As a C-level executive, there are times when you are being poached by other companies, recruiters have presented attractive opportunities, or you are otherwise considering leaving your current company to advance your career, and more than one position presents itself. Each position has its strengths and drawbacks. How do you best manage multiple job opportunities?
This article discusses the art of managing multiple executive job offers to get the best results for yourself:
- How to evaluate multiple job offers,
- How to manage the process and in doing so manage expectations of the parties,
- What executive contract terms to seek from each company,
- How to negotiate for the best terms from those available and still position yourself well for future opportunities,
- How to navigate this process while maintaining your current position and planning
your exit to do so on good terms that enhance your reputation.
Dealing with Multiple Job Offers
It is flattering to receive multiple job offers, but you need to evaluate them to determine whether they meet your goals and needs. Compare executive job offers not simply on salary, but also the following criteria:
- Does the job meet your career change goal which may be to lead a bigger team, get bigger deals, manage larger projects, or develop new markets?
- Is there a good fit between your capabilities and the requirements of the job? Will you have the resources to succeed?
- Does the company’s culture align with your own values and beliefs? Do you like the new company? Will you be able to thrive in the new work environment? Do you prefer to work in a startup or a mature company?
- Does the total compensation, including salary, bonus, equity, and benefits, meet your expectations? Is it commensurate with your experience and the industry benchmarks?
- Do you have work-life balance criteria such as remote working needs, travelling, or flextime?
Each job offer may meet some criteria better than others. You’ll need to ask yourself what your priorities are. Is a growth opportunity more important to you or is compensation more important? Executive compensation packages are typically a complex mix of cash, equity and non-cash benefits, with a variety of terms. How do you compare and evaluate the value of each package? Do you value stability or high-flying opportunities? You should also compare each company’s reputation and prospects. How will work experience at the company add value to your resume?
Manage the Process and Expectations Too
When you have multiple executive job offers, you may have more room to negotiate with hopefully at least one of your offers and knowing you have alternatives, certainly gives you leverage in negotiations regardless of how you choose to deploy that knowledge. The question becomes how to utilize multiple job offers to strike the best employment, executive compensation and career situation for yourself going forward.
Generally, a good strategy is to try to match your needs with the expectations of the prospective employer who is courting you. Often a recruiter will try to low-ball you by asking what you are making now. The best answer is that number is not relevant because it will not get me to leave. The number I am seeking is in this range, and other companies seem more than willing to pay me that. Your company needs to offer that or approach it for us to make progress at this time.
To further manage expectations, a good strategy is to expand focus to embrace compensation, performance and return to the company. You want to entice your prospective employer by telling them what you seek to accomplish in the position. You want to get their buy-in on how your executive compensation package is both a market package but also a good deal for the company considering what you bring to the table – what you can do for them.
In your negotiations, bring along each party separately using that strategy. Your goal is to bring each along to make credible offers, either of which would be sufficient to justify your joining the new company. After you’ve brought them along so that you have multiple credible offers, then it is a good time to begin to play your cards. “I very much like your offer but I am not sure I can take it. I am offered more by another company, perhaps you can you sweeten your offer a bit more”.
Terms to seek from Each Company
Among the key terms to seek from multiple job offers are the following:
- Signing bonus – to make up for what you will forfeit by leaving your current company. You should also be compensated for the risk you take by moving to the new position.
- Cash compensation – Base salary commensurate with the position, but also a significant target cash bonus opportunity tied to the level of your performance in meeting set and realistic goals that can be of significant benefit to the company.
- Meaningful equity stake – the percentage of your equity interest in the company will vary based on the maturity of the company but it should be reflective of the value you bring.
- Tax-favored Equity – Well-structured and tax favored equity, which could be comprised of stock options, restricted stock, RSUs, PSUs, profits interests, phantom equity or other forms – which again will vary based on the maturity of the company and its cap table, but in any case needs to structured in a way that will enable you to achieve a significant after tax benefit if you aid the company in its growth.
- Position in the Company – clear delineation of your duties, authority, location, reporting and support and other elements of the position on which you are relying in taking the position
- Termination and Severance – it is likewise important to both commit the company to support your hire and to honor its obligations to you. So if the company does terminate you without cause or it breaches its promises so you terminate for good reason, there needs to be significant costs to the company to essentially “buy-out” your contract. Both cause and good reason would need to be well defined.
Working with the Best Terms available and positioning for the future
One recent case of juggling multiple job offers, demonstrates working with the best terms available.
In this case, the C-level executive lived on the East Coast and one job offer with an East Coast company in a neighboring state (ECC) that required a 3 hour round trip daily commute. On salary, ECC would not budge from $350,000 per year. At the same time, the C-level executive had a job offer at $425,000 base salary from a West Coast company (WCC). The executive very much wanted to be paid the $425,000 and she merited that pay, but she feared for her marriage if she had to pull up stakes to relocate to the West Coast.
So, how did we juggle those two job offers to get the best result? Here, it took a bit of mixing and matching.
We gave up and accepted ECC’s $350,000 base salary but in exchange we got two concessions. For work location – 3 days per week at HQ, but the other two days and any weekend time at the executive’s local office. The executive would use Regus, Industrious or another private office/ co-working office space provider at the downtown or an office park 10 minutes, working from that company satellite office. As part of the employment terms, ECC would pay for her satellite rental and office costs. The other concession, the contract terms would provide that she would devote substantially all her time, but be able to join corporate boards and do limited executive consulting, so long as there is no conflict and it did not impair his work.
Once the deal was closed with the ECC, negotiations resumed in earnest with WCC. The pitch here was that the executive was just not ready to relocate to the West coast. The executive suggested to the WCC CEO that she saw four key areas where she could bring significant value and that she could do so remotely consulting. Thus, a limited consulting agreement was struck for $150,000 per year.
Not only did the executive get the best of both companies, with a total base compensation of $500,000, which is $75,000 more than the best of the two offers, $425,000, but the executive is also well positioned for the future. After a year of experience working remote with the executive as part-time contractor to WCC, WCC might decide it wants more time and wants to bring her in full-time, and be willing to do so remotely. So, after one year, WCC might name her as a C-level officer with a pay raise to $500k working remotely. If that happens, the executive could give up her full time job with ECC and its 3-hour round trip commute. Now working remotely with WCC, she has only the 10-minute daily commute to the satellite office that WCC now pays for.
Planning your Exit and Leaving on Good Terms
During the entire process of managing multiple offers, it is important to retain focus on your day job. It is also important not to tip off your current employer you are considering a move.
Even if one or more of the offers has reached the point that the terms offered are sufficiently compelling, maintain the secrecy and require that of your suitors. You will remain most attractive if you have a job, and can always say that if the terms are not sufficient you can stay put.
Additionally, by staying put, it is possible a new suitor, a “white knight” might offer its own bid for your services.
Even when you have made the decision and completed negotiation of a written job offer or executive employment agreement, do not give notice until the offer is binding. If the offer is conditional on a background check or something else, the suitor needs to confirm there are no further conditions and the offer is not revocable and binding on both sides.
When you then give notice, be reasonable to your current employer. If the new employer objects, make it clear that you always treat your employer honorably. Some day I might leave you as well, and you too will appreciate that adherence to a code of good business ethics.
In each of these matters handling multiple job offers, it is wise to work with an experienced executive employment agreement attorney to fully utilize the opportunities that have now come to you from your skills and experience.
Written by Robert A. Adelson, Esq.
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