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The Cost of Hiring a CEO for a Small Company

Small companies often reach a point in their growth when they need to bring in a CEO to help take the business to the next level. However, many small business owners are unsure of the costs associated with hiring a CEO. In this article, we will explore the various expenses involved in hiring a CEO for a small company and provide insights into the factors that can impact these costs.

Salary and Compensation

The most significant cost associated with hiring a CEO for a small company is the salary and compensation package. The salary for a CEO can vary significantly depending on the size and industry of the company, as well as the experience and qualifications of the candidate. According to a survey conducted by Payscale, the median annual salary for a small company CEO ranges from $119,076 to $255,786. In addition to the base salary, CEOs are often eligible for bonuses, stock options, and other performance-based incentives, which can significantly increase their overall compensation.

Recruitment and Search Fees

Another expense to consider when hiring a CEO for a small company is the cost of recruiting and searching for qualified candidates. Small businesses may choose to work with executive search firms or professional recruiters to identify and attract top-tier CEO candidates. These services typically charge a percentage of the CEO’s first-year salary as their fee, which can range from 20% to 35% of the total compensation package. Additionally, there may be costs associated with advertising the CEO position, conducting background checks, and other recruiting-related expenses.

Relocation and Onboarding Costs

If a small company hires a CEO from outside of their local area, they may need to cover the costs of relocation and onboarding. This can include expenses such as moving allowances, temporary housing, travel costs, and other relocation-related fees. Additionally, small businesses may invest in onboarding programs and training to help the new CEO acclimate to their role and the company culture. These costs can vary depending on the location of the company and the distance the CEO needs to relocate.

Benefits and Perks

CEOs of small companies are often offered a comprehensive benefits package and perks as part of their compensation. This can include health insurance, retirement plans, car allowances, club memberships, and other executive perks. These benefits and perks can add significant value to the CEO’s total compensation package and should be factored into the overall cost of hiring a CEO for a small company.

Additional Considerations

In addition to the direct costs associated with hiring a CEO, small businesses should also consider the indirect expenses that come with bringing in a new leader. For example, there may be costs associated with restructuring the organization, hiring additional staff, or investing in new technologies and resources to support the CEO’s vision for the company. It’s important to take these factors into account when budgeting for the cost of hiring a CEO.


Hiring a CEO for a small company is a significant investment, and it’s essential for business owners to carefully consider the costs involved. By understanding the various expenses associated with bringing in a new CEO, small businesses can make informed decisions and budget accordingly. While the cost of hiring a CEO for a small company can be substantial, the right leader can have a transformative impact on the business, making it a worthwhile investment in the long run.