Will moving to a small firm restrict my options?

Moving from a Top 10 firm to a smaller (Top 50 firm)

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Hi,

I qualifed 1 year ago in audit in a top 10 firm. I am now at the stage where a lot of my peers move to indsutry, progress to manager, leave for a different routes etc.

I am at these crossroads and i am not sure exactly what i want to do, however, i feel my time at my current firm is done and i want a change. To give some context my current firm is a top 10 accounting firm, growing rapidly through organic and acquisitional growth.

I have considered moving to indistry, however feel i want to give practice a 'good' go first. Therefore, i am considering one more move in pratice to determine if industry is the route for me or to identify if its just my current firm why i am not enjoying my role, and find my love for practice. 

Currently, practice individuals are in demand so i am having no issues in finding companies that will hire me with a nice payrise. However, my only concern is will moving to a smaller firm restrict my future options?

I am not planning on moving too small, looking at firms at around 150-400 employees (for the whole business not just the accounting team). My main motive for the move down, is to be more hands on with the work, work on more accounts prep and tax work and to have more client engagement. However, if it is going to restrict my future options (moving to industry etc), then i am unsure its the right move for me. To give further context, i am wanting to move soon either way as i am not feeling motivated in my current fim. 

If anyone has any similar experience it would be great to hear it, as i am struggling to make a decision.

Replies (12)

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
17th Jun 2024 15:52

"I am not planning on moving too small, looking at firms at around 150-400 employees (for the whole business not just the accounting team). "

With that size firm will you not just be either audit, accounts or tax, or are you envisaging a firm with lots of very small offices with few staff in each?

No idea how firms work these days but when I worked for Hodgson Impey (now part of RSM) a long time ago we had three partners circa 10 audit/accounts staff, 4 typists, 1 vat specialist and I person who did virtually all the tax- am sure larger offices (Hull/London etc) were even more niche re work allocation.

I did no tax work beyond CT comps to calculate accounting entries.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Smith_478
17th Jun 2024 15:57

So one of the firms only has two offices around 100 in an office and 60 in another office, they do audit, accounts and tax all under one department, so staff members do all of these for their clients, which is the range of work and more hands on that i am looking for.

On paper i feel this experience actually opens up more doors for me, but when i look at a lot of job descriptions it says top 10/top 4 audit experience required and i am just worried that moving to a smaller firm will mean i can't get the future jobs i want.

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Replying to Smith_478:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
17th Jun 2024 16:35

Well, what sort of size clients are these, because it sounds really inefficient having allrounders do everything? Fine with tiny SME clients, a debit a credit and a couple of compliance tax returns, but vast knowledge gaps if one operative has to cover everything for larger clients with more sophisticated needs (unknown unknowns)

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DougScott
By Dougscott
17th Jun 2024 16:32

I started in a small firm (Joliffe Cork) that was almost immediately swallowe by a Top 10, Thornton Baker (now Grant Thornton). Variety disappeared almost immediately and I found myself as an audit junior doing dogsbody tasks. Eventually I did get to have stints in Investigations, Insolvencies and Small Businesses but I decided to move to a small firm and everything was much better after that because I became an audit manager, and also did lots of accounts, tax, VAT, charities, etc and had quite a few adventures along the way. I then became the FD of a Housing Association. Variety is the spice of life in my view.

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By craigprickett
17th Jun 2024 16:41

If your goal is to move to industry at some point, then in my opinion moving into a practice role that offers variety is a great career move as it will offer you wider experience, and strengthen your CV.

I personally moved from a role in public practice at a small (<£1m t/o) firm directly into a role as FC in an SME (<£10m t/o), and I am very grateful for the broad experience I gained working in a small firm where I had hands in pretty much the whole spectrum that public practice has to offer.

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By bettybobbymeggie
17th Jun 2024 18:27

If you want a change why not consider a larger firm - or have you tried that?

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Replying to bettybobbymeggie:
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By Smith_478
17th Jun 2024 18:42

Larger would be top 4/6.

I did give it a brief thought but from what i have heard around the culture and working hours of firms this size, i don't think its a fit for me. Also, it seems roles there are mainly 100% audit and i am looking for more varied work.

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Replying to Smith_478:
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By bettybobbymeggie
17th Jun 2024 19:16

I wouldn't be too put off with audit to be honest. The big draw of the big firms are the big clients and it is these engagements that provide a breadth of experience you won't get dealing with SME's. I came through audit in a big six firm in London and the clients we worked on were brilliant. Besides, all the folk in Tax were muppets :-).

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By FactChecker
17th Jun 2024 18:27

"To give further context, i am wanting to move soon either way as i am not feeling motivated in my current firm."

Unless your by-line (a gmail address) is a deliberate red herring, you might want to ask the moderators to remove it from your profile ... as it flows through at the top of this thread, which could accelerate your current employer becoming an ex-employer if they don't appreciate your public views of them.

BUT to be blunt, if you move to a noticeably smaller firm then you need to be confident as to how you will represent your reasons when you decide to move on again. That may sound a little cynical but, like chess, you need to be thinking more than one move ahead.
To a degree this is irrespective of whether the next job convinces you to stay in Practice or move to Industry ... the recruiters in n years will be looking for reassurance that your moves were at your behest and for career-building reasons.
So smaller but ... more rapid promotion, or access to a niche sector, or a greater breadth of ownership, or ...

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Replying to FactChecker:
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By Smith_478
17th Jun 2024 18:37

Thank you, this was my first post.

Hopefully, its removed now.

Also, thank you for your comments. Its mainly for faster progression and varied work, but yes i understand what you are saying and will give it a lot of thought.

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By FrankTax
19th Jun 2024 22:48

I moved from a firm of 400 staff to a team of 20, game changer and an incredible relief to walk away from the corporate BS, meaningless "firm values" and general noise from the top.
I now have much, much broader experience than I'd ever have had in my previous role and feel valued for my contribution.

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By JD
28th Jun 2024 09:21

I am not sure that counts as small, however it is true to say in most cases, the smaller you go the wider the range of work you will get.

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