How Many Bucks Stop With You?

How does your pay stack up against that of other small-company CEOs? Executive recruitment firm Christian & Timbers says average compensation for CEOs at startups backed by venture capital was $206,000 in 1997--up 11% from 1996. Bonuses for this upscale cadre rose 26%, to $43,000. The more typical small-biz owner takes home closer to $70,000, says Dartnell Corp. compensation analyst Chris Heide. But averages are misleading: Most owner-CEOs pay themselves very little at first, taking raises only when the company succeeds. Family-biz expert Joseph Astrachan says family-firm CEOs tend to fall into two camps, making 30% more or 30% less than the average for comparable nonfamily firms. Salary isn't everything; owner-CEOs have bigger equity stakes than hired heads.

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