Can I Offer Equity to My Advisers and Customers?‍

Can I Offer Equity to My Advisers and Customers?‍

June 19, 2023

Can I Offer Equity to My Advisers and Customers?‍

Can you imagine a business model that not only attracts top talent but also nurtures unwavering stakeholder loyalty through the power of equity? Take Airbnb for instance; a company that has redefined the concept of success in both the real estate and hospitality industries. Beyond revolutionizing travel experiences, Airbnb has taken a bold step by offering equity shares not just to its advisers but also to its real estate consultants. In a sector traditionally driven by commissions, this innovative approach creates a win-win scenario, where consultants become more than just brand ambassadors—they become co-owners of the company's future. 

This is the whole point of today’s article: the unique strategy of offering equity to both advisers and customers. If you’re curious about the potential of equity sharing in empowering stakeholders and achieving your business bottom lines, read on to discover valuable insights.

Understanding Equity in the Business

Company ownership may be complex, yet equity stands as a pivotal pillar that empowers both employees and investors alike. At its core, equity represents a share of ownership in a company, entitling its holders to certain rights and a claim on the company's assets and earnings. Understanding the significance of equity is imperative for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to foster a strong and motivated team while strategically aligning the interests of stakeholders.

Importance of Equity

The importance of equity lies in its ability to create a sense of ownership and pride among those associated with the business. When employees, advisers, and investors hold equity stakes, they feel a deep emotional connection to the company's success and are motivated to contribute actively towards its growth and profitability. This shared vision fosters a culture of commitment, where everyone is driven by a common goal to achieve long-term success.

Moreover, equity serves as an invaluable tool to attract and retain top talent. Since the job market today is becoming increasingly competitive, prospective employees seek more than just a regular paycheck—they desire a sense of purpose and a chance to be part of something greater. Offering equity as part of an employee compensation package becomes a compelling incentive, as it presents the opportunity for substantial financial rewards if the company thrives.

Rationale Behind Equity Sharing

Through sharing ownership with key stakeholders, companies send a powerful message—they value and trust the individuals integral to their growth. For advisers and employees, equity signifies that their contributions are acknowledged and rewarded, fostering an environment of appreciation and respect.

Furthermore, offering equity is an effective means of aligning the interests of all stakeholders toward a common goal. When advisers and employees have a stake in the company's success, they are more likely to make decisions that prioritize the long-term health of the business over short-term gains. This alignment leads to better decision-making, enhanced teamwork, and a collective drive to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

Equity distribution can vary, with some companies reserving it solely for top-level executives, while others extend it to employees across all levels. Regardless of the extent of distribution, the underlying principle remains unchanged: equity serves as a powerful catalyst for building a dedicated and motivated workforce and a community of key contributors.

Different Forms of Equity

Equity, as a cornerstone of business ownership, takes on diverse forms, each offering unique benefits and considerations. As entrepreneurs and employers explore the possibilities of offering equity to advisers and customers, understanding the different vehicles through which equity can be shared is paramount. 

1. Stock Options

Stock options are a popular and widely-used form of equity compensation. Under this arrangement, employees, advisers, or investors are granted the right to purchase company shares at a predetermined price, known as the strike price, during a specified time frame. The allure of stock options lies in their potential for financial gain: as the company's value increases over time, option holders can purchase shares at the lower strike price and sell them at the market price, realizing a profit.

Stock options are typically subject to a vesting period, during which the recipient must fulfill certain conditions, such as remaining with the company for a specific duration, to exercise the options. This vesting structure encourages loyalty and dedication among option holders, as they must contribute to the company's growth to reap the full benefits of their equity.


Offering direct shares of the company to advisers, employees, or investors represents a straightforward and transparent method of distributing equity. Recipients become immediate stakeholders in the business, holding tangible ownership stakes from the outset. Unlike stock options, shares don't involve a purchase decision; instead, they are granted directly to the recipient as a form of compensation or investment.

Shares often come with voting rights, enabling holders to participate in decision-making processes that influence the company's direction. For businesses seeking to align interests and foster a strong sense of ownership, granting shares can be a compelling strategy.

3. Warrants

Warrants are financial instruments that grant the holder the right, but not the obligation, to purchase company shares at a specific price within a predefined time frame. These instruments are usually issued by the company itself, and the proceeds from warrant exercises contribute to the company's capital.

Warrants can be valuable tools for incentivizing advisers or investors, as they offer potential financial gain without an immediate financial commitment. Warrant holders have the flexibility to choose whether and when to exercise their right to purchase shares, based on their assessment of the company's performance and future prospects.

4. Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)

RSUs have gained popularity as a compelling alternative to stock options. With RSUs, recipients receive a promise to deliver company shares upon vesting, without the need to make any upfront payment. RSUs are subject to specific vesting conditions, such as remaining employed with the company for a certain period.

The key distinction of RSUs lies in their grant value. Unlike stock options, which are typically granted at a specific strike price, RSUs are valued based on the company's stock price at the time of vesting. As a result, RSU recipients benefit from any increase in the company's stock value during the vesting period, without the risk of a declining stock price affecting their equity value.

Understanding the different forms of equity empowers businesses to tailor their compensation plans to align with their goals and culture. Each equity mechanism offers distinct advantages and considerations, and the chosen approach can significantly influence the level of motivation and commitment among stakeholders.

Pros and Cons of Offering Equity to Advisors

When it comes to equity compensation, businesses often think of their employees as primary recipients. However, in the ever-evolving landscape of modern work arrangements, an increasing number of companies are engaging consultants or advisors to tap into specialized expertise and drive key initiatives. These advisers may not be traditional employees but are critical contributors to the company's success. Below are the pros and cons of offering equity to advisers so you can see how this innovative approach can foster dedication and commitment among consultants, even without being officially employed by the company, and decide whether to offer them this incentive after all.


  • Access to Specialized Talent: Engaging advisors allows companies to access specialized skills and knowledge without the commitment of permanent employment. Offering equity to these talented experts can be an attractive incentive, as it provides them with an opportunity to directly benefit from the success of the company they're helping to build.

  • Enhanced Commitment: Equity offers a unique way to align the interests of advisers with the company's long-term goals. As equity holders, consultants become more invested in the company's success, making them more motivated to contribute their expertise and actively support the company's growth.

  • Flexibility in Compensation: Consultants often work on project-based contracts or short-term engagements. Offering equity as part of the compensation package provides an alternative to traditional payment models and may appeal to consultants looking for a potential upside to their contributions.

  • Shared Vision: Equity compensation creates a shared vision among advisers and the company's leadership team. When consultants hold a stake in the company's success, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, share innovative ideas, and work cohesively toward achieving common objectives.


  • Complexity in Equity Distribution: Determining the equity share for advisers can be challenging. Companies must carefully evaluate the extent of the adviser's contribution, the level of commitment required, and the potential long-term impact on the business.

  • Dilution of Ownership: Extending equity to advisers may lead to a dilution of ownership for existing shareholders. Companies must strike a balance between incentivizing advisers and ensuring that the interests of existing stakeholders are not compromised.

  • Ambiguity in Commitment: Unlike permanent employees, advisers may not have the same level of commitment to the company's success, as their role is often short-term and project-specific. This can create uncertainty regarding the level of dedication advisers will demonstrate in driving long-term results.

  • Legal and Regulatory Considerations: Equity offerings to advisers involve legal complexities, including drafting agreements and ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations. It's crucial to seek legal advice to navigate these intricacies and protect the interests of all parties involved.

Legal Considerations When Offering Equity to Advisers

As businesses contemplate offering equity to advisers, consider taking time to navigate the legal landscape. Equity compensation involves complex legal considerations that encompass drafting agreements, complying with regulatory requirements, and protecting the rights of all parties involved. Below are just some critical legal aspects companies must address when extending equity to advisers to ensure a transparent and mutually beneficial arrangement.

Equity Agreements and Contracts

Creating clear and comprehensive equity agreements is the cornerstone of any equity compensation plan. These agreements should outline the terms, conditions, and expectations associated with the equity offering to advisers. Key elements to include in these agreements are:

  • Vesting Period: Clearly define the vesting period during which the adviser must fulfill specific conditions to gain ownership of the equity shares. This encourages long-term commitment and aligns the adviser's interests with the company's growth.

  • Transferability Restrictions: Specify any limitations on transferring or selling the equity shares, ensuring that the adviser cannot easily transfer ownership to others without the company's consent.

  • Conditions for Termination: Establish the circumstances under which the adviser's equity shares may be forfeited in case of termination or resignation. These conditions should be fair and reasonable to protect both the adviser and the company.

Compliance with Legal Requirements

Equity offerings are subject to various laws and regulations, including securities laws, tax laws, and labor laws. It's essential to seek legal counsel to ensure compliance with all relevant legal requirements, as the consequences of non-compliance can be severe.

  • Securities Laws: In many jurisdictions, offering equity shares is considered a securities issuance and may be subject to registration with the appropriate regulatory authorities. Compliance with securities laws helps protect both the company and its advisers from potential legal issues.

  • Tax Implications: Equity compensation can have significant tax implications for both the company and the adviser. Ensure that the equity plan complies with tax laws and seek advice from tax professionals to minimize tax burdens for all parties involved.

  • Labor Laws: Depending on the jurisdiction and the adviser's status (employee or consultant), labor laws may come into play concerning equity compensation. Complying with labor laws ensures that the adviser's rights are protected and that the compensation arrangement is in line with employment regulations.

Valuation of Equity

Determining a fair and accurate valuation of the equity being offered is crucial. An independent valuation expert can assist in assessing the company's worth and establishing the basis for the equity distribution. A well-documented valuation process helps avoid disputes and ensures transparency in the equity compensation plan.

Communication and Transparency

Transparency is key when offering equity to advisers. Clear communication about the terms, benefits, and potential risks associated with equity ownership enables advisers to make informed decisions. Providing detailed information about the company's financial health and prospects instills trust and confidence in the equity arrangement.

What About Offering Equity to Customers?

While equity compensation has traditionally been reserved for employees and advisers, a groundbreaking trend is emerging—offering equity shares to customers. This innovative approach transforms customer relationships, creating a unique bond between businesses and their most loyal patrons.

How Much Equity to Offer Customers

Determining the appropriate amount of equity to offer customers is a delicate balance. Companies must carefully evaluate the value of the equity, the customer's level of engagement and loyalty, and the potential impact on the company's ownership structure. Offering a nominal amount of equity can be seen as a symbolic gesture of appreciation, while a more substantial equity stake may be reserved for highly devoted and long-standing customers.


  • Enhanced Customer Loyalty: Offering equity shares to customers cultivates a sense of pride and ownership in the company's success. Loyal customers become more deeply committed to the brand, fostering long-term relationships and repeat business.

  • Brand Advocacy: Customers with equity stakes may become enthusiastic brand advocates, actively promoting the company's products or services to others. This organic word-of-mouth marketing can drive new customer acquisition and expand the brand's reach.

  • Customer Retention: Customer equity ownership fosters a strong bond between customers and the company. Customers are more likely to remain committed to the brand, even in the face of competitive offerings.


  • Complex Implementation: Offering equity to customers involves navigating legal and administrative complexities. Establishing a transparent and compliant equity program can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

  • Unrealized Value: Customers may not fully comprehend the value of their equity shares, leading to a lack of engagement with the program. Ensuring customers understand the potential benefits of equity ownership is crucial for maximizing its impact.

  • Limited Appeal: Equity offerings may not resonate with all customers, as some may prioritize other forms of rewards or incentives. Companies must assess their customer base and tailor equity offerings to those most likely to appreciate the gesture.

Case Study: Domino's Pizza's "Piece of The Pie" Rewards

In 2016, Domino's Pizza, the global pizza delivery giant, made waves in the industry with its innovative "Piece of The Pie" Rewards program. Recognizing the power of customer loyalty and advocacy in driving business growth, the company set out to create a unique and meaningful connection with its customers through equity sharing, though for a limited time.

The "Piece of The Pie" Rewards program operates on a groundbreaking premise—customers earn "pieces" of the company's stock for every eligible order they place through Domino's mobile app or website. Customers accumulate these "pieces" over time, and once they collect a specified number, they can claim a share of Domino's stock.

Through this equity-sharing program, Domino's empowers its customers by turning them into stakeholders in the company's success. Each "piece" of the stock represents a tangible ownership stake, linking the customer's financial interest with the brand's performance. Moreover, the "Piece of The Pie" Rewards program serves as a powerful loyalty incentive. Customers are not only motivated by the traditional rewards of discounts and free pizzas but also by the potential financial benefits of owning a part of Domino's.

Why RSUs Might Be The Best Equity to Offer

As a business owner, offering Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) to your advisers and customers can be a smart equity option. RSUs' performance-based vesting aligns their interests with your company's goals, fostering a performance-driven culture. Unlike stock options, RSUs don't require upfront payment, reducing their risk and making them an appealing incentive. With RSUs' value tied to your company's stock performance, advisers and customers gain a direct interest in your business's success, nurturing a shared vision. 

Additionally, RSUs can act as a powerful retention tool, motivating them to stay committed throughout the vesting period, ensuring stability and loyalty. The straightforward administration of RSUs offers you an efficient way to reward and motivate your advisers and customers, solidifying their dedication to your company's long-term growth.

When you’ve made up your mind and considered everything in this guide, perhaps you might want to explore our RSU plans at Upstock. To know more about how our RSU models help achieve your goals, book a demo with us today!

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