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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin

๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฝ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฝ ๐—˜๐˜…๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐˜€ ๐—ฆ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜†

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

When we see an iceberg, we often see the tip. Underneath the water is a much large mass of ice, typically 7 times the size.*

When it comes to startup compensation, salary is the tip of the iceberg.

For many people, the seeming lesson of the Great Rethink / Great Resignation is that wages must be higher. While that may be true for some professions, startups should think about compensation more holistically.

โ€œ๐‘ช๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’†๐’๐’”๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’Š๐’” ๐’”๐’๐’Ž๐’†๐’•๐’‰๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’˜๐’‰๐’Š๐’„๐’‰ ๐’…๐’๐’†๐’” ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’’๐’–๐’Š๐’•๐’† ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’†๐’๐’”๐’‚๐’•๐’†.โ€ - Frances Parkinson Keyes

To make your startup somewhere desirable to work means going beyond money to recognize employees' value.

๐— ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐— ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜†

When talking about working at your startup, emphasize the opportunity and experience will be fulfilling. Here are some ways:

๐˜ˆ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฆ โ€“ Encourage innovation and collaboration. Quickly address bad behavior. Clearly recognize contributions. Effectively delegate responsibilities allowing both you and others to grow.**

๐˜”๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ง๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด โ€“ An inspiring purpose is amazing. Clarify how each person's work is contributing to success. Transparency = respect.

๐˜—๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ โ€“ At a startup, a small team means that everyone needs to contribute for success. The founder needs to understand how to motivate everyone on a personal level.

๐˜Ž๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜–๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ด โ€“ People join startups for the thrill of quick progress. Encourage employees to learn new skills, add more responsibilities, and attend events to level up.

๐—™๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐—–๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป

People need to pay their bills and want to save or spend a little more. Here are some ways to treat employees fairly and thoughtfully.

๐˜š๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜บ โ€“ Compensation should be connected to the size and stage of the company, industry, and impact of the role.

๐˜‰๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด โ€“ Provide benefits which support employees' lives and reduce their stress outside work. Many benefits and perks are inexpensive, ask your team and other founders for ideas.

๐˜๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ด โ€“ Commissions and bonuses should be tied to the company, team, and individual performance combined. If an employee is doing a fantastic job, acknowledge their contribution somehow. Besides a bonus, offer a nice dinner, a gift certificate, or an introduction to an exciting mentor.

๐˜Œ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜บ โ€“ Ownership in the company can be incredibly motivating. When introducing a stock option plan, be clear and realistic about the terms and unknowns. There are some great guides out there.*** For some employees, equity is not that compelling, so don't assume everyone is compelled by grants.

๐—™๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€ ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ง๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฒ

Salary is the tip of the iceberg - attractive but misleading. Offer a deeper meaning to work.

It does not always take money to make an incredible working environment, but it does take effort and commitment. You must exemplify opportunity for growth and maintain the values which initially attracted talent or else you will lose the best employees.


* #funfact Seawater is slightly denser than ice so that the iceberg floats with most of its mass below the surface.

** Blog post on Delegation here:

*** Carta offers a great guide to understanding stock options:

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