SA’s top businessmen on why they continue hustling

Top South African businessmen Watermark Capital CEO Vusi Thembekwayo, Innotech Group's Ismail Hassen and Creative Counsel co-CEO Gil Oved share their reasons for not losing the hustling instinct

Becoming a businessmen requires a lot of hard work and hustling. Some of the country’s top businessmen share why they haven’t stopped hustling, even when they have made it, with DESTINY MAN.

Vusi Thembekwayo, motivational speaker and CEO: Watermark Capital Partners

Does one have to be a bit of a hustler to be successful? Yes. Absolutely. Hustling is about a tenacious spirit. It’s about hunger, determination, fortitude and the unrelenting pursuit of your goals. All these are qualities of the honest hustler.

Describe Thembekwayo-style smart hustling. When I first had the idea of opening an office in London, I knew that we didn’t have the cash required to float the office for a year. So I convinced clients that I was already in London. It meant my global clients could now book me at their local prices. In two and a half months, I generated enough bookings from the London office in foreign currency to pay for the rest of the year. I hustled my future into reality.

Gil Oved Group co CEO The Creative Counsel (cropped) - Low Res copy

Gil Oved, Group co-CEO: The Creative Counsel

Does one have to be a bit of a hustler to be successful? No. You have to be a lot of a hustler to be successful. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years and every day is a hustle. That’s the game.

Describe Oved-style smart hustling. A few years ago, a client decided to stop doing business with us for unknown reasons. The head honcho simply told me not to contact him again. I was bewildered because it meant our entire business could be at risk. I asked everyone with even the slightest connection with this guy to help me meet with him. It was a real hustle to finally secure an appointment. In preparation for the meeting, I studied everything I could about this person: what he wore, what he liked, who he knew, what team he supported. I spoke to other suppliers, clients and colleagues of his. I even went shopping for clothes to resemble his fashion sense. I walked in there mirroring him and showing humility and submissiveness. It worked. Before the meeting was over, he requested his subordinates to re-engage us with vigour. That was a hustling triumph I am very proud of.

Ismail Hassen, CEO: Innotech Group (2015 SA SMME of the Year)

How I Made It......  Ismail Hassen (Executive Chairman of CSR in Uitenhage Picture: Brian Witbooi 08 December 2014, The Herald

How I Made It…… Ismail Hassen (Executive Chairman of CSR in Uitenhage
Picture: Brian Witbooi 08 December 2014, The Herald

Does one have to be a bit of a hustler to be successful? The hustler instinct will always kick in when facing a tough period in business. Building sustainable enterprises takes time. It’s extremely important to think out of the box.

Describe Hassen-style smart hustling. In 2009, I started my first business, CSR-Africa, in the international tank container market. I saw a gap, as there was no South African company serving this sector. I moved to Durban from Port Elizabeth and rented a small space from a shipping and clearing company. I used only 60m2 of a 1 500m2 work space. I was close to highly flammable goods, which sometimes made it impossible for me to work. Most of my clients were from Europe and came to SA twice a year. During their visits, I would ask my landlord to give me access to the full 1 500m2 area, the boardroom and infrastructure. We would then put up branding all over the place. This is how my company built a reputable brand. Today, we have our own infrastructure in Port Elizabeth and have become a direct competitor for the Chinese manufacturer that was dominating the market.

The original version of this article appeared in the May 2016 issue  of DESTINY MAN