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The formula for attracting A-players

“How much do we need to pay?”

It’s a question many scaleup leaders ask when planning to make a senior hire. Relevant industry benchmarks are scarce for investment-backed, high-growth businesses, and executive compensation is often an opaque subject. In part, this is why we produce our C-Suite Salary Report: to create more visibility on remuneration for startups and scaleups. But while benchmarks can provide valuable guidance, they don’t entirely answer the question.

Setting the bar

As you’ll see in our report, each role carries a broad range of salaries, influenced by a variety of factors (such as sector, funding stage, valuation and location). When looking at these ranges, we encourage clients to think about where they want to position themselves. If you’re setting a high bar for the kind of talent you want to attract, then the same should be true of the salary you’re offering.

An offer they can’t refuse

Bear in mind that these benchmarks represent what people are earning in their current roles. Almost 70% of our respondents said that if they were considering a move then an improved basic salary would be non-negotiable or a high priority. Through our search work, we know that the majority of successful offers provide the candidate with a 10-30% uplift on their current basic.

Skin in the game

Of course, investment-backed companies often operate with restricted budgets and don’t always have the spending power to offer bumper salaries. This is where equity/share options can be a powerful item in the scaleup’s toolkit – as you can see in the above chart, having skin in the game was a top priority for over 80% of our respondents.

Individual > data

In practice, it’s important to approach the hiring process with the flexibility to tailor your offer to meet the needs and motivations of your chosen candidate. It’s not just about compensation either, roughly 50% of our respondents said that remote working or flexible hours were a major priority, and a similar number would want a seat on the board.

Talent attracts talent

Investing in your top people should be a priority. If you hire A-players, they will become a magnet that attracts further world-class talent to your scaleup. Over three-quarters of our survey participants said it was very important that any company they join can demonstrate a high-quality leadership team.

All these findings are explored in detail in our 2023 C-Suite Salary Report, along with the very latest data on basic salary, equity, bonus, and benefits for founders and non-founders.

To download the report, click here.

To discuss anything related to senior hires or compensation, please get in touch.


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