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Becoming A Star Performer When You Work For An SME

Editor’s note: We are privileged to have Nkoyo Efretei, Managing Director of Insiteful Solutions and Consult Nig Ltd contribute on the Jobberman Blog. More about her at the end of the article. Enjoy!

For the greater part of my teenage years and the same goes for a lot of us out there, we were first encouraged to go for certain professions (Personal Injury Lawyer, doctor, engineer, teacher, etc.) then it became get your first degree, go for your masters (and it must be abroad) and then come back to look for a “good” job in a big company. If you broke the “rules” and came back with an employment letter for a company no one had heard of, you may be faced with looks of pity or even a prayer the next day that God please give my child a job.  However with unemployment currently standing at around 24% (roughly ¼ of our estimated 158+ million strong population) and with economic forces shifting the very face of business in Nigeria, small to medium size enterprises now compete with the bigger companies as employers of labor and like the bigger companies, small to medium sized enterprises have their own unique work cultures and structures

Whether it is an IT firm, architectural firm, legal chambers or marketing consultancy, SMEs have unique features which usually include one or more of the following:

  • Much smaller workforces
  • Flatter work structures
  • CEOs and MDs being part of the management team
  • There being more responsibilities and duties than the people working

A lot of people who work in SMEs and who have worked in larger companies have also been surprised to find that their job roles are less defined, there is a lot more interaction between business owners and staff, and financial issues had an immediate impact on the organization. Simply put, SMEs are a very different place to larger co-operations but just like anywhere else, there are things you can do to excel at your job and safe guard your career.


A lot of people complain about not liking the insecurity in SMEs. They believe they can be sacked at any time for the smallest of reasons. This isn’t true. The problem is people do not understand that larger companies usually have a very large workforce that cushion errors, mistakes, and problems. For ex: if I work in a large company and there are 50 people between me and the head of the unit, and I make a mistake, how long will it take management to know what’s wrong? What’s the possibility of management ever even finding out about my mistake? However if I work in an SME where it is just 6 of us and I make an error for a document the CEO wanted, how soon will he/she know? Chances are, in a large firm I can get away with a lot simply because of the size and number of people there. In a smaller firm, I make a mistake and it cost me the same thing as if it was noticed in a larger firm, it’s just guaranteed it will be spotted and the necessary action taken almost immediately.


Irrespective of why you took the job, the important thing is you took the job!!! You now have to be passionate about what you do. Love your job, embrace it. It’s a smaller firm so more than likely there will be more work, longer hours, and bigger responsibilities. You must as an employee be passionate about what you do and show it all the time. Also be passionate about what your boss is passionate about. SMEs are usually run by business owners and managers you interact with face to face. Remember to show you are passionate about what they are passionate about.


When I worked for larger companies, I knew my responsibilities. I came in the morning and had my to do list for each day, finished them, and went home happy in the knowledge id done my bit. But its very different in SMEs. Although I had clearly defined roles, I would find myself doing a hundred unexpected things and I would still have my to do list that had to be completed!! Refocusing my priorities was very important and anyone working in an SME should keep this in mind. Make sure you have your to do lists. Always end each day assessing how it went and making plans to catch up with what you hadn’t accomplished.


A lot of people complain that in smaller firms they get calls, emails, and txt after work. Some people even go as far as to say their office and personal lines are turned off when they leave the office. I’m here to tell you that unless you own the company, make sure you are as available as much as possible out of office hours. If you have a blackberry, don’t turn it off at night and self righteously say, this is now my time! Make sure your phone is connected your office emails and you are accessible after work. Check you emails and be prepared to get and answer phone calls outside of official working hours. It is no longer unexpected for employees in SMEs to have to go the extra mile, so don’t be surprised and make room for work both in the office and at home. Be remembered for going the extra mile which gets you recognized for all the right reasons. Do not be remembered as the employee who is never available and is therefore disposable.


It is important in an SME that you take active ownership of your job and time in the office. You have to do the job you are paid for and spend time really studying your boss so you can stay one step or more ahead of their needs and wants. You also have to be aware of what is acceptable and more importantly, what is not acceptable because remember, the lesser the people the bigger the spotlight when you do something right and especially when you do something wrong. When there is a problem and you find out it is a lot bigger than you think (for ex: you committing an offence that could get you fired) remember disciplinary procedures are much shorter and can even happen in the space of hours.

Above all, In smaller establishments you are responsible for yourself at your job and this goes for the good, the bad, and the ugly that happens. Jobs are no longer lifetime guaranteed careers and every day has to be viewed as a new opportunity. Do not ever be complacent. Respect your bosses and colleagues. Take advantage of all opportunities to learn new skills so that you are always remain relevant. Go the extra mile at work and be noticed for all the right reasons.

Share your views/questions with me in the comment section and be sure to get it answered.

Do have a great day. 🙂


About Nkoyo  Efretei: With a M.Sc. in Human Resources Management and a B.Sc. in English & Literary Studies, Nkoyo has over the last eleven years worked for several firms in the United Kingdom, Ghana, and Nigeria including multinationals and SMEs within the financial, human resource management, Information technology, Business Consultancy, and Manufacturing sectors. Nkoyo is the Managing Director of Insiteful Solutions and Consult Nig Ltd and an HR blogger whose articles can be found at http://nikkythehragonyaunt.blogspot.com.


Nathan Jeffery
Notification Bell