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I have been with my current employer for a period of nearly 5 years. We are a small digital agency and I have seen it go from 3 staff to 10 (I am now the longest serving team member). Although I was taken on as a junior for web development I had no mentors and very much had to grow this area of the business.

Over the period of these 5 years I have slowly taken more control of the business, areas where I felt could be improved. This includes getting a tighter reign on accounts, forecasting and growth.

I have a very good working relationship with my boss and I think they'd agree with me if I were to say a large portion of the businesses growth is directly attributable to my work. I have helped the business grow it's turnover significantly over the past five years, around 40% year on year with around 80% over the last 12 months.

12 months ago I was made an offer of 10% shares in the business and a salary increase to £21,000 from £18,000 (EDIT: offer not made in writing). I turned down the pay rise on the merit of it being better spent on business growth as I know my boss does not take this amount of money out of the business either - a rise didn't seem fair.

Despite pushing on my part, this offer has yet to see fruition and i'm beginning to get increasingly concerned of the time I am wasting. We've had the occasional £1,000 bonus and other perks but nothing too elaborate in the past 12 months.

With the company doing so well (Large stockpile of cash and work lined up for 6 months alongside 12 month retainers) I brought up the idea of a pay rise for both of us, as it has been loosely discussed in the past. I simply mentioned that if we had earned £30,000 each for the last 12 months the companies net profit would only be affected by around 20%. This was discarded and I was told "next year" and it would be £25,000.

How many more "next years" am I going to hear?

I'm 21 and worried that my role (as a 'director' - however false that is) has left me without a clear skill set. Although I am still very capable of solving technical problems, I do not feel I handle enough of it to begin looking for a new technical role. I also do not feel that I could get a position as a manager etc due to my age. The final issue with this is that I am very passionate about what I do and do not want to be at the bottom of a company hierarchy - I pride myself on driving standards up.

I generally feel like I am now stuck. I have personal goals I want to achieve and no clear path to get there, until I work through this.

A perfect situation for me would be 25% shares with my current employer and a better salary. Bringing this up however would be seen as an attack on their business and I would have no backup plan. With a house and bills to pay for this is obviously not ideal however I do have around a months salary in savings to keep me afloat.

I could set up on my own. However I seriously hate playing 'sales' and although I have filled that role with my employer occasionally I really do not enjoy this and do not want to have to do it.

I appreciate this isn't a straight forward problem and the good relationship I have with my employer makes this extremely difficult for me personally. I do feel like I owe them enormously for the large amount of freedom, responsibility and opportunity they have given me.

What is the best way to proceed given the situation without coming across as aggressive or angry?

(EDIT) Further information following questions:

  • No offer was made in writing.

  • I am the next most authoritative person at the company. No one else has been involved in any discussions (no witnesses either).

  • Follow ups have all been verbal.

  • I did have quick progression with salary up until 12 months ago when shares were put on the table. As I started on an apprenticeship salary.

To be honest, if I had the agreement in writing anyway it's not like I could turn around and say "Well I have this in writing so what are you going to do?" as it would only mean I'd have to start looking for employment.

  • That offer of 10% shares and a payrise, did it come in writing? – JohnHC Sep 30 '16 at 11:30
  • Sadly not, verbal review. There is a still a small business mentality whereby things like that are deemed unimportant... – Anonymous Sep 30 '16 at 11:33
  • Is your boss the one who made the verbal offer originally? – mikeazo Sep 30 '16 at 11:53
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    You've been there five years with big contributions to the company and you're still on £18k???? – pyro Sep 30 '16 at 13:30
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    Thanks a lot for all the questions! I've updated my question to reflex. Yes 18k for the last 2 and a half (ish) years. – Anonymous Sep 30 '16 at 13:41
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First let me explain your Boss position

  • Even if he perceives the current business stiuation as good he doesn't know how long it will continue or even if it will continue
  • Being CEO of a small company require being frugal with money, and people sometimes stay stuck in this frugal mindset.
  • For him giving you a raise is getting the same from you for a higher cost
  • His current strategy of deflecting any demand (which were not firm at all) has worked so far.
  • If he knows your insecurities then he knows he has the bargaining advantage

This is the initial situation.

What you need :

  • Choose the battlefield : The end of a profitable business cycle is a good time. The time when you feel a overwhelming frustration is not. You know your boss and business more than anyone here, so you need to choose a time when things are going better than usual.
  • Be formal about your request : Ask for meeting with specific date\time\location, when you are not likely to be interrupted by work\team
  • Show your growth and maturity in the company : I was here then, I am here now. I proactively took on these projects and succeeded, I am now in charge of x people. For instance, the fact that you refused that offer show you make sacrifices for the company
  • Show your ambition, project yourself in the future : talk about future projets you want to take on, about your vision
  • Demonstrate confidence about your value : This means you need to come with a specific request (25% share and £30K salary). Those numbers should be justifiable marketwise.

Now a negotiation begins. You shouldn't be too rigit and prepare in your mind (something you will not communicate to your boss) the lowest bid you will accept. But on the same time you shouldn't let him dismiss your request with a wave of a hand. Stay composed and firm.

Anyway, you need to be prepared for the worst case. What if he says no? Do you go back to work as nothing happen? I would recommend against, because he just bought himself another year of your services. He is also gaining the upper hand in the discussion as you keep taking no for an answer.

If you are not confident about finding a job anywhere else, don't ask for the pay rise. If you are qualified, you should be able to find a job somewhere. Ask boldly.

  • I really appreciate the time you've taken to understand my predicament. You've made some assumptions such as my boss being 'frugal with money', you've got these very accurate which has impressed me! This is sound advice and definitely the voice of reason I was looking for. – Anonymous Sep 30 '16 at 20:33

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