Is Bigger Better?

The surf industry is a complex, multifaceted beast, comprising businesses of all shapes, sizes and descriptions, from sole traders, to vast multinational behemoths. If you want to work in the industry, at some point you’ll find yourself approaching one or more of these businesses for a job.

So what’s the better option, in terms of employment? Is it preferable to work for a small business, or are you better off angling for one of the major players? There are, of course, pros and cons with both options.

Why do you want to work in the surf industry? Career vs Lifestyle
Self-reflection can be a very valuable exercise when weighing up prospective employers. Deciding which employers to approach will be much easier if you analyse and understand of your motivations for wanting to work in the surf industry in the first place.

Focussing on your career?
There are generally more opportunities for career development in a larger business, which might have interests across multiple sectors within the industry, and in multiple locations. Larger businesses tend to have greater depth, in terms of organisational structure, meaning there is more scope for going up the career ladder, if you are so inclined. You could also gain valuable experience and professional skills working for a big business, where processes and professional development opportunities are more likely to be formalised within the organisation. This will stand you in good stead throughout your working life, no matter what direction your career takes in the future.

Working to support a lifestyle?
This doesn’t have to be a negative, however. You might not be focussing on a career right now. Perhaps you have a creative practice that, while it is personally fulfilling, doesn’t pay the bills. Maybe you just want to support a lifestyle that will enable you to maximise your time in the water, or you’re looking to accumulate enough cash to satisfy that travel bug. A job in the surf industry, with limited responsibility or prospects for career progression, might be just what you need to keep you afloat while you pursue these interests.

Small vs big - what are the ethical implications?
A key consideration for many jobseekers these days is finding work that is both personally fulfilling, as well as ethically sound. Whether it’s environmental sustainability, social equity, supporting local communities or a combination of any or all of these factors, ethics play an important role in the decision-making process. So which, if any, of these boxes do big and small business tick?

Small Business
There are compelling ethical arguments for working in a small business. Small businesses are the foundation of most nations’ financial wellbeing. They create employment, are owned by members of the community and, to a large degree, the social and financial benefits they generate flow back into the local economy. Working in a small business is also an excellent way to meet like-minded people and embed yourself into the fabric of the local community.

Big Business
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gained significant traction in the business world in recent times. A quick Google search reveals that this is particularly true in the surf industry, which should be no real surprise, given that some of our most sacred playgrounds are located in the developing world, and that surfing is by its very nature inextricably linked to the environment. And many of the largest players in the sector appear to be taking their responsibilities seriously. Good examples include the Quiksilver Foundation and the Rip Curl Planet initiative. If you are looking for a job that will do more than just pay the bills, but will also make a difference, trying for a position with one of surfing’s big players could be just the thing.

And what if the surf’s cranking?
A strong work ethic is crucial to success in any industry, but let’s face it, something to bear in mind when contemplating employment in small or large businesses within the surf industry, is in which alternative are you likely to be shown greater leniency if you very occasionally show up late when the surf is cranking. Either could be the case if the boss is as keen a surfer as you, but more often than not, you’re more likely to fare better if you are working in a small business.

Opening times in the surf industry can gain a certain elasticity when the surf’s up, particularly in a small business, where the boss is only answerable to themselves. Who knows, you might even run into them in the water, and in that situation they can’t justifiably give you too much grief, particularly if you let them have a set wave or two. But if you do get the hard word, you can always pull out this quote from Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway -  “You have to respect deadlines and prioritise. But no one ever got sacked at Rip Curl for going surfing and I doubt that will ever happen. If it does, I will know it’s time to leave!”

Posted by: Cass Selwood, on March 24, 2014
Categories: Articles