Why I’m No “Hustler”

It’s a well-known fact that the startup community (of which I’m a card-carrying member) loves it’s buzzwords and catch phrases. When I was getting my start as a Java developer back at my first Web 1.0 startup in 1999, everyone (including us) was building a “portal.” Then out of the shadows came the “ninjas,” assassinating your customer service problems and slinking back into the night. Of course, the talent market has been flooded with companies seeking “Rockstar” developers, Python “wizards” or “gamification” “gurus.”
When it comes to business development, people want a “Hustler.” But to me, the term does a disservice to the role of Biz Dev.

Google tells me that a hustler is “An aggressively enterprising person; a go-getter.” Well sure, that makes sense. Anyone in business development, whether at a startup or a Fortune 500 company, needs to be a do-er who gets things done in order to succeed.

But the second definition of “hustler” is what comes to mind when I hear the term, and what causes me to squirm: “an enterprising and often dishonest person, esp. one trying to sell something.”

A hustler is a porno mag, a pimp, a smarmy sales guy just looking to close a sale and move on to the next one. So much for strategy, sales, and relationship management.

A person in Biz Dev (I like to call us, simply, “Biz Devs”) doesn’t just push product. They create long-term value. They don’t scam someone into a deal – they ensure that the value on both sides of the table is so recognizable and clear that everyone’s motivated to close.

To me, the term “hustler” belies the strategic role of business development. Sure, it takes grit and work and get-it-done’ness to move a deal from idea to execution. But knowing which deals to strike and why is a critical component of success for any opportunity.

When I was 5, my Pee-Wee soccer coach told us to “hustle” to the ball. He wanted us to work hard, to run fast, and score goals (I’d like to believe he also had an interest in us having fun, since, you know, we were 5, but I’m pretty sure my Pee-Wee soccer coach was the reason I didn’t stick with the game for long). Having “hustle” is a great and important thing: it’s a drive to make things happen. But hustle for hustle’s sake isn’t enough. You need to grasp the fundamental skills of the sport. You need to know how to dribble, pass, and kick – and which direction to run in order to score that goal.

The role of business development is varied and complex, so the desire to codify the language and concisely describe the nature of the role is understandable. But please, don’t call me a Hustler. Call me a Biz Dev.

3 Responses to Why I’m No “Hustler”
  1. The Getting In The Door Series #1: Patient Persistence - The Start of the Deal - Scott Pollack on Business Development and Partnerships Reply

    […] your follow-up contacts is not for hustlers looking to meet a monthly sales quota.  It is a method that works to create long-term value by […]

  2. The Getting in the Door Series #2: The Secondary Intro - The Start of the Deal - Scott Pollack on Business Development and Partnerships Reply

    […] responding.  While patience is an under-valued skill in business development (often in favor of a misguided form of impatience called “hustling”), sometimes time is of the […]

  3. Archana Reply

    Hi! While this is as good a read as any of your other posts, I can’t seem to agree with this one. The reason of course, is Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a hustler and I cannot see him being dishonest. And while I do agree with your opinion on what shouldn’t be done as an entrepreneur, I really don’t think that it’s “hustling” that’s the problem. Anyone who goes about it the wrong way is simply the person who picked the wrong definition to practice. 🙂

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