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3rd Annual Compensation Survey Is Open

We’re excited to announce that the 3rd Annual Digital Health Executive Compensation Survey is now open, click here to participate! Over the last few years, the Aequitas Partners Annual Executive Compensation study has been valuable to executives and company leaders looking to better understand the state of compensation across the health tech industry from the 2021 survey are included below.

In light of the team-related ups and downs of this year, the compensation study will offer execs, employees and investors key information about how all these changes have impacted compensation.

Survey respondents will receive the results of the study months in advance, which includes reporting on 15 functions, Director to C-Suite, and companies Seed stage to IPO. 

CLICK HERE to access the 2022 survey!

Five Tips for Elevating Your Company’s Onboarding Process

By: Nina Mermelstein

We have all been there before – it’s the first day of a new job and you are feeling all that built up excitement alongside the usual first day jitters. Sure, you have a strong understanding of the job and the company from the interview process, but now that some time has passed since your last interview, you may have some new questions– How quickly will I adapt to a new hybrid or fully-remote work environment and build meaningful connections with my coworkers? What will my first day/week/month look like? What can I do to get up to speed so that I can quickly make a meaningful impact on the business?

From an HR/hiring manager perspective, mitigating these early concerns for a new hire can be difficult. However, there is a key tool that a company has at its disposal during these early stages–a stellar onboarding program!

For a startup company where the focus is on rapid growth through selling, scaling, and fundraising, the onboarding process can be easily overlooked. According to Gallup, only 12% of employees in the U.S. say their company does a good job of onboarding and roughly 1 in 5 employees report that their most recent onboarding was poor or nonexistent. On the other hand, a world-class onboarding experience can be a game changer for your new hire. Gallup also found that 70% of people who had exceptional onboarding experiences say that they have “the best possible job” and were 2.6x more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace. The benefits of a well-developed onboarding program trickle all the way down to employee engagement and retention.

Onboarding is important for all employees at any stage of their career whether it is a c-suite executive or someone joining straight out of school. Those first few days on the job are critical. Whether you are establishing the business’s first onboarding program or enhancing the existing onboarding process, here are 5 tips to elevate your company’s onboarding process:

#1–Prep your existing team: Enlisting the help of other non-HR representatives from your existing team to facilitate onboarding will enable the new hire to create connections with various employees across the organization. Instead of having an HR representative run through the company financials and key metrics, bring in a finance team member who lives in the metrics and can share their unique perspectives on the subject matter. While enlisting the help of existing employees across various departments is a great onboarding tactic, it is key that every team member involved is thoroughly prepped ahead of the new hire’s start date. The existing team members should receive a bio for the new hire in addition to a clear goal for what should be accomplished in each onboarding meeting. For example, in our company, each onboarding calendar invitation includes a quick summary of what the new hire should expect to learn during the session and any key goals for the meetings. While this level of detail should absolutely be included in meetings on important topics such as internal platforms and databases, it is also helpful to include goals for a get-to-know-you coffee meeting (i.e. the goal for a coffee meeting may be for the existing employee to share what special projects they are working on and the professional development opportunities they have taken advantage of at the company). Outlining these details will help put everyone at ease and set expectations throughout the onboarding process.

#2– Individualize the training program: Everyone has a different learning style. One person may learn best when they are presented with in-depth visual training videos while another person may learn more through shadowing existing hires. The hiring manager can create a touchpoint with the new hire ahead of their start date to better understand that person’s learning style and specific training needs. Some helpful open-ended questions to ask a soon-to-be employee are:

  • How do you tend to learn best?
  • What modes of learning don’t work as well for you?
  • What do you think is your biggest skill or knowledge gap as you enter this new role? 
  • What is one thing you wish was different about your last onboarding experience?

Startups are uniquely positioned to be agile in their approach to onboarding and can leverage information about a new team member’s learning style to adjust their training content accordingly. We recently onboarded a new hire who shared that they are an auditory learner and a hands-on “jump right in” learner, but that reading content and watching videos are less helpful for retaining information. Based on their insight, we were able to craft an onboarding program that involved self-paced auditory learning through podcasts in addition to a significant amount of client scenario role-playing and hands-on project work.

#3–Define the company lingo: Many businesses and teams have their own distinct language that employees use on a day-to-day basis that would seem foreign to a new hire. When you are an outsider who is joining a new team, understanding that common language can be the key to building relationships and fully grasping the team culture. One mechanism that a company can use to speed up that learning curve and help a new employee feel like an insider is by providing them with a company lingo reference guide. This guide is essentially a dictionary for the common terms one is likely to hear around the office. For example, a company may choose to describe the typical meetings that are held (e.g,  touchbase, 1:1, scrum, all hands). At our firm, the “AQP Company Lingo Guide” is the top onboarding file opened by new employees in their first month.

#4–Share your team’s work styles: Another key opportunity for a hiring manager to expedite the learning process is to share the tacit knowledge that typically goes unspoken in a firm about how each team member operates, what their strengths are, and a general sense of how they typically work. This information is especially important in fully-remote or hybrid work environments where spelling out exactly how a person best communicates and receives information is imperative. Instead of having your new hire comb through the team bio page to learn the work history and maybe one or two fun facts about the people they will be working most closely with, take the company bios one step further. Some companies have done this by adapting Ray Dalio’s “Baseball Card System” to create summaries for each employee. The summaries can include a short bio, their favorite tasks, and their strengths and weaknesses (see example of Stryve’s baseball card system here) that are then shared with the full company. These elevated bios can be based on self-reported information, reviews of strengths by peers, or a combination of the two.

At Aequitas Partners, we have created a version of the internal bio by asking all our employees to share information about their interests and a short blurb on “how I work” (see the mock example below). We share these bios with our new hires and ask any new team member to draft up their bio in the first week to share with the rest of the team as well. This tactic helps to facilitate psychological safety across the organization by emphasizing that we want people to bring their individuality and authentic selves to work every day.

Name Joe
Role Director
Office Philadelphia
Background Info From Philly and was living in the city for the last 5 years before moving to the suburbs. Misses the city but loves the space.
What I enjoy Likes red wine, great coffee, movies, the beach, travel – especially to Europe and the Caribbean. I’m always in search of the next concert and will take just about any opportunity to see some live music!
How I Work I’m not a morning person, but I try; best not to bombard me before I’ve sat down at my desk in the morning. I’m highly collaborative and inquisitive, which means I enjoy those same qualities in my colleagues. No question is too big and small and I will never be “too busy” to unpack a challenge over a call. I overuse slack, and because there are so many things going on, a thumbs up on a message to acknowledge that you saw it makes me feel at ease. I love operational challenges. If you’re coming across an inefficiency, let’s talk about it – how we can systematize, automate, make technology work for us.

#5– Request feedback, refine, repeat: The final (and arguably most important) tip for elevating your onboarding process is focusing on continuous improvement through collecting feedback and refining the program. The hiring manager should plan to have multiple checkpoints with a new hire during their first couple of weeks to collect real-time feedback on the onboarding experience as well as areas that the person identifies where they might need additional training. Our firm schedules 15-30 minute check-in meetings for the hiring manager and the new employee at the end of day 3, day 5, and again at the midpoint and end of their second week. The qualitative feedback provided in these check-ins will inform how the company can adapt the onboarding program moving forward. The new hire should also be given an onboarding survey at the end of their second week with rating scales and open ended questions. The HR team should also aim to conduct a 30-minute check-in meeting with the recent hire at the end of their first month to identify further learning opportunities for that individual and how they can continuously improve the new hire onboarding process.

You have an incredible opportunity to elevate and optimize your company’s onboarding process by leveraging the five tips outlined in this article. If you have questions or want to further strategize how to elevate your specific company’s onboarding process with the Aequitas Partners team, please reach out to

An Interview with Norm Shore – CEO of Patient Discovery

By: Tim Gordon

Patient Discovery’s mission is to transform the way all patients are understood, supported, and treated by providing a platform for patients’ real-world experiences to be integrated into decision-making throughout the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Their platform, Companion by Patient Discovery™ , brings to the forefront non-medical factors that both allow providers to efficiently create better patient-centric care plans, and enable health systems, life sciences organizations, and health plans to remove the barriers to equitable care through aggregated, real-world patient insights.

We sat down with Norm Shore, Co-Founder and CEO to learn more about his journey.

Tim: Tell us the story behind Patient Discovery. What was your motivation to co-found the business at the time that you did?

Norm: I previously founded a business in the regulatory compliance space with Adam Sodowick who is our Chief Innovation Officer at Patient Discovery, and that company was later acquired by the NYSE. We developed a novel approach to effectively engage employees through a disruptive technology which enabled us to measure “people risk.” We essentially learned the craft of developing expertise in digital engagement.

After scaling the business at NYSE, we were ready to launch our next startup. This is where Shelby Chamberlain, who is currently our Chief Strategy Officer, came into the picture. All three of us were driven by our own personal experiences as caregivers struggling to help loved ones who were managing a cancer diagnosis, and it’s a really lousy experience. The U.S. healthcare system puts a lot of burden on patients and their families. So, we decided to bring our expertise and our energy to delivering healthcare technology solutions that benefit patients and their families, and that’s really how Patient Discovery was born.

Tim: We’ve known you not quite since the very beginning, but close to it, and the business has definitely evolved. Tell us about how both the business and the product have evolved over the last 12 months.

Norm: The healthcare market has evolved a lot, and the Covid pandemic brought very well-deserved attention to the issues of disparities in care and health equity. The industry is trying to figure out how to resolve these issues because everybody had a terrible time with Covid, and patients who were dealing with a serious disease like cancer had a particularly difficult time. Recently the U.S. government is trying to create an economic force to encourage health systems to address these challenges for patients by offering reimbursements through value-based care programs, medicare programs, joint commissions, etc. As a result, everyone is talking about health equities and disparities of care across the entire system. We’ve spoken to large systems, community practices, payers, pharma manufacturers, and pharmacies. However, nobody really knows how to address the problem. One of the basic challenges is that the problems are well understood in aggregate, but really poorly understood at an individual level– and this is where the interventions need to take place. In order to make progress in a meaningful way, we need to integrate the patient voice into healthcare delivery, essentially merging the patient’s life outside the clinic more directly with their clinical path.

We have developed a digital platform designed specifically to help care teams identify the challenges that patients are facing outside the clinic. We have a validated tool to help care teams address the health-related social needs of the patients and build longitudinal insights that are going to be required to understand which interventions work the best. So, over the past 12 months we have been acutely focused on scaling the platform. What is happening in the business today is that we are moving closer to the patients–we want to meet them where they are. 80% of patients seek cancer care within their community, so we’re focused on expanding access within those settings in addition to the academic medical centers and establishing our technology essentially as the “connective tissue” among care teams, patients, and the community resources that are equipped to support patient needs outside of the clinic. We believe that we can offer a compliant, responsible way for industry stakeholders to deliver impact on health equity. We are evolving to develop long-term collaborative programs that will drive impact in neighborhoods across the country.

Tim: And so how has that shaped the new bigger picture vision for the company?

Norm: We are thinking bigger. And we are keeping the patient at the center of everything that we do. There is no path to health equity without listening to and understanding the voice of the patients. Our vision is to become the healthcare pioneer that transforms the patient voice into a new generation of actionable data and real-world intelligence, for the benefit of everybody in the healthcare system.

Tim: Why do you think that the team that you have assembled is uniquely positioned to tackle this mission?

Norm: The three of us on the founding team have had success in other industries like financial services. We have limited professional experience in healthcare, which is a fantastically complex industry. So over the last year, we focused intently on expanding our leadership team to bring more meaningful healthcare experience into the business. We now have an incredible team that includes top tier talent, vast digital health experience, as well a diversity of professional experience from startup companies to large well-established businesses. This added breadth and depth of experience has the team operating at a very high level. We are all working well together and collaborating, and we do so within a very healthy culture of transparent discussion and debate which is a must-have in the startup world. Honestly, the caliber of talent we have brought on has truly been transformational for Patient Discovery.

Tim: When you reflect on your journey as a co-Founder and CEO, it seems like there are those pivotal moments where you just “feel it.” You feel the momentum, you feel things click, and doors unlock. What are those pivotal moments where you felt the business gain substantial momentum?

Norm: Yes, absolutely, and it happened this year when we decided to move into the community oncology practices. Really, it was the direction of the team that we brought on board. What we came to find was that we were working with large academic centers and that the combination of our expanded team’s experience and our ability to deploy our solution within oncology practices has proved to be a really powerful combination. Community oncology practices are incredibly dedicated to their patients. They are hungry for their patients to be successful on care plans, and everybody we meet within the practice – the oncologists, the nurses, the social workers, the case managers, the administrators – are really dedicated to patient care. They just don’t have the resources that are required to help the patients in every way that they can. They are in desperate need of tools that can help expand and scale their existing resources because they can’t keep hiring in today’s environment. We offer solutions that offer more leverage to the practice.

Tim: How has your thinking around hiring evolved as you continue to scale the business?

Norm: Our decision to invest in expanding the leadership team in the last year has proven to be a terrific one and we will continue to invest in the team. However, as a startup leader, I am constantly balancing the needs that we anticipate with the practical limitations of our available capital. So, as I look forward, I have begun to separate the needs that we expect in two camps: those that require new capabilities within the firm and those that are expanding capacity. When we put those two things together, we are placing a higher priority on new capabilities because they take time to develop. Once that demand comes to fruition, we don’t have the time to react. Whereas on the capacity side, even though that can be scarier because you are worried about not being able to deliver, all the demand doesn’t tend to come in at once. We have the skills in-house and the opportunity to reallocate resources, bring in contractors, or bring in other project resources. We can react more quickly to those kinds of changes.

Tim: Thinking into the future, what are you most excited about with respect to opportunities for Patient Discovery and the impact that you, the team, and the business can have on the healthcare industry?

Norm: We have an incredible opportunity to improve the lives of so many patients by helping the oncology practice understand and address the health-related social needs that their patients are facing. Better outcomes for patients mean improved quality of life for patients and their families, in addition to lower costs for caring for these patients. As cancers progress, patient care becomes much more difficult and much more expensive. Essentially, everybody wins. We’ve worked with large academic systems, community practices, group purchasing organizations, pharma manufacturers, and nobody is aware of a solution that is helping patients’ providers in the way that we are. From a social perspective, I’m really disappointed that these problems have persisted for so long. But from a business perspective, we just have an enormous opportunity for us and everyday it is incredibly exciting to get up and be able to do well by doing good.

Tim: What keeps you up at night?

Norm: Lack of time, which is really our scarcest resource. The healthcare industry, more than most others I’ve worked in, is slow to adapt. There are a lot of good reasons for the slow pace since it’s a complex industry. There is a tremendous amount of regulatory infrastructure that inhibits the movement of ideas, information, and people from one environment to the next. Things take time to progress and that’s the thing I fear most– that the market will move beyond us, we will miss the opportunity, and as a young nimble company we need to act swiftly.

Aequitas Annual Digital Health Executive Compensation Study

As we cruise into the midway point in the year, it’s crazy to reflect on how much has happened in 5 short months. You could argue that the industry as a whole is in a different cycle now than it was in January. Chatter has lots of folks leaning out budgets, conserving capital, and preparing for a downturn of unknown severity and duration. We finally saw a drop-off in Digital Health Funding this year (a leading indicator we’ve been keeping and eye out for), and so we expect a moderated cooling of the talent market over the next 2-4 quarters. This feels like an overdue correction to us – so much funding has flooded that market in the last two years, leading to inflated valuations and skyrocketing salaries. Equilibrium is important, and we’ve been out of balance for a bit, so while we expect the next few quarters to be bumpy, longer term, we remain bullish. All of that said, there remains a tremendous supply/demand imbalance between jobs and strong execs to fill them, and the inventory will probably take some time to clear. To us, this means, that we likely see continued intense competition for talent this year, holding executive compensation near the highs they’ve recently enjoyed.

Which brings us to our Annual Digital Health Executive Compensation Study. For the second year in a row, this was a labor of love, and we’re pleased to share this report with you here. This originally was distributed to all of the study participants in an early access format a few months ago, but as we ramp up ahead of the Fall Survey launch for the 2022 study, we wanted folks to see the benefits of participating. We anticipate this year will be our richest data set yet, and we’re excited to continue hearing great feedback about how this has helped people. Here’s a few snippets at a glance:

  • Seems like everyone these days is searching for a great product leader and product execs know it. With 63% of product respondents switching jobs in 2021, these leaders saw increases on their base salaries of between 10 and 25% across the board at the Seed through Series B level.
  • In 2020, when a BIPOC exec negotiated their base salary, they saw an average increase of 8.7%, far below the average of 11.8%. This year, that percentage jumped to 11.1%, just ahead of the 11% average.
  • 48% of our respondents switched jobs in the last year, led by product and sales. Biggest reason? Mission of the company accounted for 32% of the primary reason, followed by leadership team at 24%. Compensation was a paltry 6% as the top reason for the switch, which goes to show that while retention is hard, it can also be supported by what your company does versus just what it pays.
  • Regardless of how much data you have, sentiment and understanding will always play a big part in human decision-making. Of our respondents, nearly 40% felt that they were below market on their compensation. If you look at that group in totality, 52% of them are actually at or above market for their function, level and stage.

We hope you enjoy reading the rest!

AQP Interview with David West – CEO & Co-Founder of Proscia

David West is the CEO and Co-Founder of Proscia, a software company that is accelerating pathology’s digital transformation to change the way we understand diseases like cancer. Proscia’s Concentriq digital pathology platform and powerful AI applications are advancing the 150-year-old standard of research and diagnosis towards a data-driven discipline, unlocking new insights that accelerate discovery, improve patient outcomes, and fulfill the promise of precision care.

Nina: What was the inspiration behind founding Proscia, and for those who aren’t familiar, tell us a bit about what you’re building?

David: My background is in computational biology. I studied biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins and fell in love with the pathology space when I worked with some scientists at Hopkins medicine who were doing work in this field of research that they called “quantitative nuclear morphometry,” which is definitely a mouthful! Today we would probably just call it AI in pathology or computational pathology. Essentially, we were looking at images of biopsies and using machine learning and computer vision to predict cancer outcomes. Cancer is something that runs in my family and has had a personal impact on my life with seeing family members go through that journey.

I’m personally passionate about the intersection of software and medicine. I partnered up with my co-founders to help take some of this technology that we were seeing in an academic field and bring it to the real world. I guess you could say I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I didn’t have much patience for a PhD, so we started building software. What began as a humble project with a big vision, turned into my full-time job in 2016. Now Proscia has over a hundred employees and great customers in life sciences and diagnostic labs. Our software today helps labs manage image-based pathology work. Rather than using microscopes and glass slides to diagnose, conduct cancer research, or do any type of work that is dependent on understanding tissue, we provide a solution that helps labs manage their workflows using these really big images called “whole slide images,” which is a growing trend in science and medicine. We also develop AI applications that identify areas of interest and help accelerate workflows.

Nina: Can you share some information about the company’s growth?

David: By the end of last year, Proscia’s platform was in 10 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies and we really solidified our position as the product leader in the digital pathology and life sciences space. We are doubling down on that position, pushing on commercial growth, and expanding those accounts. We know that once a customer starts using the Proscia platform, they fall in love with it and the average account spend almost doubles in their second year versus their first year. We will continue building upon on top of this strong foundation that we ended 2021 with.

Nina: With all that momentum, what are you most proud of?

David: I’m probably preaching to the choir here to say that the thing I’m most proud of is the team. For me, on a personal level, I get to work with incredibly smart people who are remarkably talented in their areas of expertise. One of the most rewarding things about being an entrepreneur is that I am a generalist in a sense, who gets to work with amazing specialists. It is awesome to have so many of the world leading experts in this niche field on our team who are part of our journey and share this mission with us.

Nina: What has been the most challenging part of growing Proscia?

David: They say that building a company is like “eating glass.” That is a truism in more ways than I initially realized when starting a company. This was just a fun project that turned into a real business. There are a lot of ups and downs, and the most challenging part is all about persistence. I think even if you talk to the most successful entrepreneur, they will tell you that there are downs. I just heard the story about how before Facebook IPO’d, they took about a 50% haircut on their valuation in a down round just to bring in more cash to be able to “out survive” their other competitors. Even very successful companies that were high growth and profitable go through these challenges. When growing a company, you have to be able to lead a team through that.

Nina: You guys had to retrench when Covid first rolled in. What did you learn about yourselves through that?

David: During COVID, as for many companies, we were fundraising right when it started. Then all of a sudden, within a week, we went from kicking off the round to investors saying, “actually I’m not taking meetings” or “we’re going to see how this thing plays out here.” Fortunately, a few weeks after that, a couple of things happened. We closed massive deals and we were growing 10x in bookings year-over-year in 2020. Then the world started opening up again and investors started saying, “you know we’re not doing the in-person thing, but we will probably invest without ever meeting in-person, so let’s jump on Zoom.” And we did! We found an investor who was amazing that led our Series B a few months after COVID. We made some decisions to make sure that we had a good runway, reserved cash, buckled down, and ended up coming out on top and stronger than ever. Persistence matters a lot especially in healthcare, which is hard because the cycles of innovation are long.

Nina: Based on that experience, what of that do you think you can apply to the correction we’re most likely facing in the months ahead?

David: For growth-stage software companies, the reality is that cash flowed very freely for the past couple years and it’s now drying up. LP’s are pulling back from venture funds. Venture funds are slowing down on investment. They say there’s about a quarter trillion dollars in dry powder still sitting out there, but that’ll probably be deployed more slowly. For us what that means going back to the basics, making sure we have a good strong business, and prioritizing capital efficiency. They talk about being “default to live” in the venture/startup world, which in many ways means we don’t want to be addicted to venture capital. I think that is especially important in this environment with the trend of investors paying double, triple, or 10x the Series A investment in a Series B round. That is probably not going to happen anymore. The best businesses are going to survive and thrive, and probably take the lion’s share of this market. We want to lean into that, and I think we have good foundations to be able to do that. As a business that’s been through ups and downs, we know how to manage through that, and we have the confidence to do things right.

Nina: What keeps you up at night at this stage?

David: We have a great team and a great culture. That is just so important to our story, our future, and our ability to have that strong DNA. We’ve been in this remote and hybrid work environment for the past 2 years now, and I continue to think about how we lead in that context. That definitely keeps me up at night. I don’t think I have the answers, and I don’t know if anyone has the answers. Historically, it has been a very competitive talent market. I think that maybe some of those effects of the asset bubble are going to cool off and make it more favorable for companies to not have to sacrifice culture to get great talent, but I think that there were companies that probably caved on culture. We want to make sure that we never do that and that we keep this an authentically Proscia place.

Nina: On that note, can you elaborate on the culture at Proscia?

David: We are a mission-driven company at our core. We’re here because we think that the world of medicine is in great need of great technology and that scientists and pathologists have been shortchanged. There are going to be ups, and there’s going to be downs. We say that in our culture that we want to win as a team, and we want to share in our disappointments and in our successes. I think people really feel that here. People come to Proscia and know we’re building a plane while flying it. They know it’s messy. It doesn’t take away from the fact that sometimes the going gets tough. There are tight deadlines, and it feels like we are balancing a million things at once, but I think it’s the culture and the mission that keeps people moving forward.

Nina: If you could go back in time to when you first founded Proscia, what advice would you give yourself?

David: People matter way more than most would want to admit. The decisions around people are tough, and they’re tough for a good reason. I think that the important thing is to just find great people, double down on great talent, and don’t waste too much time with bad talent.

In Spite of Hot Streak in Growth Hiring, Confusion Remains

By: Regina Heffernan

In 2021, approximately 30% of Aequitas Partners’ total searches were related to Sales and Growth roles ranging in titles from Head of Commercial, to Vice Presidents of Business Development, Sales or Strategic Partnerships, to Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Growth Officer.

This trend is consistent with the demand we have seen in the marketplace as well as companies shifting from recovery mode to growth and retention. We have multiple resources available to support this notion as well, including our Annual Digital Health Compensation Study, that includes survey data from over 1000 senior executives across Healthcare IT and Digital Health, and breaks down the median ranges across Sales and Growth and across base salary, incentive compensation, and equity.

The study identified that the Sales and Growth function (not an individual contributor) is one of, if not the most highly compensated functions regardless of the stage of the company. Whereas, individual contributors (a professional whose role doesn’t include the management of others) tend to earn more through incentive compensation rather than base.

The study also reported that individuals within Sales/Growth functions negotiate more compared to virtually all of their other functional counterparts, and as a result, rake in an 11.7% increase in salary. Additionally, 36% reported being committed to their current roles for the next year or longer and 30% disclosed they would listen if approached for another opportunity. This aligns with the major game of musical chairs we’ve seen in this funciton for the last 18 months.

Recently, when speaking to potential candidates, multiple people shared that they are getting slammed with opportunities and receiving roughly 5 new inbounds a week on new roles, just in the first 6 weeks of the year.

Currently, on our Health Talent Exchange, there are over 220 open Sales and Business Development, and 100 Marketing and Communications positions. This democratized platform connects organizations that are actively hiring with people who are passionate about careers in healthcare, and is reflective of the remarkable demand for talent we’re seeing across the spectrum.

When I started at the firm, we were in the thick of multiple senior Growth related searches. Coming from the health plan world, I knew I needed to quickly familiarize myself with the way Sales teams in startups were structured and how to best identify the perfect candidate for these complex engagements.

I found myself asking things like: ‘How is a Chief Growth Officer different from a Chief Revenue or Sales Officer? How do these roles and responsibilities need to change as the company scales? When do Founders know it is the right time to hire a VP of Sales versus their Chief Commercial Officer?

As I became more familiar with our business, I also observed a similar question set from our clients as they thought through their needs. It is critically important for them and our team to be aligned on what we’re looking for in order to identify the best qualified candidate who also mirrors the core values of the company. Many of our scoping sessions revolved around delineating between all the possibilities.

Early on, I cornered our Founder and Managing Partner, Tim Gordon, and asked him what the most common misconceptions he’s seen amongst clients hiring for these roles are. He shared, “One of the hardest things for folks to figure out is whether they need to hire a senior executive that flies solo for a while before building a team, or whether they need more direct management right away. C-suite leaders are quite accustomed to managing managers, so sometimes being a Series A company still refining GTM and confirming product-market-fit, you’re just not there yet. You really need a Head of Commercial who can dive in with you as a thought partner on those questions, all while building a pipeline and setting up the infrastructure so that you’re ready when it’s time to hire the team. That’s just one example, but growth is on everyone’s mind for obvious reasons, and what you need is very situation-specific.”

As part of our process, we collaborate with our clients by first understanding their needs, issues, goals, and strategies to lend our industry expertise and assist in determining the appropriate role and title, qualifications and key attributes, and salary range that aligns competitively in the market by utilizing our aforementioned Compensation Study as a benchmark. This information is crucial as we go through a series of ongoing conversations with our clients discussing areas including but not limited to: target audience, existing networks, industry background, experience selling into specific markets and segments, and involvement in team building versus being an individual contributor. This information and direction then helps our team in developing comprehensive market research and speaking to the right potential candidates.

In a competitive market, it is important to understand the nuances across roles to best position yourself as an executive seeking somehting new, and as a company to optimize your budget when building out the executive team.

As a quick reference, here are the key differentiators to consider when considering hiring across the growth function:

CGO & CRO are quite often synonymous and interchangeable. Here, we’re usually talking about someone who owns all revenue, and thus tends to have Sales, Marketing, Business Development and Account Management reporting to them. In those cases, you’ll often see VPs of each of those subfunctions report to the CGO/CRO

Chief Sales Officers more commonly look like extremely seasonsed sales leaders. They know how to build and run sales organizations, and will have everything related to new logo acquisition within their purview. It also infers a certain size organization, meaning it’s likely that multiple VPs of Sales running distinct sales team will be reporting to this person.

Head of/Chief Commercial Officer indicates to us that the organization is looking for a strategic leader who is also a builder, and who excels at “figuring things out.” i.e. What’s our GTM, customer segmentation, early messaging, VoC feeback loop, etc., and suggests efforts that come ahead of a replicable sales process suited for ramping a sales team.

Vice Presidents of Sales can take two forms. The first, is what’s often referred to as the Player/Coach, frequently seen as the first growth hire who gets some initial lift for the organization by winning a few deals and getting the pipeline filled, before turning their sights on hiring a sales team which they then lead. Alternatively, VPs of Sales can also join as a leader of a sales team straight way, with no “player” expectation, solely focused on building and scaling a sales organization to meet revenue targets.

Vice Presidents of Business Development tend be senior, strategic individual contributors. Historically, the title would suggest a focus on indirect sales, i.e. channel sales, or strategic partnerships, but has evolved to mean a strategic deal shaper that excels in ambiguous, unstructured settings, and can “create” before a sales process becomes repeatable. A good way to think of it is that BD is Sales, but Sales is not BD.
There’ clearly a great deal of nuance among these roles, and there’s even some extra ones that don’t fit neatly into what we covered here. Knowing where you need to invest starts with understanding what you’ve got and where it hurts. Going to market unsure of what good looks like, in this environment, is likely to lead to a lot of frustration. If you’d like to chat with us about how to approach this, we’re always happy to. If your curious about how this all ties in to some of the broader trends we saw in 2021 and that we’re predicting for 2022, you can check that out here.

What a Year! Now What?!

By: Tim Gordon

It’s easy to forget that Q1 and Q4 of 2021 were bookends for the same calendar year. The outlook at the start of last year was far from certain without hindsight on our side – vaccination rollouts were slow and mismanaged, our healthcare workers were getting the jab, but most of us had resigned ourselves to not being vaccinated until summer or fall at the earliest, if even in 2021. Digital Health seemed to be leading the recovery after monster third and fourth quarters from a funding perspective, but we had hardly come to feel like we were on easy street. Fast forward through an unprecedented year of Digital Health funding, and unquestionably the wildest talent market I’ve ever seen, and here we sit with no sign of the latter slowing down.

As we reflected on the year, and then looked ahead, we got a good sense for what dominated the discourse, and we have some thoughts on what will in 2022.

Looking Back

Growth and Tech roles have dominated our open search slate for the last 18-24 months. Everyone under the sun is looking for a CGO to sell value-based care to payers, or a top tier CTO to build a scalable platform to deliver virtual care. The trend follows right down those functional “stacks,” to include VPs of Sales, Engineering and Product. As hiring ramped on the heels of big funding in Q3 of 2020, it set the stage for a run on these functions in 2021. As we look back across the industry and our network, the number of executives in these roles who changed jobs in 2021 is staggering. Much like the housing market, companies that have raised (relatively) smaller amounts of capital have gotten squeezed when it comes to hiring for these roles. With it being quite common to hear VP of Engineering candidates expect to see $300K base salaries, what’s a Founder with $5M raised to do?

This has created one of the most lopsided hiring markets I’ve seen in 10+ years. Counteroffers are being made – and believe it or not, accepted – at a rate we’re just not used to seeing. Compensation is being driven up. Companies that have raised massive amounts of capital are throwing it at employee retention. Every finalist candidate is considering multiple offers simultaneously, and we’re seeing folks negotiate offers like they’re trying to teach that car salesman a lesson, forgetting that they will need to go work with this person afterward.

Looking Forward

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We’re already seeing some signs of the fervor in these functions peak, and it will likely plateau this year. Since late last year, we’ve been predicting a shifted focus toward finance and operations to create to structural rigor required to scale what all those growth and tech folks have sold and built. I’m not sure we’ll see things quite as intense for these functions as we did for the aforementioned last year, but it should make for a competitive market in those areas. If the trend of big A rounds continues, that should drive increased demand for marketing leadership, a common investment at roughly that time in a company’s life. I’d also be on the lookout for a spike in hiring for something we don’t see as often in venture – Corporate Development. We’re in an age of M&A, and with the dry powder some of these “venture stage” organizations have amassed, it’s likely we’ll see more accretive growth strategies with a need for someone to lead them.

Hiring and funding are inextricably linked, and we view the latter as a leading indicator for the former. We’d expect to see funding plateau and perhaps even show a downward trend before we see a drop in hiring. There’s just too much capital in the market right now, and healthcare is a labor-intensive industry that will continue to require massive amounts of talent to scale. Sooner or later, the supply/demand imbalance will correct, but in the interim, leaders need to get creative about how they hire senior executives.

General Market Sentiment

At this point, there’s little doubt that Covid has been a catalyst for Digital Health. Not too unlike when gas prices forced grown-ups to carpool to work in minivans, leading to more widespread adoption of electric vehicles, necessity drove rapid telehealth adoption over the last 2 years, and solidified the role that technology will play in healthcare going forward. Value based care is here to stay, and the looming mental health crisis in our country – and globally – is being addressed by a broad range of both established and upstart ventures. Lastly, while the pandemic raged, another epidemic faded from the public discourse – the opioid epidemic. Covid only poured fuel on that fire, so we expect to see more conversation about it in 2022, as well as substantial growth in the platforms that have been built to address it. 2021 was a wild ride, and I doubt 2022 will be much more tame, but the momentum is intense, and I think we’re in for another boundary-pushing year in Digital Health.

An Interview with Stephen Smith, Founder and CEO of NOCD

Stephen Smith is the CEO and Founder of NOCD, a digital community and telehealth platform that delivers OCD prevention and management therapy to people who have traditionally been stigmatized, misunderstood and misdiagnosed. NOCD is on a mission to create a world where anyone can access effective OCD therapy, no matter where they live or how much money they make.

PH: What was the inspiration behind founding NOCD?

SS: NOCD was founded off of my personal experience. I have OCD, a very misunderstood condition that affects about one in 40 people. I would say the term is recognized by pretty much everyone in society, right? People always use the term “OCD,” but very rarely do people actually know what it means. It’s a condition that’s similar to PTSD, where PTSD is intrusive thoughts about the past – for example, a war veteran who has flashbacks about their time in Iraq or Afghanistan, whereas OCD is intrusive thoughts about the future. They are typically what we call ego-dystonic thoughts, because they violate the person’s core values and character, and they often manifest in very taboo formats. So people can have religious, sexual, violent, relationship-based, or existential OCD, and they may have no idea what it actually means or why they’re having the fears and the recurring thoughts.

You know, back in the day I was doing really well. I was doing well in school. I played football at a very small school down in Texas and OCD onset after my sophomore year, which pretty much crippled me. I was misdiagnosed five times and developed comorbidities. I eventually had to leave school, I stopped playing football, and that’s what caused me to really hit rock bottom. So from there, I tried to search for help online, because I didn’t know what else to do and I was embarrassed. I was searching my symptoms and I stumbled upon a group of other people going through the same thing and they defined their symptoms as OCD.

First of all, I had really no idea that what I was going through had a name, and second, that it was common and third, that there was seemingly help available. When I started searching for help, I realized it’s a very manageable chronic condition; you can’t really cure it, but you can manage it. It’s managed through a therapy called exposure and response prevention (ERP), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. So I tried to go find this treatment. There was one clinician in my area and she was cash only, charging $350 out of pocket per session with a seven-month waitlist. The only chance to really get better was to see that clinician and it was beyond challenging to do it.

Thanks to the help of a family member, I eventually got off the waitlist, saw the clinician and I ended up being diagnosed with this condition. The clinician said, “look, we’re going to go through this therapy. It’s very effective, but it’s going to take work.” We started doing the therapy and it was very challenging because between sessions she wasn’t available, but nonetheless, I got through the treatment and ended up regaining my life. I went back to school, finished up my degree and played football.

At the very end of my college experience, I was looking back and thinking, “how could so many people out there globally be suffering with this condition but yet there’s treatment that’s very effective for it?”

PH: What makes OCD different from other chronic or mental health conditions?

SS: It’s not a clinical issue; it’s an operational issue. We’re not doing a good enough job identifying people who have this condition and managing them because of a variety of things. There’s not enough awareness about what OCD really is. There’s not a centralized care network that people can access. There’s no support between sessions. And so unlike other chronic conditions where you might have great identification tools and great networks available, OCD had none of it. So I thought, what if we solve that? What if we made it easier to identify people, what if we connected them to clinicians that specialize in OCD, what if we gave them support between sessions and, and what if we did that all using technology? That became the catalyst for NOCD. Today, we’re one of the fastest growing companies in behavioral health, thanks to the hard work of our team and the support we’ve received from our investors, and the community. And so we’re very grateful for all of that.

PH: What’s the grand vision for NOCD?

SS: We’re looking to end global suffering caused by OCD.

PH: Mental Health has become such a hot topic, particularly during COVID. What’s the difference that you’re seeing in the conversation at the tail end of 2021 vs 2019?

SS: Well I think there has been a change in what we call “consumer behavior.” People are more likely to trust virtual solutions, knowing that the world’s gone virtual. Initially, there was some skepticism about whether going virtual can actually work – not just from payers, or from providers, but also from the people seeking help. And then by everything going virtual, it pretty much proved that you can actually do meaningful work and get meaningful treatments.

That’s one thing that we have been leading within the OCD community and I think our model that we’ve developed as a result of our scale, is applicable to treating serious behavior health issues. Through our work, we have developed this overarching model that is not only virtual first, but it’s also community driven.

PH: There are a number of companies out there that say they do mental health at large. Why is it so important to have a company like NOCD that focuses on a very specific mental illness or a condition?

SS: I would say when thinking about NOCD, we’re not necessarily condition-specific, we’re community-specific. If you think about the people with OCD, they define themselves by having OCD, a specific condition, because that’s often what’s “most wrong.” So if I have OCD, I may also have anxiety, depression, stress, or a substance use disorder. I may also have a variety of other conditions, but what’s driving the unhealthiness is the core problem and in many cases, it’s OCD. So if you hear someone in the community say, “well, I have OCD and that’s pretty much why my life is crippled right now,” what happens is that you basically have a root problem that doesn’t get addressed and as a result, it creates many other issues.

Just from just growing this community of OCD patients, we’ve learned that having a community-driven model that speaks to “what’s wrong,” ultimately helps you identify populations that have this condition as the the core or primary diagnosis. And then it allows us to also address the whole person by addressing the root cause. This community-specific and community-driven approach enables us to bring in personalized services to really address the root cause and keep people healthy long-term.

PH: Let’s unpack some of those services. Tell us more about how a person might use NOCD. What is their experience like?

SS: I’ll give you a specific type of example. Postpartum OCD affects 7.8% of new mothers. This is a very different subtype and very misunderstood. What often happens is a mother with a newborn child may fear, “what if I harm my child?” This is called a violent intrusive thought and it’s a hallmark symptom of OCD. It violates the mother’s core values in her character and it causes her tremendous amounts of distress. So she spends all day long trying to make that thought go away. At a certain point, she’ll have so much anxiety that she will ultimately not be able to function like she normally would and that will cause her to be depressed. She’ll ultimately go to her PCP and say, “look, I am completely disabled. I feel depressed. I feel anxious all the time,” but she won’t actually describe what she’s going through because she’s embarrassed. If she tells her PCP that she has intrusive thoughts, will they take her child away? And so in that case, she’ll be prescribed medication, she’ll get referred to anxiety treatment, and that treatment might not only be ineffective, but it might actually be harmful.

What we do at NOCD is we first create content to meet that consumer or that new mother online in a way that is really safe. The new mother may search her fears to try to make them go away and then she’ll stumble upon our content that educates her on what’s really happening. That content might be from key opinion leaders in the form of a blog article. It might even be from a community member – someone in our peer feeds who are describing what they’re going through.

From that experience she’ll realize she’s not alone and what she’s going through is normal and it’s actually very manageable through evidence-based therapy. So then she’ll book a 15-minute call with our team and do her first NOCD therapy session with one of our licensed therapists with specialty training in OCD and ERP, the gold standard therapy for OCD. And at that point, if she has it, she’ll be diagnosed and if she is not diagnosed with OCD, she’ll be referred out. If she is diagnosed, she’ll get treated, do live face-to-face sessions with her provider virtually. In between sessions, she’ll get support from different peer communities and different self-help tools, and so she’ll never be alone. She can even message her therapist asynchronously if she’d like.

Eventually, she’d make clinical strides and see reductions in not only the OCD severity, but also anxiety, depression, and stress. From there, she’s just maintaining her results. At that point, because we’ve gained trust with that member, we want to connect her back into the healthcare system in a way that is also very personalized. So we might even refer her to a group of different digital health companies focused on serving its exact same population or we may refer in network to a PCP that might be helpful. There’s many different things that we can do to ensure that she stays healthy and when she stays healthy, it not only affects her, but also affects her child and it makes their family’s life better as a whole. It’s not just one specific condition. It’s also longitudinally focused on just making someone’s life much better after we’ve gained their trust.

PH: What has changed on the supply side, in this case, the therapists in this new landscape?

SS: I’ve also seen changes in the industry where you have this fixed market supply of therapists, let’s call it 600,000 licensed therapists in the U.S., but you have millions of people. How do you scale and where does that fixed therapist supply go? So I think you’re starting to see therapists getting stretched in many different directions. I think you’ll see therapists that are serving more acute populations, groups that have a little bit more severe nature. That’s what NOCD is focused on, really providing community-driven therapy for the OCD population and building up that network that can really scale overall for severe behavioral health issues. So I think you’re seeing that change happen too.

PH: You mentioned within your personal story, that there were a couple of different points where access was difficult. One was that waitlist, so clearly NOCD solves that. But the other component is that it’s $350 a session, and that’s not something that is available to every individual. Can you talk about how a person may pay for this? Is it reimbursed or do they always have to come out of pocket?

SS: I faced three big barriers to getting effective care– (1) I was in San Antonio, Texas and there was one clinician in my area so if I didn’t see her, the next clinician available was in Houston, which would have been a six-hour round trip visit. (2) The cost was $350. (3) There’s a long waitlist. And (4) lack of support between sessions. And these challenges were all after I finally understood what I was going through, so really the biggest barrier was just figuring things out.

We unpacked the problem where we said, okay let’s first give people support between sessions who actually know what they’re going through. That was our step one. Then once we realized that was effective we said, let’s go rebuild this network and let’s make sure the network can offer people care no matter where they live in their state, no matter how much money they make, and in a very quick and easy way.

But to your point, we have virtual services so no matter where you live in your state, you can access a licensed therapist that specializes in ERP. We have 105 million lives under coverage right now in the U.S. We have partnered with national payers, managed behavioral health organizations, and different regional payers across the country. And we have brought ERP specialty care in-network. We have a unique model to do that, allowing us to serve members using their insurance. For example, they can find us and realize that their own insurer whether it be Kaiser Permanente or Cigna, etc. covers this and they can actually see a licensed therapist specializing in ERP and I don’t have to pay $350 a session.

For wait times, we’re growing our network and we’re doing it in specific regions of the country. That’s one of our big focuses right now – let’s keep growing our network so we can keep our average wait time within seven days. So we’ve taken it from seven months industry average to seven days. Now we’re trying to get even better. We want to get it within three days.

PH: You guys have been growing a lot – 105 million lives under coverage is incredible! What are some of the other ways in which NOCD has grown in 2021?

SS: We raised a $33 million Series B. We partnered with F-Prime Capital who led the round, and Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Eight Roads. Also our current investors all participated, so we were excited about that.

Our network has grown considerably. We’re getting close to having thousands of therapists in our network. We’ve done hundreds of thousands of therapy sessions in 2021 alone. Our goal is not only providing great outcomes and serving people, which we’ve done with thousands and thousands of patients, but also redefining OCD. Everyone recognizes the term OCD, but very rarely do people know what it actually means. It’s about creating more awareness so that when people hear the term, they won’t think of it as a joke.

We’ve partnered with Maria Bamford, a celebrity comedian and she has helped us create content. We’ve done some OCD awareness campaigns in partnership with certain companies and so all these efforts give us hope for what this condition can really be known as in the future.

PH: With all that momentum, what are you most proud of?

SS: I’m really proud of how our team has rallied together and you have persevered. It’s not easy, as I’m sure you see from working with talent all across the country, to work virtually every day and trying to solve problems and communicate in this new world. There are challenges with that. There are also challenges within the population from a behavioral health standpoint. There is demand across the board. How do you keep up with demand and how do you ensure that you are solving problems with quality? How do you keep focused when you have so many different things getting added to your plate? How do you focus on the right priorities? So I’m proud of our team and how our team has responded and how our team has grown. You see people who came in as entry-level team members, right out of college who are now leading and that development is inspirational. I think that’s stuff that has allowed us to grow here in a sustainable way.

PH: How has your thinking evolved about how to attract and more importantly, retain the right people who can help you attain your big vision?

SS: When thinking about NOCD, there are short-term, mid-term and long-term values. In the short-term, you’re not just going to come to a mission-centered company, you’re going to come to a life-altering company. We’re actually completely transforming people’s lives. We’re bringing people who come to us in a crippled state and usually in two or three months, they leave completely transformed. They can do everything that they once weren’t able to do and I think that that’s really amazing in this moment. There’s nothing that drives encouragement to come to work like helping people through that and just seeing the results. That has helped us scale our network. It’s also helped us retain people that work at the company.

In the mid-term, we really are a company that’s focused on giving each of our team members upside in the long term nature of the company. We do have competitive programs to help people obtain value as the company scales.

We also really think about the long-term nature of life. When you retire and look back, you’re going to want to say that you’ve actually made a huge difference in solving a massive problem and we’ve ultimately given people the chance to do just that. They’re coming here and they are actually solving a crisis that has never been solved before.

PH: What’s been the best advice that you’ve received relating to being CEO?

SS: I’ve received a lot of advice. The best advice that I think that is also most applicable, especially in early stages, is to focus on sales early on, because if you don’t have sales, it’s really tough to grow. There are many more problems that will emerge if you don’t have sales. This really experienced CEO pulled me aside at a conference and he said, “usually operations can catch up to sales. Sales is the place where you could make the most impact in your business to help it sustain and reach its long term goals.” That message was reinforced by our Executive Chairman Glen Tullman, who has been absolutely tremendous to NOCD both as an investor and advisor. The way to grow is to just keep focusing on getting a great product people don’t just like, but that they love. Then you also need to focus on selling and marketing that product.

Focus is really key because there are so many things that you have to do during the day– you’ll have to manage people, talk to customers, and strategize. But what is the most important? At the end of the day you have to grow, you have to have revenue coming in the door to cover costs. Otherwise it makes it really challenging to function. So that’s where the CEO should focus on making sure there’s capital coming in the door through growth channels for the business.

Are You Paid What You’re Worth?

By: Polina Hanin

“Am I paid what I’m worth?” A quick question that hangs in the air uncomfortably as you try to unpack the impact of the word “worth.” And while worth may be hard to quantify, payment certainly isn’t. You know exactly what your base, bonus and equity is in money terms. OK, maybe not equity.

Aequitas Partners has always been a human capital company with equity at its heart. To aid in the search for further transparency and insight, last year we launched a resource center, including the industry’s first executive compensation study. And today, we’re announcing the long-awaited sequel – the 2nd Annual Digital Health Executive Compensation Study.

If 2020 was all about new normals, 2021 is about understanding where the trends are headed. We were really proud of what the first study accomplished. It helped dozens of companies become competitive in their compensation structures. It aided thousands of executives in understanding whether their packages were at / below / above market for their function, seniority and company stage. And we even have a few reports of executives getting raises after using the findings in salary negotiations.

So here is where you come in. If you’re a CEO take it and then share this survey with your team. If you’re an executive take it and then share it with your peers to help them gain an understanding of their worth. If you’re an investor, share this survey with your portfolio companies to learn if your portfolio is competitive in the market.

CLICK HERE to participate by November 22nd, and receive your free copy of the full study in January 2022.

*NB: We will never sell your data and your responses will always be presented in an aggregate and anonymized format. All responses will be held in strict confidentiality and will only be used for the purposes of this study. The data is blinded and aggregated to maintain confidentiality. No information from this study will be integrated into our existing records or database. This survey is siloed and kept separate to preserve the integrity of the study, and the confidentiality of respondents.

It’s Not Just About the Money

By: Tim Gordon

We are in a bull market for Digital Health right now. Full stop. We are at minimum 4 quarters deep into it, and depending on how you view Q2 of 2020, it may have started before then, with a brief pause to watch Covid pour jet fuel all over this fire. Whether or not we’re in a bubble is a conversation for another day, or a beer (in person!) at JPMorgan in January. What’s not up for debate is the impact this environment is having on talent acquisition, and while I know some will frown on the term “war for talent,” that’s probably putting it mildly. Here’s just a few things we’ve seen in the last 9 months:

A candidate reached offer stage for a complex search and was contacted by another opportunity, to which they told them that they were getting ready to receive said offer. To compete, the competing company made them an offer BEFORE interviewing them, and then conducted their full interview process in a compressed time-frame.

A candidate fielded multiple offers inside of 36 hours, all of which were above market rate, and to try to get leverage, one company threw down a $50K signing bonus to get the candidate to say yes by midnight – the same day the offer was made.

For the second time in a decade of us running executive search, a candidate accepted a counteroffer from their current employer. In a surprise first for us, they then recommitted to leaving, before flipping back to staying put – meaning they signed an offer letter twice, before ultimately staying with their current organization for a 100% increase in cash compensation and a $4M retention bonus over 4 years. The first time we saw a candidate accept a counteroffer from their current employer was April 2020.

I’ve got more stories but they’re all heartburn-inducing, so what do you do about it? The knee-jerk reaction is to pay more. Play the game, contribute to the inflation and get in the current, because we all know how important the right people are to building great companies. In some cases this will make sense. In others, not so much. There are a few things you can do as a high growth company competing for talent that don’t have to destroy your P&L.

Know Market Compensation For Your Needs

It’s imperative that you have a good grip on what the market is bearing for the search you have underway. If you are bottom quartile in all components (base, bonus, equity) you’ve got a problem. That problem isn’t limited to the new hire, it’s already festering inside your team. There’s a lot of concern about parity for incoming execs against the existing team, and rightfully so, but every time you bring in a senior leader, it’s an optimal time to reevaluate compensation on your existing team. Otherwise, this market will get you twice – once when your dream candidate takes a different offer, and again when folks on your team learn how far below market their comp is because someone is calling to double it. If you’re curious about how your compensation stacks up, you can check out our market compensation study from the end of last year. Conservatively, add 10-15% across the board because it’s changed that much. You can find it here.

Run a Tight, Decisive Process

Right now, a day can make a difference in closing out your top choice for a senior role. A week is an eternity. Structure a process that is well-defined, well-communicated, and has a bias toward action. Communicate that process to your candidates when you start engaging them and let them know the value of each step to them, not just to you. One of the single biggest cost-free levers a CEO can pull right now is decisively pulling the trigger when they see what they’re looking for. Being decisive is not the same as rushing. Swift decisions have to be a priority. If it isn’t a priority, you’re wasting your time, and you’ll end up frustrated and spinning your wheels. This doesn’t mean you’re running a search process for a CFO in a week. It just means that slack and waste in an ill-defined process that adds a day or a week or two to the rodeo means the bull wins.

Put Your Comp Plan Together Before you Pick Your Winner

This plays off of the importance of cadence in the last point. If you are just starting to formulate your bonus plan, or your LTIP, or how your commission schedule is going to look at the same time you’re constructing an offer for your finalist, it’s going to end badly. Budget all parts of the pay for the role for a base case scenario when you launch your search, and then model a stretch case and a “I never thought we could land that kind of exec” case. Get Board buy-in as early as possible. Have conversations with your finalists about the cap table, company valuations, raise plans, and equity outlooks, before you make them an offer. The more items that matter that can be checked off the list in parallel to your vetting process, the smoother your closing will be. And have a template offer letter ready before you decide that you should put said offer down, so all you need to do is fill in some blanks and click “send.”

Be Prepared to Reach

The first 3 points are basically free. We can debate the merits of the inflation we’re seeing, but that won’t make it go away. There are more great jobs than there are great candidates to fill them right now. Everyone still wants passive candidates that aren’t actively looking for something new. Combine these things, and you have a candidate’s market. So we can lament runaway costs or go halfway to meet them, and make the rest up with creativity. Are there milestone equity markers? Can you swing a sign-on bonus (this helps keep base pay parity for your current team, and can be clawed back if someone leaves)? Can you offer interesting PTO opportunities? Can you provide other benefits that have real value (not ping pong tables in the office)? Can you commit to revisiting cash compensation at key milestones like fundraises?

This market won’t last forever, but we’re in for at least the next 12-18 months in our opinion. That’s forever in startup land. So if reaching to compete solely on compensation isn’t an option, control the levers that you can. Be decisive and swift, run a tight process, work through pertinent issues that are on candidates’ minds in parallel to your vetting, and when the time comes, act. In addition to giving you more leverage, coincidentally, all of these things will create a better candidate experience, and if you think they’re not paying attention to that now more than ever, thing again.