Start With You

Business isn’t glamorous. It may have some glamorous trappings and the media may present a polished picture, but the reality is business is bloody. This is why 80% of businesses fail within their first 18 months of starting.

It’s really difficult. There are many moving pieces and many variables — some variables we don’t even know are affecting our companies. Given all the different things happening, especially all the unknowns, here’s one trick I’ve been practicing to help my businesses, my career, and with my interactions with other people:

Start with Me. In your case, Start with You.

This simply means start with where you are, with what you have, in the moment you’re in, wherever it is you already are.

People like to say, “I want to start a business but I don’t have capital.” My response here is there’s more to business than capital. It’s important, yes. It’s extremely useful. But there are many other essential things you can do with little or no money such as research, market study, planning, strategizing and presenting to others. Too many times we let the thing we don’t have stop us from taking the next step, when the reality is we have steps we can already take on our own.

Stop waiting for what you don’t have, use what is already with you.

Here’s a reality every business and every businessperson will face: limitations. There will always be a shortage of resources. That’s economics 101, which is all about the managing scarce resources. The smart business person will not wait for these limitations to disappear, he or she will be resourceful and persistent to transcend these limitations.

And it’s limitations that actually force us to be creative and innovative.

For example, your problem is not having good people, so you look for good people, but then realize your cash-flow can’t afford to pay good people, what do you do? Most will settle for not having enough good people — some will give up — but the successful ones are those who are able to source the people, or develop them, or even build a culture that reinforces. This could lead to developing training programs or working with mentors. It could mean getting more engaged online. It could mean many offshoot activities and growth areas simply because we chose to take our limitation and transcend it.

Pretty much all of the solutions we’ve discovered have come from running into problems, so don’t be quick to see a problem as just a roadblock. See it as an opportunity to develop a solution. And where does one start to develop solutions? With ourselves.

Most business problems are actually people problems, and while we can’t control other people, we can control one person: ourselves. So the first step with solving people problems is to improve what you need to improve on. I have a lot of things I want others to improve on, but when I start with myself I realize that there are a lot of things I can already of to improve the picture without having to wait for someone to do their part.

One of those things is becoming a better communicator.

As I said earlier, most (if not all) business problems are people problems, and most people problems are communications issues. Learning how to become a better communicator is one thing I can start with right now.

There are other examples of starting with ourselves but I want to share this last story.

When I was 23, I took over a small business with bad debt. I was inexperienced, we were under-capitalized, understaffed, over-paying on everything from rent to interest, and we were sinking — fast.

I remember sitting down on my first day and not knowing where to start. So what I did was — and this may sound silly to the hard-nosed business types– I prayed. Moving forward I would go to work very early, walk around our office, and pray over the seats of the different people.

Years later, I still have that company (it miraculously survived), and I’m involved in other things too. None of them are big — at least not yet — but we’re growing and it’s a much better picture than when I started.

Looking back, I realized that praying did something more than just present my requests to God — Who I credit for the turnaround — it also helped put my mind on “active” mode instead of being passive waiting for things I didn’t have to do the work I had to.

What seemed like a simple act of faith was actually arming me with hope, with fight, and with a mindset that helped me through the years of mistakes and learning, lacking and learning resourcefulness, being down and persevering to rise.

No one is ever without an option. When it seems like you have no options left,  start with what you can improve with on yourself. I’m sure you’ll find what I’ve found, that offering a better you is actually your best option.


David Bonifacio is the Managing Director of New Leaf Ventures.
Connect with David on LinkedIn


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David Bonifacio is the Direcor of Strategy for the CBTL Holdings Group, Managing Director of New Leaf Ventures, Managing Director of Elevation Partners, Managing Director of IDC Manpower Services, President of Issho Genki International, and advises businesses in South East Asia on matters of strategy, technology, and people development. David serves actively on the boards and committees of non-profit organizations including: Habitat for Humanity Philippines (housing) and CCT (microfinance). David pursues his creative interests through his blog

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