From hustler to operator

Peter Rose

Hustling Is a young mind’s game. That doesn’t mean that it is only for the young, it means that to do it all the time is to waste energy that could be used better elsewhere.

My first thought when someone says the word hustle is of James Spader in any role in any John Hughes movie. Slick suit, feathered hair and that air of smarmy that leaves a trail. That’s hustle to me.

My second is when I’m lagging behind and need a short burst of energy to catch up. I push a little harder, pick up my pace and then settle back to normal speed when I’m with the pack.

My third is of Charlie Hustle. Pete Rose. The all time hits leader in Major League Baseball. Rose always had this crazy look when he was in hustle mode — a cross between the Hulk and Charlie Manson.

I guess hustle means running fast, oozing slime with a crazy look to me. That’s also how I would describe operations during the early stage of a career or business. Not exactly the picture of composure and confidence but a necessary place to start for sure.

The problem is that you can’t stay in that mode. It doesn’t work for the company, you will get tired of always sprinting and it looses its heroism quickly.

When I started my first company — an Internet Service Provider — I would do house calls to help customers get set up on the Internet. I just figured this is what I would want so I did it. No big deal. But it was — to my customers. Some of them were leaders in the business community in my city and they would tell me that they chose me because of word of mouth. That I put the effort in and they respected that. #Hustle.

As the business scaled I couldn’t do that anymore but didn’t want to lose that level of service so I had to operationalize the process. I went from hustler to operator in order to scale or I would have capped my growth potential and I would have died young from sprinting 24 hours a day.

In the early days of every business there is frenetic motion that is hard to understand unless you’ve been there. The pace is relentless and the demands are high. There is a camaraderie that emerges at that time as everyone does everything in order to solve for the problems of a growing business. No clear roles, no clear direction other than get it done. Then the business must scale and those hustlers are no longer able to cope. It needs to move beyond that particular brand of hustle. To do this is where frenetic activity turns to operations. It is a repeating function: Hustle to operations to hustle to operations. Each step leads to scale. Each scale often means new people. Old hustlers move out, operators move in. New hustlers move in. Growth happens.

Good operators know when to replace the hustle and start putting repeatable processes in place. Bad operators don’t and have been sprinting in place their entire lives.