Small Company Average Chief Executive Officer Salary in United Kingdom 2024

Are you curious about how much CEOs of small companies in the UK earn? Do you wonder what factors determine these salaries and how they compare to those of CEOs in larger companies?

CEO compensation refers to the total remuneration package that CEOs receive for their services, including base salary, bonuses, equity, benefits, and perquisites. Understanding how CEO compensation is determined and what factors influence it is crucial in assessing the fairness and competitiveness of executive pay in the UK.

Key Takeaways:

  • CEO compensation in the UK is a complex and multifaceted subject.
  • Factors such as company size, industry, location, experience, and education influence CEO salaries.
  • Small company CEOs generally earn lower salaries compared to medium and large company CEOs.
  • Bonuses, equity, and benefits are additional components of CEO compensation.
  • There are challenges in determining CEO compensation, including debates about fairness and transparency.

Factors Influencing CEO Salaries

The average salary for CEO is £178,572 per year in the United Kingdom. This is influenced by several factors. Understanding these different elements is essential for assessing the determinants of CEO pay and the elements that contribute to CEO compensation.

Company Size and Industry

The size of a company and the industry it operates in are key factors that influence CEO salaries. CEOs of larger companies generally earn higher salaries compared to CEOs of smaller companies. Likewise, CEOs in industries such as finance and technology often command higher pay due to the complexity and competitiveness of these sectors.

Location and Cost of Living

The location in which a CEO works and the associated cost of living are important considerations in determining CEO salaries. CEOs in major cities with high living costs may receive higher pay to offset the expenses associated with living in those areas.

Experience and Education

The experience and education of a CEO also play a significant role in their salary. CEOs with extensive industry experience and advanced degrees may command higher compensation packages, as their expertise and qualifications contribute to their value as leaders.

Related reading: How do I find the best CEO?

Average Salary Range for Startup Chief Executive Officers

Small company CEOs in the UK typically earn a lower salary compared to their counterparts in medium and large companies. The average salary range for small company CEOs also varies depending on the industry.

Industry-Specific Base Salary Insights for CEOs

When looking at CEO salaries in small companies, it’s important to consider the specific industry. Different sectors have different compensation norms and benchmarks. Let’s explore some industry-specific insights:

  • In the technology sector, CEOs of small companies may have the potential for higher compensation due to the high growth and potential for success in this industry.
  • In the manufacturing sector, small company CEOs may earn a lower salary compared to large manufacturing companies due to differences in scale and revenue.
  • In the retail sector, small company CEOs may receive a modest salary, especially if the company is still in the early stages and focused on growth.

Additional Compensation Considerations

CEOs in the UK receive more than just base salaries as part of their compensation package. Additional components play a significant role in enhancing their overall remuneration and financial well-being.

Bonuses and Incentive Packages

Bonuses are a common element of CEO compensation in the UK. These bonuses are typically tied to performance metrics, incentivising CEOs to meet specific targets and goals. A well-performing CEO can significantly increase their earnings through bonuses, reflecting their ability to drive company success.

Equity and Share Options

Equity-based compensation is another significant component of CEO pay in the UK. CEOs may receive share options or equity grants, which provide them with the opportunity to accumulate long-term wealth. If the company’s stock value appreciates over time, CEOs can benefit financially from their equity-based compensation. Employee ownership trusts are also becoming increasingly popular for SMEs to incentivise staff. 

Benefits and Perquisites

In addition to salary and incentives, CEOs often enjoy various benefits and perquisites as part of their compensation package. These perks can include health insurance, pension plans, and company car allowances. By providing comprehensive benefits, companies aim to attract and retain top executive talent and ensure the overall well-being of their leaders.

Challenges in Determining CEO Pay 

Determining CEO compensation presents several challenges, highlighted by ongoing controversies surrounding CEO pay. There is a lack of consensus on what constitutes fair and reasonable compensation for top executives. Critics argue that CEO salaries are oftentimes excessive and not aligned with company performance or the wider workforce, leading to public scrutiny and backlash. The issue of pay inequality and the widening wealth gap further contribute to the controversy surrounding CEO compensation.

Related reading: How much does it cost to hire a CEO?

Companies face the challenge of balancing the need to attract and retain top talent with stakeholder considerations and societal expectations when setting CEO salaries. On one hand, they must offer competitive compensation packages to attract qualified individuals who can lead the company effectively. On the other hand, they must consider the financial implications of high executive pay and the potential negative impact on employee morale and public perception.

Additionally, determining the appropriate level of CEO compensation requires careful evaluation of various factors, such as company performance, industry benchmarks, and market conditions. Companies must also consider the complexities of setting performance metrics and ensuring that they align with long-term sustainable growth and shareholder value.

In summary, challenges in determining CEO compensation arise from differing opinions on fairness, concerns of excessive pay, and the need to strike a balance between attracting top talent and meeting stakeholder expectations. Companies must navigate these challenges carefully to ensure that CEO salaries are both competitive and aligned with the interests of the business and its stakeholders.

Challenges in Determining CEO Compensation
Lack of consensus on fair and reasonable pay
Controversies over excessive CEO salaries
Pay inequality and wealth gap concerns
Balance between attracting top talent and stakeholder considerations
Evaluation of company performance, industry benchmarks, and market conditions
Setting appropriate performance metrics for sustainable growth


CEO compensation in the UK is a complex and multi-faceted topic. Various factors influence CEO salaries, including company size, industry, location, experience, and education. Small company CEOs typically earn lower salaries compared to those in medium and large companies.

Additionally, the total remuneration package of CEOs includes bonuses, equity, and benefits. These components contribute to their overall compensation and reflect the performance-based incentives and perks that executives receive.

Determining CEO compensation is not without challenges, and ongoing debates surround the fairness, transparency, and alignment of executive pay. Balancing the need to attract and retain top talent with stakeholder considerations and societal expectations is a complex task for companies when setting CEO salaries.

Understanding the intricacies of CEO compensation is essential for businesses, investors, and stakeholders to navigate the complexities of corporate governance. By considering the key takeaways from the factors influencing CEO salaries and additional components of compensation, companies can make informed decisions to ensure fairness, competitiveness, and alignment with their strategic goals.

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What are the common health benefits offered to Small Company CEOs in the UK?

 Common health benefits for small company CEOs in the UK may include private health insurance, dental coverage, wellness programs, and access to mental health resources.

What are the salary expectations for Chief Executive Officers in startup companies?

CEOs in startup companies can expect to earn an average salary of £50,000 to £80,000 per year, depending on the size and success of the startup.

How does the gender pay gap impact CEO salaries in the UK?

The gender pay gap is still prevalent among CEOs in the UK, with female CEOs earning significantly less on average compared to their male counterparts. 

What level of education is typically required for a Small Company CEO in the UK?

 While there is no strict educational requirement, most small company CEOs in the UK hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, with many also having relevant industry certifications or experience.

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran seven of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.