startup business

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you struggling with a startup business that seems to be going nowhere? Perhaps you’ve been in business for a year…or two…or even three. You should be “over the hump” by now, but you’re not. Your business isn’t a failure, exactly—but it’s not a roaring success, either. What’s the problem?

If you’re still working at a day job or part-time gig to make ends meet, putting every penny of your profits back into your startup business, but still not moving forward, maybe the problem is that you’re not taking your business seriously enough.

“How can that be?” you say indignantly. “I’m devoting my life to this business!”

Yes, but are you treating it like a business?

Recently, I interviewed a woman entrepreneur who’d been struggling with her startup business for three years. She was frustrated, exhausted and not sure what to do differently. Then a business advisor urged her to start paying herself a salary—even if it was a tiny one.

The entrepreneur resisted at first—she didn’t think she could afford to pay herself anything. But the minute she started taking a salary, she told me, “It was a huge turning point.” All of a sudden, her startup business felt “real.” She felt more motivated, energized and enthused. She actually started working shorter hours—but using the hours she did work more efficiently and thoughtfully. And business growth began in earnest.

The salary you take out of your business doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to be meaningful to you. Maybe it’s enough money to cover the dues for your child’s sports activities, to take a vacation at the end of the year or to make the monthly payment on your car (which you adore). Make it something tangible and something you care about. That way, when you’re working until 2 a.m. proofreading a client proposal or putting together an order for shipment, you can think proudly that the money you’re making is going for something that really matters to you.

By paying yourself, you’re taking your business seriously as a venture whose success or failure matters—not just a hobby that might or might not take off, and “who cares?” You’re also giving yourself a taste of what it will be like when (not “if”) your business can actually support you…maybe even make you rich.

Taking your business seriously affects the way you think of it, the way you act and the way others respond to you. Do what you must to make your business real to you.