CEO tryouts

As technology firms continue to suffer from the economic downturn, they're getting more cautious about hiring top executives. Buster Houchins, CEO of Cleveland-based search firm Christian & Timbers, said a growing number of technology firms are giving new executives the title of chief operating officer (COO) so they can prove themselves before taking over as CEO.

Despite the lower title, compensation for COOs is generous: They can earn US$300,000 to $400,000, with 3 percent to 4 percent equity. And their deals usually include pre-negotiated escalators granting another 2 percent to 3 percent equity when they become CEOs, according to Houchins.

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