Startups Need to Stop ‘Hustling’

June 17, 2016

11:07 am

I never wanted to work a traditional job. I’ve always had entrepreneurial drive. But, like many young entrepreneurs, I used to believe you have to be a “hustler” to succeed.

You know the type: those tireless Starbucks addicts who never sleep and spend every waking hour on their phones: talking, texting, networking, networking, networking. Hustling. Hustlers spin their wheels and burn the candle at both ends, because they think the only way to come out on top is to drive themselves into the ground.

For years, I’d come up with various product and business ideas and “hustle” them. But, I never got anywhere. I was so set on being a “hustler” that I lost focus on developing solid business concepts that don’t need extra muscle to sell.

When I founded my PR firm for tech startups in 2011, I struck a business model that achieved serious results with good old fashioned hard work. No hustling required.

I realized hustling is just hot air. Hustling isn’t likely to help you succeed. In fact, if you’re feeling the need to hustle, that’s a pretty good indication you’re going to fail.

Technology is supposed to make us more efficient so we can work less, not more. And yet, members of the tech community, who only ever wanted to steer clear of the “traditional” 40-hour work week, are the ones who end up “hustling” the most.

Startups tell clients and investors they’re ready to hustle. They’re trying communicate that they’re aiming to succeed, to get results. But they’re not sure they will. At the very least, they can guarantee they’ll flap around the clock like chickens without heads. The truth is, if their product or business were worth the investment, it wouldn’t require the extra effort it takes to sell ice to eskimos.

Most founders of early-stage startups think they need to hustle for their first clients, first users, first investors, etc. But, if you have to convince people your product or service is good, it probably isn’t. I tell all my clients, “Always concentrate on your product first.” You want to make sure you have the best product to put forward before reaching out to your users or media.

Hustling never highlights your strengths. It only exposes your weaknesses.

When I work with startups, sometimes I tell them we “hustle.” Because it’s a word they understand. But when I say I’m going to “hustle,” I don’t mean I’m going to work for the sake of work. I mean I’m going to be productive. I’m confident in my business model. It was developed to alleviate a very specific, widespread need and it achieves solid results. A business should be like a machine. You get out what you put in.

I don’t tell my team to hustle. I don’t want my team to hustle. I want them to be productive. I want them to be efficient.

Employers shouldn’t tell their staff to “hustle.” It’s condescending, because it implies a lack of talent and/or ability. It’s anxiety-inducing, because it insinuates employees shouldn’t have a reasonable work/life balance. Employers, especially those with limited resources, should want team members who know how to work less, not more. I want to hire someone who can accomplish in two hours what might take a hustler eight.

Becoming a successful entrepreneur is about breaking free of the status quo. It’s not about working for the sake of clocking in the standard nine to five. It’s about working to change the world, to make people’s lives easier and more efficient. That starts at home, with your own life and your own business.

If you have to hustle to sell your product, you need to revisit the drawing board. Great ideas don’t need hustling. When you strike gold, clients and investors will come to you.

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Chris Barrett is Founder of PRServe, a PR agency for startups. Since 2011, PRServe has helped launch over 500 of the world's most successful startups and crowdfunding campaigns. Chris co-authored Direct Your Own Life, a motivational success book for teens and young adults, and is cofounder of The Rap Test. He is featured in the documentaries Maxed Out and The Corporation.