Companies Need to Up Their Pay Practice Game

Many companies follow best practices for motivating CEOs and other senior executives, but most don’t.

Larger private companies, along with private equity- and venture capital-owned companies, as well as employee-owned companies, are likely to follow best practices, but others are lagging behind. Our survey found that 40 percent of companies do not have formal long-term incentive plans, and among those that do, a mere 23.5 percent use performance-based vesting rather than time-based vesting.

This is not consistent with public company practices.

Not surprisingly, our survey found that larger companies by revenue behave more like public companies (see chart). Eighty-five percent of companies with revenues from $250 million to $499.9 million led the pack, followed by 80 percent for $1 billion companies and 62 percent for those between $500 million and $999.9 million.

In terms of ownership, 80 percent of employee-owned companies reported formal annual incentive plans, followed by PE-owned (73 percent) and VC-owned (63 percent) companies. Other types of ownership, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships and family businesses are far behind the top three.

For more information please visit www.ChiefExecutive.net/compreport

Who Approves CEO Pay?

Approval of CEO compensation packages varies by both company revenue and ownership type, according to Chief Executive’s CEO & Senior Compensation Report 2017. Here we look at who’s in the driver’s seat when it comes to the CEO’s paycheck at private companies with revenue ranging from less than $2 million to more than $1 billion.

As the chart shows, at 54 percent of the smallest companies, the CEOs themselves determine their own compensation, with boards, partners and parent companies making the calls in other cases. For $1 billion-plus enterprises, however, boards are firmly in control, approving 90 percent of all pay packages.

Generally speaking, the survey found that the larger the company as measured by revenue, the greater the role the board plays in setting compensation. In the $2 million to $4.9 million range, the board makes the call at 46 percent of companies, while in the $50 million to $99.9 million range, the board weighs in 58 percent of the time. And for companies with $250 million to $499.9 million and $500 million to $999.9 million in revenue, the board determines CEO pay 67 percent and 79 percent of the time, respectively.

For more information please visit www.ChiefExecutive.net/compreport

The Importance of Perks in Executive Compensation

According to Chief Executive’s 2016-2017 CEO & Senior Executive Compensation Report for Private Companies, CEO and C-Level perquisites matter.

While perhaps not as lavish or as prevalent as they are at public companies, there are some perks to which private company CEOs and senior executives have grown accustomed. Companies that want to remain competitive and attract the best and brightest executive talent should consider perks that are not necessarily costly, but go a long way to making the executive’s life a little easier. And, of course, CEOs and other senior executives negotiating their own pay packages should consider including these perks in their lists as well.


As the chart shows, the leading perks are personal technology, a company car and parking. All relatively inexpensive–and no doubt well worth it.

Employment contracts (#4), may require the board to think a little longer and harder about how to structure the right package. It’s worth considering less expensive perks such as club membership (#5) and gym memberships (#6) as well.

It is nearly impossible to get trustworthy private-company compensation practices and reliable analysis by experts. The 2016-2017 CEO & Senior Executive Compensation Report for Private Companies is the ONLY authoritative source of this highly valuable data. Offering a breakout of compensation data by company size, annual company revenue, and industry, the report helps to determine the right mix of short vs. long term compensation to retain your best people.

For more information, go to: www.ChiefExecutive.net/compreport

What CEOs Need to Know about Executive Compensation

Compensation isn’t just about making sure people are paid enough to stick around. Compensation, especially at the executive level, is a strategic tool. If your firm does not consider executive compensation a driver of your strategic initiatives, you’re probably thinking about executive compensation in the wrong way. According to our research, most private companies are not optimizing compensation as a strategic incentive for their CEOs and senior executive teams.

There are many components of executive compensation CEOs should consider when planning internally. Below is a list of questions CEOs should ask as they consider their firm’s executive compensation strategy.

  • How will you measure the success of your plan versus its goals?
    Without proper tracking and measurement, your plan will not be held accountable for accomplishing it goals. Often, executive compensation plans need to be tweaked as the company grows and changes. Make sure to evaluate your plan regularly based on agreed-upon metrics and analysis.
  • What are the goals of your company’s executive compensation plan?
    The goals of an executive compensation plan can, and should, vary. Your compensation plan can provide incentives for executives to hit key operational benchmarks. Properly crafted, it also can improve your firm’s executive retention rate and your ability to recruit top talent. Whatever the goals, be sure to clearly understand them, communicate them and ensure your team understands them.
  • How much of our resources (time and money, especially) are we willing to invest in our executive compensation plans?
    Like any strategy you employ to improve your business, a well-crafted executive compensation plan requires both a lot of attention and discipline to maintain. Be sure you know how much you’re willing to invest before jumping in to an analysis and revamp of your executive compensation strategy.
  • How will you share long-term value with your executives?
    When it comes to long-term incentives, most companies initially think of some sort of equity-linked incentive. Distributing equity grants or stock options can be complicated; and on many occasions (particularly among privately owned companies), a phantom equity plan or an alternative long-term vehicle is more appropriate. Be sure to understand the implications of how you share long-term value with your executives, as well as the advantages and constraints of your company’s ownership type vs. public companies and other types of private companies. Benefits programs can supplement or replace incentives that are linked strictly to the company’s equity, but there are legal and tax implications that must be considered, as well.
  • How can your company distribute short-term incentives?
    Some short term incentive plans such as cash bonuses put undue pressure on the cash flow of businesses. For example, a business that pays executives a percentage of annual revenue may unexpectedly be cash-flow negative at the end of a given year when bonuses come due. Make sure to understand your company’s cash position and structure short-term incentives that are tied to the right short-term goals for your company (e.g., revenue growth or absolute EBITDA or cash-flow growth) and are consistent with your company’s financial resources.

For more information, go to: www.ChiefExecutive.net/compreport

5 Keys to Effective Executive Compensation

A properly crafted executive compensation plan not only ensures you attract and retain the talent your business requires, it also effectively aligns the incentives for your executive team to the strategy and priorities of the organization.

The research for our annual CEO & Senior Executive Compensation Report for Private Companies shows that companies that prioritize structuring and implementing comprehensive executive compensation plans have better revenue growth and profitability than companies that do not.

An executive compensation plan needs to be thoughtfully prepared to ensure both short- and long-term goals are considered. These 6 keys below will help your company to properly implement effective executive compensation strategies.

1. Use Metrics as the Basis for Incentive Compensation

A common mistake for many incentive-based compensation plans is that they are not tied to specific performance metrics or goals. Discretionary bonuses provide the most flexibility. And there can be a discretionary component of an effective executive compensation plan, since not all objectives or situations may have been considered when the plan was set up. However, having short- and/or long- term incentives that are entirely discretionary is a missed opportunity to articulate clear individual and/or team goals and priorities to each of your executives. When there are specific formulas for bonuses and/or equity incentives, it aligns the executives’ focus and rewards those who deliver the desired results.

A best practice in setting goals and incentives is that they should be tied to metrics that each executive can influence or control (e.g. achieving profit goals for a divisional president or country manager, sales growth or revenue contribution dollar targets for a CMO or CSO, or recruiting success or employee alignment scores for a head of HR) vs. only corporate goals—and they should be SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. This way, executives are aware of what they must focus on and they can optimize their work to achieve those specific goals. Sometimes macro metrics—like revenue and profit—are applicable, but, more often, there are better key performance indicators (KPIs) that should be used for executives who are responsible for a specific function vs. the overall business.

2. Effectively Communicate to Ensure Understanding

Another common mistake companies make is assuming that compensation plans are well understood by the executives. In reality, there often are huge communication gaps. Make sure every executive is fully aware of all of the components related to their compensation package, including the value of each of the benefits and perquisites they enjoy. And quantify the value and/or cost of these benefits and perks regularly—at least annually.

Often, executives take those benefits and perks such as health insurance or 401(k) matches for granted, unless the company quantifies what these other elements of the compensation plan are worth to them on a regular basis. Another common mistake is not communicating the value of any equity or long-term incentives on a regular basis as part of the compensation plan. Even if your company doesn’t have a formal annual valuation of the company’s equity, you can still give an estimate or illustrations of what their equity or long-term incentives may have increased by as part of the growth of the revenues and/or profit of the business. If you haven’t done a formal valuation, make sure you are explicit that your estimates are just that and aren’t binding.

If an executive does not have a clear picture of the total value of their compensation plan in their current position, the likelihood of looking for opportunities with more clarity of the upside is increased. Uncertainty is almost always bad for business, and this is a case where uncertainty on the part of a core team member can have unforeseen deleterious effects on a business.

Progress on a compensation plan should be addressed at least annually, outlining both short-term and long-term incentives. An even better idea is for quarterly communication—where the core metrics to which incentives are tied are discussed. This prevents any miscommunication prior to when the rewards are issued and help keep the employee motivated and aligned.

3. Benchmark Compensation Levels

If you’re trying to attract top talent, your compensation needs to be competitive, not just in your local market. Executive talent is portable—senior executives often do relocate for better opportunities.

Use external benchmarks from an independent third-party data source such as Chief Executive Group’s CEO and Senior Executive Compensation in Private Companies Report (www.ChiefExecutive.net/compreport) or a reputable executive compensation consultant who has access to a rich database of comparably sized companies in your industry, geography and situation.

In our research, companies often believe they are paying near the top-end of the spectrum for each of their executives when, in reality, they are at or below the median compensation level vs. similar companies who are competing for your talent.

Make sure the benchmarks you use are meaningful and relevant to your company. Use multiple reference points to compare your company and each position (for example, by revenue, industry, region and revenue growth) and look at quartiles, not just averages, to give you a much clearer idea of how competitive your compensation levels are.

4. Value Company Equity Regularly

In our research, more than half of the executives we surveyed do not have a clear idea of what their equity or other long-term incentives are worth, or how much they have increased in the past year. That is a huge waste of an expensive incentive, because most executives do not value what they can’t quantify. By granting equity-linked compensation but not tying it to any quantified value, you’re company is not getting the desired benefit of this long term incentive. And executives are not getting the positive reinforcement that they are benefiting from the increasing value of the enterprise or seeing the link with their efforts. In fact, many executives become skeptical or cynical of the value of their long-term incentives when they don’t get regular updates on the growth of their equity ownership.

If you plan on issuing equity-linked incentives, your company’s equity value should be appraised or estimated at least annually. At regular intervals (quarterly, annually, etc.), each executive should be told the estimated current value of their equity-linked incentives, as well as the expected future value.

5. Include Both Short and Long-Term Incentives

Providing a truly competitive executive compensation package usually requires that your executive team has both short- and long-term goals from which they benefit financially should their goals be met. A blend of incentive compensation that provides executives with cash incentives in the short-term tied to their achieving their specific goals and longer-term incentives—which in turn ties an executive to the overall success of the company—can help ensure your executive team is engaged and feeling rewarded for their hard work regularly.

Implementing an effective executive compensation plan does not have to be onerous, but it requires time, planning and dedication for it to work properly. We created our CEO & Senior Executive Compensation Report for Private Companies to provide businesses and their leaders with both benchmarks and best practices for their executive team.

To learn more please visit: www.chiefexecutive.net/compreport

Components of an Executive Compensation Plan

The components of an executive compensation plan vary widely across companies. How incentive vehicles are structured and implemented vary even more widely. Below are the most common components of an executive compensation plan:

Base Salary
The standard wage paid to an executive that typically is the largest share of an annual compensation package.

Bonuses (Short-term incentives)
Distributions for annual milestones or reaching incentivized goals that are typically cash-based.

 Long-term incentives
Vehicles used to share long-term value creation with employees. These are often tied to equity or enterprise value.

Non-cash compensation provided to an employee on an annual basis. These typically include elements like health and life insurance, defined benefit or contribution plans, and paid vacations.

Privileged grants to employees in addition to their other compensation. These can include everything from a company car to a business-paid cell phone.

For more information, go to: www.ChiefExecutive.net/compreport