Successful CEOs Deserve their Huge Salaries
Are America's CEOs paid more than they deserve? Many people's answer is a vehement: Yes. That view is reinforced anew every spring, when companies file their financial statements and we learn how much CEOs were paid last year.
In 2003 the average pay for CEOs at 200 of the largest U.S. companies was $11.3 million--but there are a good number whose compensation packages approach the $100 million mark. Faced with these figures, Americans from all walks of life--who revile CEOs as greedy fat cats--are overcome with bewilderment and indignation. Astonished to learn that what an average worker earns in a year, some CEOs earn in less than a week--people ask themselves: "How can the work of a corporate paper-pusher be worth so many millions of dollars?"
The answer is that successful CEOs are indispensable to their companies. They earn their rewards.
How big an influence can one man have on the fortunes of the entire corporation? Consider the impact of Jack Welch on General Electric. Before his tenure as CEO, the company was a bloated giant, floundering under its own weight. Splintered into dozens of distinct and inefficient business units, GE was scarcely making a profit. Welch turned it around. He streamlined and reorganized the company's operations and implemented a sound business strategy yielding more than $400 billion worth of shareholder wealth.
In business, success requires long-range thinking. But CEOs must project a strategic game plan in terms not merely of a month or two, but of years and decades. A biotechnology company, for example, may spend 15 years and billions of dollars developing a new cancer-fighting medicine. Success is impossible without the business acumen of its CEO. For years before a marketable product exists, he must raise sufficient capital to sustain the research. What long-term business model will attract venture capital? Should the company accept short-term partial sponsorship from a large drug manufacturer in exchange for a modest royalty on the drug in the future--or risk going it alone and possibly running out of funds? It is on such decisions that a company's success is made--and lives of cancer patients may depend.
In order to be...