Haven’t paid myself in 3 years, what should I do?

I have hired a 4 person team under me, 3 coders and 1 design guy. It’s been like this for 3 years now. I sustain the team by doing services but there’s nothing left for me. I am always stressed because of there not being enough money for my personal expenditure.

Q1: Is this normal or is my startup fizzling out? The rate of a growth should be 10% per week yeah, which it isn’t.

Q2: I see hiring a sales guy as a solution. Services was a temp thing until we came out with our product. But that isn’t going as I planned.

  • Do you have any sales? Have you calculated how big the market is? If there is traction and market salesperson might help. More often the market just isn’t there and you need to stop and think hard about what you need to do.

  • Been there…was nearly 3 yrs for me, too. My partner and I kept paying everyone else. Multiple developers, client support and salespeople. It wasn’t until market conditions, a loss of our office space, and some employees getting new jobs that we were forced/able to slim down and the two of us were able to get paid! Yay! Despite going from 14 persons to 5, we were able to support our clients, and then grow again.

    With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we realized we needed to be paying us first. If you can’t do that, then yes, shut down. But, if you can at least pay yourself, you’ve got a job with theoretically infinite potential. So, I recommend letting go of at least 2 coders, maybe even the designer, too, if necessary for you to get paid. Retain a coder for any technical support issues, if essential to do so.

    Then, put as much focus as possible on sales and trimming your marketing spend and message to the absolute essentials that result in sales from the sweet spot of your prospects. Fire costly clients, if need be. Trim high maintenance product capabilities, if necessary. Focus on what is truly essential in all areas and get rid of the rest.

    We called it dimming the lights and were able to avoid turning them off. Six years later, we sold the company to a competitor for a decent amount. Just definitely don’t drag on the inevitable if a shut down is best. You are not doing anyone, including your four employees, any good bailing water out of a sinking ship. No harm in rebooting or moving on to something new.

    If you are able to do this and sustain, or even grow, positive cash flow, then consider how/who you may be able to bring on board to help technically again. But, always keep your sales growth ahead of your technical growth unless you have other peoples’ money to work with. I could probably go on, but hopefully this helps. Good luck and best wishes for renewed success!

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