I missed the second night of final pitches b/c of a longstanding engagement in Shrewsbury, but one thing that came up on the first night is critical for any entrepreneur getting ready to pitch anywhere: Stop talking about your martyrdom.
When someone gets up in front of judges or investors and declares, "I'm not paying myself a salary," they may think that sounds impressive. They may think that translates into an image of self-sacrifice, or self-abnegation.
If I were on the other side of the table, though, that's not what I would hear. I would just wonder, "Okay, so how exactly is that sustainable? Is that your long-term plan? Are you running a business here, or a personal charity?"
- Maybe someone has passive investment income.
- Maybe someone inherited a million bucks.
- Maybe someone's spouse brings home enough bacon for the whole household.
- Maybe there's a long-term plan that involves short-term use of bridge loans or credit cards.
- Maybe the person is living off of some sort of government benefit.
- Maybe someone is working other jobs on the side to make ends meet.
Until you know that, though, those are all just maybes. Whether by hook or by crook (maybe, for instance, you're diverting some student loan money into your business...) just have some kind of a plan.
Whether you pay yourself a salary is YOUR choice...but just be ready to explain it, and to stand by it. If you boldly state that you're martyring yourself for no salary, and then go deer-in-headlights when pressed as to how, exactly, that keeps you from living under a bridge, you've lost the confidence of whoever was asking the question, as well as everyone else around you.