Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hustle & Grind

If you're starting a new company, you've got a lot of hard work in front of you. But not all hard work is the same. You need to hustle and you need to grind.

Hustling is meeting people, getting in front of potential partners, customers, users, journalists, co-founders, teammates, investors, advisors, industry experts, etc. You've got to be persistent, and you have to be selling, always. Hustle is Tristan Walker badgering Foursquare until they hired him... and then quickly closing a bunch of BD deals. Hustle is Alexa von Tobel dropping out of HBS to raise money for Learnvest and hitting the PR circuit. Hustle is Alexandra Wilkis Wilson signing brand after brand after brand for Gilt back in the early days, when it was a new idea no one had ever heard of.

Grinding is putting your head down and powering through work: coding, building excel models, putting together presentations, answering customer emails, wireframing, thinking through edge cases, writing copy, trafficking ads, assembling data, writing job descriptions, reviewing resumes from (and replying to) job applicants, hammering through all kinds of repetitive tasks that have to be done. Grinding is Michael Shafrir and my kickass community team at TheLadders finding and approving jobs for what felt like 100 hours a week back in '04. Grinding is Marc Cenedella reading all 160,000 customer service emails in our first three years at TheLadders. Grinding is much harder to see, and it's much less sexy. You don't hear about it as much, but that doesn't make it any less important.

You can only succeed when you have both. Hustle without grind means empty promises, and grind without hustle means a ghost town with a fresh coat of paint. The difficult thing is that I've only met a few people who are truly great at both aspects of hard work.

As you're starting your company and building a founding team, this is something you should think about. Who's going to hustle? And who's going to grind? Do you have enough of both?

Me? I'm a decent hustler, but I find it exhausting. On the other hand, getting into a good groove at the keyboard with my headphones on is energizing. When I get rolling, I'll forget to feed myself, and I'll find myself feverishly tapping away at 3am. I'm a grinder.

What are you?


  1. Nivedhitha SwaminathanOctober 4, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Grinder, all along! :)

  2. Grinder, working on the hustle! I need to get better at both, ASAP. Great advice.