Being an entrepreneur in South Africa - 'the art of the hustle'

Mike Vacy-Lyle, chief executive of FNB Business

Mike Vacy-Lyle, chief executive of FNB Business

In entrepreneurship, we often hear people talking about “the hustle”. Traditionally, being viewed as a hustler had a negative connotation. Recently, however, to survive as an entrepreneur it is seen as necessary to hustle in order to succeed, hence the phrase, “everyday I’m hustling”.

Hustling means ensuring that 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 my common and key observations gathered from successful entrepreneurs.

The 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 on, 24/7. You must have a vision for your business and you must write this down along with your goals. Your business plan must include understanding the projected numbers and break-even point, and clearly articulate what differentiates your business. Remember unless you are launching completely new technology or a new product, you are merely displacing other businesses already operating. You need to differentiate in order to achieve traction. Most importantly, be ruthless in your differentiation and think out of the box — don’t water this down or compromise on it, and make sure your team understands 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 to 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 of 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. However, it is important to fail fast, 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!