Compensation at UpBuild

Team member compensation can be tricky. No one really wants to talk about it, yet it’s top of mind for everyone. In 2018, it’s no longer enough to simply offer competitive salaries and perks – it’s also crucial that your team has transparency into exactly how their compensation is determined. Does this mean total salary transparency is the logical path for every company? I applaud companies like Buffer who’ve made salary transparency at the individual level work well for several years, but at UpBuild, we’ve decided it’s not the path for us right now. Even so, in thinking about our core values, it was important to us to design a transparent, fair, and attainable rewards system. A system that is available and easily understood by everyone (both internally and externally) and that’s based on intentional rewards for measurable progress vs. arbitrary raises determined by gut feelings.

When thinking about this system, it’s important to remember it’s exactly that: a system. If we want UpBuild to be the best place for technical marketers to work, we should be thinking about how we can compensate them in ways that support many different areas of their life. This post is about how we’ve chosen to do that.


Setting the right expectations doesn’t only apply to clients – salary ranges are outlined in each of our job postings (example here). This ensures that both the applicant and the UpBuild team are on the same page before we even get to talk for the first time. It also helps us avoid the “you say a number, no you say a number” dance in job interviews, which isn’t a very UpBuildy approach.

Our salary ranges are based on typical factors like market research and factoring in the other perks & benefits that we offer; starting salaries for UpBuild team members will also depend on the experience they bring with them. We conduct semi-annual performance reviews so everyone’s on the same page about their performance in their role, and each team member is evaluated for a salary increase annually at minimum. We base our annual raises on each team member’s performance review scores, so if your overall evaluation is a 4.5/5, you can expect a 4.5% raise.

We don’t extend initial offers that are outside of our defined salary ranges, and we don’t go beyond these ranges in giving raises either. While this may seem rigid, it works in both the interest of the business and the interests of our team members. Everyone knows exactly what they can expect in their role and in every role at UpBuild, and it allows us to fairly compensate the team without posing a risk to the business. It also makes sure that we’re rewarding people for stellar performance, not for being better negotiators. If you’re meeting all of your job requirements, you can expect an average raise of 3% (also in line with the nationwide average). If you’re killing it performance-wise, you can expect to be rewarded with an above-average raise.

Profit-Sharing & Quarterly Bonuses

If you’ve worked for a company that gives out flat-rate bonuses based on X amount of profit, you know that that type of program isn’t motivating to anyone except the executive team. It’s just not reasonable to expect your team to get excited about that when they don’t have control over how the business is spending its money. For that reason, we wanted to implement a bonus program that would be tied back to business health while allowing each team member to directly influence the amount of their individual bonus.

Every quarter, as long as UpBuild has maintained a net profit of 5%, each full-time team member receives a baseline bonus of 2% of their salary for that quarter. We then offer up to 100 achievement-based “bonus points” that can be racked up during the quarter, allowing team members to earn up to a 3x multiplier on their baseline bonus. For example:

$50,000 annually = $12,500 quarterly salary = $250 baseline bonus (2% of $12,500)

$250 baseline bonus + 3x multiplier = $750 quarterly bonus

This allows our team members to potentially increase their annual salary by 6%. Our ever-growing list of achievements varies – here are some examples:

  • Write a blog post: 1 point
  • Refer a prospect that results in an initial phone call: 3 points
  • Speak at a conference: 10 points
  • Retain a client as the account lead for 1 year: 25 points

Standard Benefits + Additional Perks

Our standard monetary benefits include fully-covered health & dental insurance (50% coverage for spouses!), a 12-week parental leave program, and a 401k program where we match 100% of the team’s contributions (up to 4% of their annual salary). I say standard because in 2018, if you aren’t offering some variation of these items, you are not competitive. Businesses should care about their team members’ welfare outside of the office, and health, family, & retirement are huge parts of that.

In case you didn’t know (how could you not, though?), we’re a fully distributed company so we offer each team member $500 per year in the form of a Home Office Allowance. Want to get that 3rd monitor you’ve been eyeing while you’re neck deep in spreadsheets? Great. Would you rather spend it on a life-size poster of Ron Swanson, because having him stare at you all day is a great motivator? Be my guest! Working from home can come with its own unique challenges, and we want our team to be in a space that helps them do their best work.

Lastly, we offer continuing education stipends for each team member that can go toward courses, conferences, or anything that will help them level up their knowledge in a particular area (MozCon is a particular favorite among our Senior Marketing Strategists).

What’s Next

Eventually, we plan on expanding our compensation ecosystem so that it includes more items like a stipend for coworking spaces, or a sabbatical option for tenured team members. I can’t say when this will happen for certain, but I do know that we have every intention of continuously optimizing this so that it best benefits our team, and in turn, UpBuild as a business. As Richard Branson said, “if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers.” Compensating team members fairly and in a comprehensive way isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s a growth strategy. When you recognize that your team members are your most important “product,” you understand how necessary it is to compensate them well. It leads to longer retention, a better level of client service, and it’s the right thing to do.

Written by
With over seven years of operational experience, Ryan is responsible for optimizing agency operations so that the team is fully supported and UpBuild continues to be the best place for technical marketers to do their best work.

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