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Keep the company private and cash their dividend checks for millions.

Yes! I wish more people talked about this. Especially with the tax benefits, issuing dividends is the way to go.

Would employees see any of this? Or particularly an amount that would have justified taking a below-market salary, leaving an excellent position (remember that good help is hard to find? you have to woo great employees away from elsewhere) in big-co and working hours?

Sure - anyone with equity would (under normal company structures). So all the founders have to do is give employees equity or institute a profit sharing program.

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