My Playbook for Success in Business and Life

Success can be defined in so many different ways. Whether your goal is financial revenue, customer satisfaction, personal contentment, social impact, or something else altogether, there are a few core principles that will help you get there and beyond.

There are seasons when it’s easier or harder stick to these strategies depending on what’s happening at work or at home. However, I have consistently applied these principles far more often than not, and it has paid off in terms of business outcomes, personal contentment, closeness with my family, and the ability to support the causes I care most about.

Moreover, at Pinnacle Group, the company I founded when I was 25 and still proudly serve as Chairman and CEO, we hire executives and associates who are also committed to engaging in these practices. Having a strong set of values from the beginning of any venture is critical to align your team and best serve your customers. When (not if) times get tough, you’ll be able to make decisions based on values instead of fear to help see you through and get back on track. Maybe more importantly, when times are good, your values will help you stay on the path to lasting success.

And while there are many qualities and tips that help people be successful, these are my absolute top five that I value above everything else.


If you spend any time around me, you will hear me hammer this point home over and over again: Reinvest, Reinvest, Reinvest! So often, when people have their first taste of success in a new career or a new business, they can’t wait to spend their money once it starts rolling in (or sometimes even before it starts rolling in). People splurge on an expensive home, luxury car or designer clothes and accessories, assuming that their success and income will continue to always go up.

For the lucky few, that may be the case. What’s more likely, however, is that we will all face setbacks, whether in business or in our personal life at some point. The economy can take another downturn, as it did after the dot com bubble burst, the 9/11 terror attacks, or during the 2008 recession. A new technology can disrupt your industry, or, God forbid, a parent, spouse, or child can face illness. If you’re unprepared, when things don’t go according to plan, you’ll have a hard time weathering the storm.

One of my best tips for entrepreneurs is to reinvest in your business at all stages of growth, but especially in the early stages when things are going really well. Putting as much of the earnings as possible back into the business not only helps you grow at a sustainable rate and prepares you to seize the next big opportunity, but it also provides a safety cushion during a rough patch.

There have been many opportunities that Pinnacle Group has been able to maximize as the result of our earlier reinvestment. For example, in 2007, we won a huge deal and had to ramp up the business quickly. Seemingly overnight, we grew from $40 million in revenue to $140 million. I can say with absolute certainty that without prior reinvestment and preparation, we would have been unable to take advantage of that opportunity. Being able to successfully serve our new client and fulfill the commitments we made was the first major step in creating lasting success in one of our most successful business lines that has grown exponentially over the years.

Reinvesting also applies in personal finance, as I previously discussed in this blog. Living frugally (not cheaply!), prepares you for the ups and downs of life. Being smart about investing your money, saving it for a rainy day, and spending it on important things for you and your family will set you up for a lifetime of success instead of a huge crash and burn.

Delay Gratification

This one goes along with the previous principle. However, delaying gratification is more of a mindset than a concrete action. Modern society is all about getting everything immediately. We can order food from any restaurant and have it within 30 minutes, we can get things delivered from Amazon the same day, our phones allow us access to all sorts of information and entertainment within seconds. So, in today’s environment, the principle of delayed gratification can be a bit counterintuitive. But it has never been more valuable as a way to focus on the future as we make decisions about how we spend our time, energy, and other resources today.

Besides reinvesting money, which, at its core, is an exercise in delayed gratification, you can delay gratification in other areas, such as food choices you make, your time management, the hard work you put in exercising, and more. When you choose to do hard things now to receive a future reward, you are practicing delayed gratification. It might seem tough in the moment, but in the future, you won’t regret it one bit.

Value Relationships

Relationships with people are the most important things we have. For me, my family is more important than anything else. Investing in my family, making sure that I am there for them and spending quality time with them is key. But I also highly value my relationships with my Pinnacle Group colleagues, our customers, community partners, and others. I want Pinnacle Group to be the best place to work — a company that puts people first and that people don’t want to leave. This can only be achieved by appreciating my relationship and Pinnacle Group’s relationship with each person at the company.

I recommend thinking about interacting with people as if you’re constantly making deposits in the bank of relationships. In order to have a healthy balance, you have to put in more than you take out. No matter where you are or who you’re with, you can live by this principle. Whether it’s with your kids, colleagues, community leaders, customers, service providers, or anyone else — make deposits every day.

Small deposits like a kind word, a handwritten note, a listening ear, or a referral or recommendation go a long way when given freely with no expectation in return. These small deposits add up and grow into beautiful relationships, which are their own reward. And very often, they have a way of pleasantly surprising you months or years down the road. Some of the most amazing connections and opportunities I’ve had come from relationships built over a period of years. You never know whether someone you interview for a job or meet at a conference may end up becoming a customer or a reference.

I also fully embrace these words from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” My goal is to always leave people with a positive feeling about how I treated them and to know that I see them and that I value them.

Even when a potential client selects a competitor instead of doing business with your company, responding graciously with finesse can set the stage for a lasting relationship in the future. For example, there have been multiple times when Pinnacle Group wasn’t chosen by a potential client initially, but when the decision was later reconsidered or a new opportunity opened up, we were on the short list and earned the business. We’ve also had experiences where an executive we worked with previously would move to another company and bring us in because of the positive interactions and value we place on our relationship.

Personally, every time someone approaches me, whether at an airport or a conference, and tells me that they remember me from years ago, I am happy that they remember an earlier positive interaction and feel compelled to reconnect. Imagine if instead of a positive experience, we had a negative one. Instead of a wonderful reunion, it would be an awkward and uncomfortable moment. Do everything you can to leave people with a positive feeling about you and your business.

Create A Positive Environment

Whether at home or at work, everyone does their best when they are in a positive environment. This, of course, can mean different things to different people and will depend on their personalities and the type of work they do. Still, in my experience, there are a few common things that translate into positivity no matter what.

First, people must feel welcome. Whether that’s in your home or at work, show people that you are glad to see them and that you want them to be comfortable. This starts with a smile on your face and a kind word. At Pinnacle Group, it also means having plenty of healthy snacks (and a few that are more indulgent) available at all times. Food is fuel, and it also shows people that you care.

Second, people must feel included and valued. At Pinnacle Group, we have a fairly flat corporate structure, and no work that is beneath anyone. Even as CEO, if I need to grab a broom and sweep, then I’m grabbing the broom. This translates into one of my personal mottos: “No one works “for” me, they work “with” me.” When everyone has the same goal of doing their best work and being successful (however they define it), positive work culture prospers.

Make sure to always express your appreciation and recognition of the hard work your associates contribute to making your company successful and delivering great results for your clients. At Pinnacle, there are many things, big and small, that we do throughout the year to help show this appreciation to our team. We even organize a big awards show and party at the end of the year that we think of as the Pinnacle Oscars.

Third, remember that people need to have a bit of fun. At Pinnacle Group, we have fun as often as possible. Themed weeks are a big hit. For example, for the conclusion of Game of Thrones, we had a costume contest, dragon egg decorating contest, themed potluck lunch, and trivia competition. We also go all-out for Halloween with epic costume and pumpkin decoration contests (we’re a pretty competitive bunch).

Fostering a positive environment works in any situation, whether it’s at your home, in your neighborhood, or at your workplace. Make everywhere you spend time the most positive place you can, and people will want to join you and stay awhile.

Always Deliver

As I discussed in my previous blog post about overdelivering, one of the biggest keys to success is to deliver when called upon. Whether in your business or in your personal life, if you’re given an opportunity to show your talents and skills, take advantage of it. This is the glue that holds it all together. Although the other four keys to success make this one much easier, it is the only true must-have among the four very strong should-haves. If you can’t deliver by doing what your clients are asking of you (and most importantly, what you promised them), then you won’t stay in business long. Make this your top priority and think of everything else as a contributor to this mission. When you align your goals and strategy with an emphasis on delivery, the sky’s the limit.

So, these are my five keys to success in business and life. Agree or disagree? I would love to hear your keys for success on social media or in the comments below.