Being an entrepreneur in South Africa – “the art of the hustle”

In entrepreneurship we often hear people talking about “the hustle”. Traditionally, being viewed as a “hustler” was perceived as a negative connotation – recently, however, to survive as an entrepreneur it is seen as necessary to succeed – everyday I’m hustling!

”Hustling” means making sure you are in the right place at the right time; being resourceful; making your own luck and working incredibly hard – 24/7 (you cannot be a part time entrepreneur).

But there is an art to the hustle. Here I share a few common and key observations gathered from successful entrepreneurs. Characteristics of successful “hustlers” include:

A clear vision and buckets of self-belief – hustlers have a passion for their vision and a driving ambition. It is something they live and have a laser-focus 24/7.

You must have a vision for your business and you must write this down along with your goals. Write your business plan that includes understanding the numbers, your break-even point and being able to clearly articulate what differentiates your business. Remember unless you are launching completely new technology or a new product, you are merely displacing other business already operating. You need to differentiate in order to achieve traction.

NB: Be ruthless in your differentiation and think out of the box – don’t water this down or compromise on this and make sure your team understands this and buys into this vision.

Hustlers love what they do – they do not see it as work. You will always be more successful in something that you love doing.

They have a complete disregard for rejection and have a single-minded, long term vision.

To this end I suggest you stress your business plan by 50% – downside – it will always take you longer and cost you more to get where you want to be! Every successful business has had tough times and every entrepreneur will tell you this. Be resilient.

Hustlers are cold callers – they have no fear in asking and have an innovative knack for being noticed.

Using digital and social networks, there are many low cost ways of getting your business noticed. Understand the ecosystem or networks that exist around your business and build relationships with the key players, including the competition.

Hustlers have an inherent fear of failure and are very self-critical, always striving to be better. They are curious, consistently looking to upskill themselves and have a hunger to learn.

They do however, fuel themselves with small victories. It is important to celebrate each and every little win with your team and keep the energy levels high. Your people are the most important part of your business – ensure they know what is expected of them and that this is contracted. Consistently discuss how they are doing against their targets.

Hustlers genuinely care about people, value diversity and understand how their business impacts on society at large.

Don’t confuse being a successful hustler with dishonesty. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of good governance and maintaining key relationships. They run small, start-up businesses with the same level of governance rigour as big businesses are run – they pay taxes, manage their accounting records and payroll; manage their creditors and understand that their reputation in the market is everything!

They have audacious goals and are not afraid of taking risks.

You will fail along the road to success. It is important to fail fast however, and pick yourself up quickly. Track your progress against your goals and be real. You will know if you are gaining traction or not and need to make changes.

Lastly, hustlers are authentic – true to themselves.
People very quickly pick up false sincerity. Successful entrepreneurs never apologise for being themselves and are not afraid to show the world who they are.

Good luck. Be yourself and live your dream!

By Mike Vacy-Lyle, CEO of FNB Business