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Top Notch Looking for top-level employees for your start-up? Here's what you'll have to offer.

By Paul DeCeglie

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're looking to bring in a highlevel executive, beprepared for a high-level price tag-an estimated 20 percent morethan you would have paid about a year ago. Want to beef up sales?Hire a sales VP for $165,000 a year. Ready to bring in a new CEO?Expect to pay $200,000 or more. According to venture capital firmVentureOne Corp., that's the kind of money (including bonusesand options) being paid by start-ups nationwide and across industrylines.

VentureOne recently surveyed 800 privately held U.S. companiesthat have received venture capital. Increased salaries reflect thetightest employment market in a quarter century as well asunprecedented rewards that dotcom and high-tech start-ups use tolure managers.

The average new business "just can't compete withventure-funded start-ups for top-level people," suggests LoisMarshall, whose Carmel, California-based The Marshall Group is anexecutive search firm. "The cream of the crop is going wherethe money is." If your business demands high-calibermanagement, "you must stretch to give them stock, stockoptions, phantom stock or something," she advises, or you risklosing even existing employees.

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