When your boss asks for a pay cut

Friendly is the first Open Startup in Switzerland. Not only our revenues are public, but also all expenses including salaries and even our employment contracts.

Our monthly reports consist mainly of numbers. How much did we earn, what did we spend our customers’ money on, how many visits did our website have…

However, a journey consists of more than numbers. But from experiences, questions, moments of happiness and disappointments.

As you may already know, we don’t want investors. We go the way of “bootstrapping”, i.e. growing by our own efforts. Instead of getting bigger, we prefer to get better.

But are we really “bootstrapped” if we are still making losses after almost three years and Stefan, our founder, has to plug the holes with his own money? How long can that work, especially in times of looming recession?

There are many ways to save money. You can reduce marketing, for example. But you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. If everyone is cutting back on marketing, you should go all in. It will be more effective than ever before.

We hardly have any leeway when it comes to our IT and administration costs. There is nothing we can do without at the moment.

That leaves salaries.

It has taken years to build this team, and each and every individual contributes to its success. We want to avoid layoffs by all means.

What is left then?

The solution followed in a one-on-one meeting. Stefan said that we were not yet in a critical situation, but could get into one if we did not act now. We could still act from a position of strength.

Then Stefan asked me if I could imagine giving up part of my salary for a limited time.

As an employee, it’s a strange situation when your boss asks you if you can cut your own salary. Especially when he says, “Any number is fine. You know best how much you absolutely need”.

How would you react?

This may be difficult for many, but the decision was easy for me: As an employee, I know how much we actually make. I know how high our costs are. I know my boss’s salary (spoiler alert: CHF 0 to date). Do you also have this information at your workplace?

I cut my own salary from $5,500 so far to $5,000 in November and $4,500 from December (I live in Hungary, so we had agreed on the salary in USD at the time).

A pay cut is not a good feeling and can weaken your belief in success. It can feel like a step backward or maybe even the beginning of the end.

But I have all the data and I know what we are capable of and that our products have a promising future. So I am sure that this situation is only temporary and that we can overcome it together.

Update November 2023: In November 2023, we successfully reversed Joey’s pay cut in full. Read more about this in our Open Startup Report November 2023.

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