious and entrepreneurial individuals who are keen to get ahead and do their best work.”

2. Equity ownership

Real equity is a rare find but agencies who offer it are out there. The Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI), a tax-advantaged employee share option scheme, profit share, is also an option at a number of small and medium-sized consultancies. Speaking about setting up communications agency Farrer Kane, Alex Kane, Director told us “Our vision was always one of sharing the highs and lows, rewards and excitement of growing the business with others. For us it isn’t about just providing a sense of ownership but actually opening up equity in the business to key team members. Having multiple owners in the team helps drive productivity, sparks innovation and helps us outgun rivals.”

3. Bonuses, pay rises and promotions

It isn’t always the case that the biggest organisations pay the biggest bonuses. At the independent outlets more of the profits can be reinvested in employees’ bonuses and incentives instead of being paid out to dividend-hungry shareholders. “Being independently owned and of a medium size”, says David Cohen, Chief Operating Officer at Powerscourt, “means we can offer employees incentives, opportunities and an entrepreneurial career development path in a hyper flexible environment, with maximum trust and support.”

4. Life as a linchpin

You become an invaluable asset to your employer when the business is smaller and your opinion is heard by those who matter. You have a much greater chance of making a meaningful difference to a business to reap the professional – and often financial – rewards. Tom Coombes, founder and CEO at Cognito believes that “smaller agencies can be a match made in heaven for frustrated talent at larger networks”. Coombes explains: “The freedom to run with new ideas, to take commercial decisions on clients and the ability to help steer and impact the overall development and growth of the business are among the very real opportunities on offer.” He cautiously advises, however, that “candidates should check that the agencies they are considering joining have the reach, platform and teams they need to do their job but most importantly that their new boss has the right mindset to integrate game-changing talent.”

5. Commercial acumen

Belonging to a more modestly sized consultancy gives the opportunity to become savvy across all facets of running a business. By working in a less siloed environment, consultants have more exposure not only to other disciplines of communications but also to the decisions and actions that impact the agency itself. “Many of the fresher, more dynamic consultancies are run by experienced industry entrepreneurs”, says Hugh Morrison, Founder at Montfort Communications. "They infuse their businesses with a start-up mentality, not only giving candidates the opportunity for great career momentum but also the chance to see at first-hand how businesses are conceived and built into the award-winning agencies of tomorrow.”

Being a big cog in a small wheel versus a small cog in a big wheel definitely comes with its benefits. We believe small and medium sized agencies are well worth considering for your next career move.

To read our full Salary Guide, click

The Works Search a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email

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