Starting in Business: The Power of the First Step

Almost everyone wants to get rich. And almost everyone recognizes that going into business is one of the best ways to get rich or, at the very least, attain financial sufficiency. Not everyone, however, musters enough resolve to take the first step and actually go into business.

We’ve encountered hopeful entrepreneurs who are convinced that there’s every reason to start a business, and yet are equally convinced that there’s every reason why failure is almost guaranteed. We’ve seen it again and again. The reason? You’ll be surprised to learn that it’s not the lack of capital, a challenge which every successful business person, having an opportunity at hand, happily confronts. And it’s actually a constellation of related reasons: No prior experience and fear of failure.

We naturally fear what we don’t know. This is heightened by the fact that failure in business involves not only loss of face, or the expected negative effect on self-esteem by reason of the failure, but, more importantly, monetary loss or financial ruin. This brings us to the reality that for small enterprises or SMEs, the business capital is usually the personal capital of the entrepreneur (or borrowed from family, relatives and friends).

To address the fear of starting a business, the prospective entrepreneur may want to look into the following pointers shared by clients and friends who are engaged in micro, small and medium enterprises.

Start small

It’s just like practice in sports. Practice makes perfect. The player gains increased confidence with expertise. Bigger scale means more headaches. A new entrepreneur would not want to bite more than he can chew.

Accept the fact that there will be setbacks

If there’s one thing that successful businessmen have in common, that would be the failures they’ve suffered; the willingness to pick themselves up and start anew with equal, if not more, resolve and vigor to succeed. As the famous inventor Thomas A. Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Use money that you’re willing to lose

Because setbacks are normal in business, using money that the entrepreneur is “willing to lose.” Of course, no one wants to lose money. In the world of business and investments, however, “willing to lose money” means that the new entrepreneur won’t be broke in case the first business idea doesn’t fly. This goes into peace of mind. More importantly, this will allow enough calculated risk-taking (see Innovation and Entrepreneurship), an indispensable ingredient in entrepreneurship — knowing that you will not personally go bankrupt if something goes wrong with the first business venture. This goes into confidence.

Keep the day job

For Filipinos with absolutely no background in business, starting a business venture usually takes a form of a hobby or sideline, in addition to the 8 to 5 job that puts food on the table. The rule of thumb is to keep the day job until more income is generated from the business and more time/focus is needed to grow the business some more.

The fear of taking the first step is unfortunately a common trait. It all starts in the mind. We are always reminded by the quote of Margaret Thatcher, in the movie Iron Lady based on her life, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become.”

The more difficult part is taking the FIRST concrete step to start the business. People, by nature, can do a lot of things by instinct. Individuals have been known to lift, on their own, a refrigerator or a much heavier object during a fire, when the instinct of self-preservation kicks in. In a similar way, the decision to start a business is not difficult when fueled by necessity, when it appears to be the ONLY option. When the safer (and more acceptable) option is to gain employment, deciding to start a business is never easy.

Even in nature, borrowing from lessons in physics on friction and motion, it takes more force to move an object from rest. It’s really difficult to get out of our comfort zones. Think of diving into a swimming pool for the first time. For someone who has not experienced diving, the sight from the highest diving board must be terrifying. It will take a lot of convincing before the uninitiated will take the first jump, if he jumps at all. Anyone in that situation knows that the best way, after thinking it through, is to stop thinking and just take the plunge. Success can only come after taking the first step, no matter how difficult. That’s the power of the first step.


  1. Yes, it’s not easy to start a business. It’s even harder to maintain a profitable business. I really hope the government (I’m looking at you BIR) won’t make it extra hard to conduct business.

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