Thinking big in small sized companies

Fabian Groven’s story: from job mediator to CEO advisor

I can still vividly remember the comment from a job advisor at the Maastricht Business Days back in 2006: “You are a perfect candidate for a small or medium sized company.” It was the last year of my master’s studies in International Business at Maastricht University. I had almost finished my thesis and I was exploring opportunities to  start my career.

How disappointed I was to hear these words! “I didn’t study to work in a small or medium sized company,” I thought. “I want to work for a multinational”. Basing my opinion on the prejudice that multinational companies offer both more challenges and bigger opportunities to contribute to society, I had never considered any other option. As with many prejudices, however, I found out how wrong mine were.

One of my first employments after my studies was as a job mediator at temp agency Randstad. Randstad is a large company operating in the international market. I soon realized that only in the Netherlands, I was just one among Randstad’s hundreds of employees. I never experienced this as a drawback and enjoyed my job.

It is only after I started working for a small sized company that I discovered the advantages and opportunities smaller companies can offer compared to big multinationals.

When I joined Arion four years ago, it was a small-scale company specialized in the development and sale of simple yet innovative medical devices. The company’s flagship products are application aids for therapeutic elastic stockings (the Slide Solution) and wet wipes and gloves used to wash bedridden patients (Swash). At the time these products were sold in approximately 40 countries worldwide.

Now, Arion has become a medium sized company with operations in an increasing number of countries, with subsidiaries in Germany, Belgium, Denmark and even in the US.  For the past four years, Arion has also started making its own products with one production facility in Tunisia and another one in Geleen in the Netherlands. The company has introduced many innovative products in the last couple of years.

Small company, big contribution

It is easy for me to contribute to these developments because Arion is a medium sized company. When I started as a New Business employee, I was involved in a lot of product innovations and international product introductions. At Randstad, I had never spoken to any of my foreign colleagues but at Arion this was daily practice.

Typical characteristics of a small/medium sized company are the level of dynamics and the flexibility that is asked of employees. In 2011, I switched positions and became the Product Manager for Swash. During my two years as Product Manager, I witnessed many product alterations and product introductions in the Swash product range. During these dynamic years, I was able to contribute significantly to the success of Arion.

Recently, I became the Advisor to the CEO. It is my task to advise the company’s CEO on topics such as innovation and strategy development and I can contribute to strategic decisions and solve challenges. This was something I had dreamt of during my studies. It is hard to imagine that I would have found the same opportunities in such a short time in a big multinational.

My international skills are very valuable in my current position. Together with my colleague Ruhi Agarwala, another Maastricht University graduate, we form the think-tank of Arion.

Ruhi Agarwala’s story: when a casual conversation turns into a job interview

After finishing my master’s in Global Health at Maastricht University, I started exploring work opportunities in big companies involved in healthcare innovations. I decided to visit drs. Erik Joosten, CEO of Arion, who sat in the panel of judges during my master’s elective presentation.

I didn’t have the slightest idea that my meeting would turn into a job interview. I was able to discuss my career aspirations. My skills and competencies were recognized and although there was no vacancy at that moment, a position was created for me. Small/medium sized companies are flexible and I believe that this is the reason why Arion was able to hire me.

It has been almost three months now since I started working as an International Medical Researcher at Arion and I have thoroughly been enjoying my experience. I execute research in the field of hygiene and skin care for Swash and its future assortment. At the same time I am asked to identify other potential niches in the field of healthcare for which Arion can develop simple and affordable innovations.

I see my current role as a perfect opportunity to combine my clinical knowledge, my affinity with scientific research and my passion for healthcare innovations.

Basing myself on my experience at Arion, I can confidently say that small/medium sized companies are less hierarchical than large companies, so that employees can actually work with (not just) senior staff members but even directly with the CEO, as it is in my case. They offer a much easier environment to pitch an idea to decision makers. Each employee’s work is recognized, unlike in large companies.

Fabian and I both recommend graduates to start their career in a small or medium sized company, as we have witnessed that they can offer the challenging, dynamic and international environment as well as responsibilities that many young graduates are looking for.

By Fabian Groven and Ruhi Agarwala

Post Your Thoughts