Executive Compensation 101

Hi, I’m Mike Russ COO of Lead5.  Compensation is the basis of many questions that we receive at Lead5 from executive-level candidates.  Some firms will tell a candidate that they “compensate very competitively” which is deliberately vague.  After all, the candidate must prove that they are the right fit before any compensation discussion gets serious.

In reality, there are a number of factors that go into executive compensation.  I won’t cover them all in this blog, but I will give you some useful directional guidance on compensation, and close with two ways to think about compensation more strategically.

Public Company Executive Job Seekers.  Let’s cover compensation for the executive seeking a role with a public company first.   Many execs don’t realize that the SEC is mandated to release the compensation for the top 5 executives for public firms.    Here’s what you need to conduct that research: https://www.sec.gov/fast-answers/answersproxyhtfhtm.html

Knowing the top 5 executive salary range provides you with useful directional guidance about what a public company is willing to pay for a particular executive function.

Additionally, if you identify an executive opening in your industry and within your function, you probably have a general compensation range in mind.  Keep in mind that company size (measured by number of employees, revenue) is a factor, and certain companies are known to compensate more generously than others.   This is where some basic search queries and solid networking comes into play.

Private and Private Equity Executive Job Seekers.   Unlike executives seeking prominent roles with public companies, private and PE companies are more nuanced in how they treat compensation.   The best way to get an understanding in these markets is to connect with a recruiter who specializes in your function to best understand emerging compensation trends:

For example, Lead5 compensation analysis has shown an increase in the average base salary for CFO’s of PE backed lower middle market companies over the last 2 years.  The mid-point of base salary has traditionally been roughly $250,000.  With a highly competitive market for proven players with previous PE portfolio company CFO experience, the base salary range has jumped up to $300,000.  

Here’s a useful compensation resource for executive leaders seeking roles in PE-backed companies:

https://privateequitycompensation.com/contents/

 

Thinking About Executive Compensation Strategically

There’s a lot of information I could cover here, but I want to touch on two points that every executive should consider.

1. Not all experience is equal in the marketplace. What I mean is that within every field, there is a ‘golden route’ to the highest potential compensation track.   Here’s a few examples:

a. CFOs who begin as CPAs within the Big 4 early in their careers

b. General Counsels who cut their teeth at a top 100 law firm

c. CMOs who early on lead a consumer product with P&G

While it’s absolutely true that top executive talent comes from a variety of different firm structures, compensation data proves that these types of tracks are the most lucrative ones.

2. Taking the long view on executive compensation. While every executive wishes to maximize their market potential, it’s exceptionally important to recognize the built-in long-term value of landing that first C-level position.   To earn a seat in the C-suite, you must demonstrate mastery in your functional area and produce consistent results.   Over the long haul, those skills are far more valuable to the marketplace than whatever initial C-level compensation that you receive.

I hope this information has been useful to you!   Helping executives land prominent executive roles at leading companies is something I’m passionate about.  Feel free to reach out to me anytime if you have questions about executive compensation:  mike@lead5.com

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