Does it feel like your startup is stuck in first gear? You’ve got your business off the ground, but sales and profits aren’t where you hoped they’d be.

You’re putting what seems like 24/7 into the business—maybe still working at a day job or part-time gig to make ends meet. You reinvest every penny back into the business, but you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

Maybe the problem isn’t that you need to work harder or put more money into the business. Maybe the problem is that you’re not taking your business seriously enough.

“How can that be?” you say. “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 and not sure what to do differently. Then an 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. But the minute she started taking a salary, she told me, “It was a huge turning point.” Suddenly, her business felt “real,” she felt more motivated, and 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 or the payment on your car. Make it something tangible and something you care about. That way, when you’re working late on a proposal or putting together an order, you can think proudly that the money you’re making is going for something that really matters to you.

Taking your business seriously as a business whose success or failure matters—not just a hobby that might or might not take off—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.

Not sure how much to pay yourself? Your SCORE mentor can help you come up with a figure that’s enough to be motivational but not enough to slow down growth. Visit to get matched with your mentor today.

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and

CEO, GrowBiz Media