Pay Yourself First No one likes to work for free, but builders do it all the time. Instead of taking a regular paycheck, they pay everybody else first — suppliers, subs, and employees — and take what's left as their salary. But this is exactly the opposite of what should happen, according to San Francisco Bay Area remodeler Paul Winans. "The single most important component of your overhead," says Winans, "is your own salary. It's one of the first expenses you should cover." In 1991-92, when business was slow, Winans wasn't always able to pay himself the salary he had budgeted for. His solution was to record the difference each pay period as a debt that the