Having returned to Korea, Ho-Am spend a number of years of contemplation and conception, and finally decided that top priority must be given to development of the domestic economy, still under Japanese rule, through business. He selected the nearby city of Masan as the home of his business enterprise. Masan was a cozy little port near Busan that served as a center for shipment of millions of sacks of rice to Japan from farms throughout South Gyeongsang Province. In Masan it was common, however, even with advanced payment, for rice polishing before shipment to be subject to numerous delays. Ho-Am decided that building the largest rice mill in Masan would be highly successful. He joined with two family friends, Mr. Hyon-Yong Jeong and Mr. Jeong-Won Park of the town of Hapcheon, to establish a business venture with an investment of 10,000 Won each. The mill opened in the spring of 1936.
From the very beginning, in order to expand business, they concentrated heavily on amount of polishing grain, but after only one year they had lost two-thirds of their initial investment. Ho-Am felt that this was part of the business process so he set about analyzing the reasons. He reasoned that the mass psychology of buying rice as prices rose and selling when prices fell was all wrong so he did the opposite, selling as the price rose and buying as the price fell. This strategy hit the mark and the company regained its losses and makes a profit by the next settlement of accounts.
Also at the time, the transport system was greatly lacking, creating many problems for the shipment of rice. Ho-Am perceived another business opportunity and set his plans into action. First he purchased the Masan Ilchul Automobile Co. which was on the market and ventured into the transport industry. After stabilizing these two businesses, he turned his attention to land purchases. Things began well, and within a year he was holding some 6.6 million square meters of land. In July 1937 and thereafter, following the Lugouqiao Bridge (aka Marco Polo Bridge) Incident that set off the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Ho-Am, having been dependent on bank loans for his land purchases, began to fall into debt as land value collapsed. Eventually he had to sell off the land at a loss and then had to sell off both the rice mill and the transport company to just to settle his liability.
Ho-Am was sagacious enough to realize, however, that one had to adapt to the trends and situations of the times in order to survive in the business world. He also perceived the realities of fluctuations in the domestic and international economies, and seeing the senselessness of exaggerated greed, reverted to coldly calculating the realities of his own capabilities and set about establishing his second and third lines of involvement. This gave birth to his personal business philosophy.