Posted on Dec 18, 2018 by in Compensation Consulting Services, Compensation Programs, Compensation Solutions, Compensation Surveys, Recent Developments

Many products and services are born accidentally through unplanned events, such as Coca-Cola, Corn Flakes, Post-It Notes and Play-Doh to name a few.  Likewise, The Croner Company, a boutique compensation and benefits consulting firm, was an accident born from its founder’s discontent.

In the summer of 1978, dissatisfied with the strategy of the “big eight” accounting firm where he was a senior partner, Mel Croner resigned and took his wife and daughters on an extended vacation.  Upon his return, Mel was greeted by a stack of phone messages from former clients wanting to work with him, rather than stay with the firm he just had left.  After reaching an agreement with the firm not to recruit its employees, Mel hung out his “shingle” as a sole proprietor to help companies create their strategic plans, design their organizations, then thoughtfully link rewards to achieve strategic outcomes.  The shingle eventually became the company logo adorning the door of his own office building—where it has been displayed for 40 years.

Shortly after Mel struck out on his own, former colleague J.P. Culver (Pete) showed up at Mel’s office ready to work.  Mel and Pete have been business partners now for a total of over 46 years.  Hali Croner, Mel’s eldest daughter, joined The Croner Company in 1989 as Pete’s analyst conducting compensation surveys and supporting compensation consulting assignments for the healthcare industry.

The company now employs a staff of over 25 people and is based in Kentfield, California, with satellite offices in San Rafael and Beverly Hills.  Hali Croner serves as President and Chief Executive Officer.  Pete and Mel serve as her advisory board. 

When Hali joined the company in 1989, she quickly learned Pete’s survey business, bringing technological innovations into the process.  When the opportunity arose to start a survey in a new and upcoming industry—video games—Hali jumped in.  The Croner Software Games Survey was launched in 1989, at the behest of Brøderbund Software.  Hali became a pioneer and leading voice about the compensation policies and practices of this emerging industry.

Linda Grayson, an administrator at Croner for 20 years, described it as “the first software games survey born out of necessity to help with a burgeoning new industry called software games.  This survey soon led to a survey of position in this emerging industry space.  Studios and start-ups were asking how to pay and compensate employees who were doing jobs and filling positions that never existed before—positions that did not exactly equate to positions in other industries.  The first Croner surveys had 10-15 companies participating and around 20 positions surveyed, covering mostly compensation data.  Today’s Croner Software Games Survey covers much, much more information with 50 companies participating each year.”

Hali served as Brøderbund’s Board compensation consultant.  In addition, Hali and her team undertook and completed many consulting engagements with a variety of client, mostly in the industries that the firm surveys.

During a decline in the software games industry, many of the games employees moved to companies in the relatively new online industry.  These former Croner survey participants reached out to Hali and asked her to create a survey for their new industry—the internet.  Thus, the Croner Digital Content and Technology Survey, Croner’s largest survey, was born.

Today The Croner Company produces and publishes nine annual industry-specific benchmark surveys, considered the gold standard for their respective industries, including the Croner Digital Content and Technology Survey, Croner Software Games Survey, Croner Animation and Visual Effects Survey, Croner Local Media Survey, Croner Entertainment Survey, Lasnik-Broida / Croner Compensation Survey of Foundations, CTHRA Cable Programmers / Broadcast Networks Compensation Survey and CTHRA Cable and Satellite MSO Compensation Survey.  This year the company initiated the Software Games Survey—International and held the first survey planning meeting in London in April 2018.

In addition to compensation survey data, Croner provides compensation consulting to assist companies and grantmaking foundations develop total compensation and rewards structures, including short- and long-term incentive plans, sales incentive plans, equity plans, staff and executive compensation structures and board advisory services.  

According to Hali Croner, the moments that stand out over the years include working with people like Patsy Murphy to develop the first compensation program update for Brøderbund Software, where they “figured it out” without precedent.  Working with Emily Lee Kelley to set up compensation programs for each of her biotech clients, developing a lifelong friendship along the way which still includes quarterly HR lunches with a close group of colleagues.  Establishing a strong working relationship with Vicki Williams at NBCU and watching her rise to the top human resources role at the company.  And, finally, working with Jean Ermer when both women were young analysts, to then be asked by Jean 30 years later to be one of the companies proposing to conduct an Entertainment Survey for the film industry.  As Hali says, “For me, it’s always the intersection of great work, trusting and long-term relationships and a focus on collaboration that keeps the work satisfying.”

Mel Croner believes his proudest accomplishment is the company’s continued success, adding that likely there are less than five independent consulting firms, in any industry niche, that have experienced continued, successful operations for over 40 years without being acquired.  Mel’s other proudest accomplishment is his daughter Hali—who he believes will reach her company growth goals while continuing to lead the company in a most positive manner.  For Mel, “the key is to stay curious.”

The Croner Company looks forward to expanding its footprint internationally and to continuing to add value for its clients through consulting services and annual benchmark surveys.  While it may have been an accident, the birth of The Croner Company 40 years ago now feels like it was fate.  Fate of the best kind.

Celebrating 40 Years
Founders Mel Croner, Pete Culver and Hali Croner
Surrounded by The Croner Company Staff