Five things I wish I knew before I started my first business

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Starting a business can be tough, but I think nothing will ever be more difficult than putting up your very first venture. Without the advantage of experience, your tools are usually just textbook knowledge, observed wisdom and generous advice.

So let me help you today by giving you one of those…generous advice.

It was in 2004 when I registered my first business—a computer network gaming station in Makati. Unfortunately, after almost a year, me and my partners decided to close it down. Our reasons are not important, but the lessons I learned from that small venture are certainly something worth sharing today.

Here are five things I wish I knew before I started that very first business:

Your business plan can become obsolete fast. Read any business book and they’ll tell you that a business plan is essential when starting a business. What many people tend to skip or miss reading is the part written in the end that you may have to ditch your business plan along the way. I was one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, having a business plan before starting is important. It is your road map to success. But understand that unexpected things are bound to happen and you will need to adjust your business plan, or make a new one at worst.

When the map becomes irrelevant or unworkable, don’t hesitate to find alternative routes that will get you to your destination.

Self-employment is a necessary initial cost. I learned from a book the difference between the self-employed and the business owner. One works for the business, while the other lets the business work for him. I wanted to be the business owner.

But I learned later on that one cannot be a business owner without being self-employed first. Businesses are like children, you have to nurture and take care of them until they become independent.

Good employees are really hard to find. I thought since a lot of people are unemployed, then it will be easy to find someone to work for you.

I was partly right. What I didn’t know was that it will not be easy to find someone who will do a good job. People working in HR will agree—a person’s resume cannot guarantee his work ethics. And from experience, even those who shine in their interview can be quite sloppy at work.

So again, take some time to work on your business so you’ll know exactly what it demands from a person. This will help you screen applicants better, and you’ll be able to hire the right people fit for the job.

Marketing is essential in every business—big and small. My first business was just a rented space in a small barangay. Being the first and only computer gaming shop in the area, I was confident that I wouldn’t need to do marketing and advertising after the grand opening.

“It’s just a small and simple business,” I thought. But then I learned that some of “my kids” are going somewhere across town because there’s a new shop that’s cheaper but with faster computers. Relying simply on walk-in customers and word of mouth can be risky. And when business is good, expect competition to appear.

A continuous marketing campaign will not only allow you to reach new customers, but it will also establish your brand and keep the trust and loyalty of your clientele.

It’s more than just about the money. My primary reason for starting my first business was because I wanted passive income. And one of the reasons  we decided to close it down was because it wasn’t making enough.

Ironically, I also realized that the best reason  we closed down was because we were only after profits—we were in it for the wrong reason.

It’s true that your business should make money, but more important, it should be able to take you closer to a noble goal. That’s why it’s important to have a mission and vision for the business. It’s a stronger motivation than income.

Having that desire to help and provide a solution to a problem is the main force that drives successful entrepreneurs everywhere.

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Fitz Villafuerte is a registered financial planner of RFP Philippines. Learn more about personal financial planning at the 64th RFP program this September 2017. To inquire, e-mail info@rfp.ph or text <name><e-mail> <RFP>
at 0917-9689774.



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