The hustlers’ strategy

Photo credit to Hustlers Movie



I had a huge debate with some friends the other day. It was supposed to be one of those lunches where you remind each other of past experiences with some sense of nostalgia. You know how we are all prone to romanticizing the past as soon as the future begins to frighten us; that is what we were doing on this day. Well, being Kenyans, one of the things we stumbled over in the ‘past’ was the inauguration of a new government. Yes, we have a new government in office and the political dust has been gracefully settling. One of us said that the government is perfect because it is about the ‘hustlers’. This launched us into a long unfruitful argument about who is a hustler and how the new political agenda would profit them. You see here in Kenya, a hustler is not what the English dictionary depicts. It is a street word, polished off from the native ‘hasola’1.

Originally hustlers were people who did not have a defined line of work; they were characterized by hard labour and they did whatever was available to get a coin by the day. This was actually coined into a Kenyan slogan, ‘kazi ni kazi’ all work matters. So yes; primarily hustlers were the poor. However, with the new political persuasions, this line has been redrawn. We now have hustlers who are kings and statesmen, others who are running multi-million dollar business and as well others who are playing fast and loose with the poverty line. Which of the hustler fronts do you represent?

Let us talk about the later. Majority of Kenyans today have no formal or permanent employment. Roughly 14.5 million Kenyans work in informal conditions, whereas 2.9 million are employed in the formal sector2. In my opinion, these are the real hustlers. Majority of these rely on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) for income. A report by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) shows that there are about 7.41 million SMEs in Kenya3. In the 5 point breakdown of Kenya’s ruling party’s manifesto as retrieved on 30th June 20224, the MSME economy strongly featured. The action points for the MSMEs included:

  •  Providing Kshs50 billion annually to provide MSMEs with reliable access to credit.
  • Provide one street trading premises for every 50 urban residents.
  • Increase the daily income of informal traders by Kshs200.
  • Establishing MSME Business Development Centres in every ward.

In this regard, H.E. President William Ruto met with the CEO of the KNCCI in the last week of October 20225. According to Mr. Ngatia (CEO KNCCI), the President is very committed to the business community and has promised to work to empower them.

Dear hustler.
You have heard that saying about success being a product of opportunity meeting with preparation; well there is no time like the present for preparation. The truth is, previously, we have not had any other government that has focused on MSMEs as the current one. If the promises by the government of the day are kept, there are vast opportunities for the growth of MSMEs. The potential for MSMEs’ growth is exponential to say the least. In strategic planning and management, we will always do an analysis of the external environment, often using the PESTEL Framework (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Environmental and Legal). Under the hustler government, it is correct to say that the political landscape in Kenya is currently very friendly to MSMEs.

So what how do we prepare for the opportunities unfolding for the hustlers at the bottom of the pyramid?

If you talk to any owner of an MSME about what their biggest challenge is, chances are they will start at financial inaccessibility (in terms of affordability, terms that are not aligned to the income flows of MSMEs and requirements that are way above what the MSME can meet) and end up at the government is not helping us. However, in working with MSMEs at JEYPENT, it is my opinion that the biggest cause of MSME’s failure is internal challenges and very little contribution from the external environment. The poor or low capacity for bookkeeping and accounting, poor business management, understaffing, hiring under skilled personnel, lack of adaptation to culture and operations changes, technology aversion and lack of marketing6 to mention but a few are some of the major impediments to the success of many MSMEs.

The hustler’s strategy

Here is what you do – develop a plan. Review and revise the strategic direction of your MSME.

  1. Take a step back and determine the mission, vision, and core values of your business:
    What is my enterprise trying to achieve? What is its theory of change? What is its value proposition? What are its long-term goals and expected outcomes?
  2. Assess your enterprise’s; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
    Assess areas like organizational structure, human resource capacity, performance measures, leadership practices, technological capabilities, brand positioning and awareness, services and mobilization strategies, financial resources and performance, position in the experience curve and operational efficiency and capacity.
  3. Asses the environment where your business is operating within:
    • Macro Factors: Political, Economic, Social/cultural, Technological, Legal/regulatory, and Environmental (PESTLE) factors impacting the business operating environment. This will help identify forces driving change, future trends, and value creation within the business environment.
    • Targeted Clients’ Analysis: Understanding targeted clientele’s needs and trends; identifying different segments within the target groups so as to target a specific niche.
    • Stakeholder Analysis: This could be your partners, staff, the Government and/or even investors. Consider their expectations by identifying the level of influence, the potential they present and the interest they have in your enterprise’s services to derive possible interventions, and identify opportunities for your enterprise’s strategy.
  4. Strategic plan (how will my business effectively achieve its goals?): Learning from internal reflections, experiences, and stakeholders’ engagement, evaluation and how findings can be fed into new planning, how these will be monitored, reviewed and adjusted on an ongoing basis.

What you come up with is a Strategic Plan. This way, you will better know how to align yourself when opportunities present themselves. As the ‘Hustlers government’ develops strategies to help the hustlers from the bottom to the top of the pyramid, do not just stand there. Dear hustler, strategize!


1 hustler title or name it is working for dp ruto
2 Statistics on levels of formal and informal employment
3 KNCCI_ Report on SMEs
4 Standard Media_ President Ruto’s Manifesto Breakdown
5 KNNCI_ Statehouse visit for MSMEs deliberations
6 Business Daily_ Why MSMEs Collapse in under 5 years