12 Tips on How to Start a Business and Succeed in the Philippines


Perhaps more than owning a dream house or buying their first car, having their own business remains the ultimate goal of most people. Independence is best represented by being a business owner, given that by being one, you can distinguish yourself from 38,839,000 other Filipinos who chose to work for someone else in a nation of 100,000,000.

The most difficult aspect in any endeavor is starting it. A good analogy can be used by imagining yourself as a rock, which is an inanimate and immovable object but filled with potential energy. You cannot move unless acted upon by forces that initiate kinetic chain of events. In starting a business, the kinetic chain is initiated by one simple question.

Why do you want to start your own business?

Regardless of whether your motivation to start a business is rooted in frustration, jealousy, anger, despair, or hopelessness, this motivation has manifested from one simple activity that all of us do every day. Compared with other individuals, some may perform this activity frequently.

We dare to dream!

Our motivations to start our own businesses may differ but these motivations all come from a dream to lead productive lives, help others, or achieve personal growth. At the end of every dream is one goal: TO BE HAPPY.

“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you, “You can’t do it!” If you want something, you go get it. Period.”

This quote is one of the several inspirational lines from the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s a story of one man’s drive and determination to succeed against all odds to provide a better life for his son.

Just like the experiences of Chris Gardner in the movie, pursuing your dream is never easy. Starting a business is never easy. It’s not just about having an idea, raising money, and executing the plan. Starting a business requires patience, resourcefulness, determination, and most of all, COMMITMENT.

If you believe you have these attitudes, then the time to pursue your business is now!

Here are 12 tips on how to start your business and ensure its success

1. Learn from experience

One of the best advices I received was from a friend whose family has owned and operated a successful chain of local hotels. I was still in college at the time, and he had been running his father’s business for the past 10 years. I asked him what advice he would give me to become a successful entrepreneur.

“Work in a capacity of an employee for at least two years. You have to learn how it is to work for someone before you can let others work for you.”

This is the best advice you can give to anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur, because the most successful businesses are built on managing your company’s greatest asset: people.

How will you know the ways to manage your employees if you don’t know how being managed feels like? How will you know the ways to approach them if you have no idea why they work and what they are going through?

Education is great because it gives us the tools to become competent and proficient at work. However, life is the greatest educational institution, and one of its most brilliant professors is HUMILITY. If you believe that the harsh realities of business are inferior compared to you, then you should not become an entrepreneur.

2. Find your passion

Budding entrepreneurs always ask themselves, “What business should I start?” without asking the more important question, “What is my passion?” The constant problem in starting a business is trying to replicate the success of others in a concept or trade that is not their passion.

If you ask random individuals on the street the kind of business they want to start, majority will say “food” because they see restaurants packed all the time. One may also say “because I love to eat.” Loving is not the same as having passion. When you have passion, commitment follows a few steps behind.

You are focused, and you will do the necessary steps to accomplish tasks without complaint or second thoughts. When passion fuels commitment, the chances of finding success are great.

3. Undertake studies

Once you’ve identified your business, the next step is to undertake studies. You need to conduct three studies. First is to study the market, which determines the viability of your business. The questions to be answered are as follows:

  • Does a demand for my product/service exist?
  • What are the demographics of my market?
  • Who are the main players in the industry?
  • What are the qualities that differentiate them from one another?
  • What are the current trends in the industry?

The second is marketing study, which outlines your strategies in promoting and marketing your products and services to your market.

Finally, you need to come up with a feasibility study to determine your risk and reward factors. Feasibility study includes projections on cash flow and income.

4.  Secure funding

The feasibility study is your reference to determine the amount of funding you need to start your business. Funding covers two types:

  1. Pre-operating: equipment, initial inventory, deposits, permits, licenses
  2. Working capital: salaries, rent, utilities, benefits, supplies, contingencies

Working capital should be enough to cover six months of operation because expecting a business to support itself within the first two quarters of operation is not realistic.

Where do you obtain funding? Unless total funding represents 25% of your savings and your cash flow shows promise, you should consider getting a business loan or perhaps vie for crowd funding opportunities.

These two options have pros and cons. A loan may be a good option if your equipment can be capitalized or if you are willing to risk collateral. In crowd funding strategies, be prepared for investors who may seek a measure of participation in your business.

5. Build your back office

Regardless of the size of your business, you should have workflows in place to ensure you are organized. Back office includes accounting, human resources, information technology, and administration.

However, establishing your back office doesn’t mean that you have to hire individuals for these departments to run these tasks. For small businesses with two to five people, it just means delegating these tasks and having processes in place to keep everything in order.

Efficiency saves you time, which translates to savings and great business opportunities. A popular option for small businesses is hiring virtual assistants to manage nonessential tasks. Virtual assistants are experienced, knowledgeable, and affordable.

Hiring virtual assistants is easier on the cash flow than hiring full-time employees because you don’t have to pay for benefits and you only pay them for hours worked.

6. Build a website

According to statistics, only 46% of small businesses have websites. However, according to 2014 data by Internet World Stats, 3,035,749,340 individuals use the Internet every day. A total of 890 million alone are on Facebook, and 74% of the respondents surveyed said that social media influenced their decision to patronize a product or service.

A website is the digital address of your business on the World Wide Web. It is where Internet searchers can find your products and services. Unlike the physical location of your business, the scope and depth of your market are not limited by a five-kilometer radius. Anyone who can access your website is a potential client. Building a website does not have to be expensive.

Downloadable programs are available, such as WordPress, which offer website templates that are SEO friendly with the largest search engines: Yahoo, Google, and Bing. However, always ask a professional website designer to build your website to lessen mistakes, which may become costly in the future.

7. Continually find ways to manage your costs

Some of the best business ideas have started and have been managed from homes.

Rommel Juan started a business that delivers affordable home-cooked meals wrapped in banana leaves to the offices near his home. Today, Juan’s “Binalot” is one of the most successful franchises in the Philippines.

Rent is one of the biggest items in an operating budget. Unless you have access to immediate funding or the ability to scale up your operation, start your business from home if possible. Some investments are required but these can be part of your assets, and any recurring expense is not as high as rent.

8. Jump-start your cash flow

Managing your current cash reserves is critical in the start-up stages of your business because you will need to make investments and may incur unforeseen expenses.

If you have a secured client or service providers, requesting for a down payment or for an advance payment equivalent to one month, which is subject to reconciliation, is well within acceptable business practices. An advance payment is a sign of goodwill and trust on both parties to deliver what is expected of the arrangement.

9. Network with other people

The probability of success for your business increases exponentially with the size of your market. Think of your revenue objectives as a funnel. The opening of the funnel represents your market. The larger the base or the larger the size of the market acquired, the greater the number of leads generated as you move through the funnel. The larger the number of qualified leads, the greater the probability of converting the lead into a sale as it exits through the funnel.

The best way to acquire a large market is through networking with other people. You can network online through social media or offline by attending forums, seminars, workshops, and networking events and by joining selected organizations. Ensure that you have marketing materials available both in digital and traditional format.

10. Keep track of your performance

This is the value of having back office support and a website. Your income statement is the best barometer of performance because it directly equates effort with results. If you are not adept at reading financial statements, take time to review these with an accountant at least once a month.

A website includes tools that analyze performance and give you valuable statistics as references to improve your current online marketing strategies. Similar to the financial statements, if you are not adept at analyzing metrics, take time to review these with your website designer or social media marketer.

11. Don’t hesitate to consult the experts

As a business owner, your objectivity maybe compromised by your drive to succeed. A business is sometimes best viewed through the filter of a reliable third party.

In this article, the term experts is used loosely; they can be the people you’ve known throughout the years and to whom you’ve developed trust and confidence in their ability to render sound business advice.

Consulting them may not even cost you more than a cup of coffee at their favorite coffee house. Their inputs can be valuable especially if they’ve had years of experience in the industry and achieved success.

12. Implement process improvement systems

Another big mistake of business owners is searching for “The Perfect Plan.” Here’s the truth: The Perfect Plan does not exist. At least not since the end of the Cold War. When all these political and societal structures came down, the world went through a tail spin.

However, technology has bridged economies closer, and new markets have opened for opportunities despite the turmoil. Business has gone global and grown volatile, unpredictable, chaotic, and ambiguous.

For your business to succeed, you must review processes during the start-up stages, and the necessary changes should be implemented to adapt to the ever-evolving business conditions. Involve everyone on the team from identifying problems to designing solutions.

Those who believe that the road to success is a straight line will be in for a rude awakening.

In truth, the journey to entrepreneurial success is fraught with challenges, obstacles, and difficulties. On a daily basis, you will experience situations that may require critical thinking and savvy decision making. The decision you make will result in one of these two outcomes: SUCCESS or FAILURE.

The journey to entrepreneurial success is never a straight line. It is a collection of mountains, valleys, potholes, sharp curves, and narrow ledges that are subject to various elements: extreme heat, torrential rain, and heavy snowfall. How you navigate through turbulence will determine your potential to succeed.

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