The image of a hustler as a patient, persistent and hardworking citizen is often punctuated by the reality of men and women who take shortcuts.
In fact, one reason many hustles die is because of dishonest hustlers. They’ll sell you pishori rice, which is only pishori at the top. If it’s all real, it will become less real the more frequently you buy.
They will sell peas with half the bucket filled with sack cloth. They’ll tamper with weighing machines to sell you less meat. They’ll sell you contaminated petrol or cook chips with transformer oil.
One hustler took six months to import a car for me. We can add the list – I’m sure most readers of this column have been victims of dishonest hustlers.
Whether in the city or in rural areas, dishonest hustlers give honest ones a bad name.
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Customers aren’t that foolish; they discover your shortcuts and disappear. You’ll be left with first-time customers and your base will never grow. Instead of graduating to a formal business, giving you time to rest, you’ll stagnate. Instead of graduating from hustling and leaving it to the next generation, you prolong your struggle.
Great business empires are built on honesty. It takes longer to make money honestly, but the money lasts longer and can flow on to the next generation. If you’re honest and customers trust you, you’ll thrive and grow a business you can leave to your progeny.
That’s how Ford, Toyota and other famous brands have remained with families either as managers or shareholders.
Honesty can be a great asset in your hustle. Think of why you leave your Sh10 million car in the hands of a hustler – or your children in the care of a househelp.
Sadly, taking shortcuts, conning and outright theft without being caught are celebrated. No wonder huge multinational firms are rare in Kenya.
Westerners and Easterners are perplexed by our propensity to take shortcuts, and then we complain that the economy isn’t growing, that there are no jobs and that insecurity is rife. Is it our upbringing? Is it our schools? Is it our religions or governance?
The cost of dishonesty is high and even intergenerational. Individuals, families and the whole nation pay. What if we had more honest hustlers? Suppose we made honesty instead of dishonesty the badge of honour? Suppose we made honesty part of the hustler’s culture?
Are you an honest hustler? If yes, keep up. If not, the market will deal with you sooner rather than later ....