Becoming Indispensable: How to Do It According to Those Who Have

By Alex B. Ramsey

Sam Beard is 82 years old and still working. Not because he has to work. Because he likes it. In fact, he works as a senior advisor to a wealthy family, an extremely wealthy family, as he has almost since he retired from Goldman, Sachs & Co. almost 20 years ago. He took a couple of years off, was bored silly, and has been back in the saddle since then, working on a variety of projects from launching a $2 billion real estate development in North Texas to serving on the boards of directors of banks and a truck-leasing firm.

Beard trained many successful young men when in management at Goldman, including a former Secretary of the Navy and others who rose to significant economic and professional success. He’s considered a master motivator and people “reader.” 

What does an older warrior, one who has hired many successes have to say about the good kind of people you want to keep, no matter what? 

Interestingly enough, what Beard says is hardly different from what several other people I interviewed said. In spite of the age differences, some things never change. Still, it seems as though people are often baffled as to why “that guy” kept his job, while others didn’t. Rather than only include my opinionates thoughts on the matter, I have included the words Frank Springett, a professional at a Fortune 500 Company who recently was honors as Engineer of the Year in his profession, Nancy Keene, an executive recruiter, Anne Kniffen, the senior partner of a professional services company, and Sam Beard, a still active, old timer with decades of history.

Co-founder of the Dallas office of Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Currently, The Bright Company

“Lots of things matter. The best at Goldman were intelligent, with street smarts, not just college smarts. They were highly motivated to achieve. A lot of different personality types could be successful, thank goodness, as long as they were positive personalities. My hires had to have character. They had to stand up to the company, and sometimes be crosswise with it, to make sure that they took care of the clients. I learned a long time ago, that if we took great care of clients, then they were loyal to us. Trust was everything. My guys made sure the client knew they were on their side. That they weren’t just out to make money….. And that is how we were so successful.” 

Senior Engineer NOV
Recently received the World Oil Industry Outstanding Engineer of the Year Award 

“CREATE VALUE AND SUCCESS WILL FOLLOW. People who spend too much time worrying about where or how they fit in an organization and its politics spend too little time in creating value. Focus on the job and what has the potential to make money for the company and the rest will follow. The types of people that are wanted on a team are the kinds of people that create results, ignore politics, and tend to do the lion’s share of the work. Personally, applying those principles coupled with working hard to be one of the best at what I do has proven to work very well for me throughout my career. Create value and success will follow. “ 

Stanton Chase
Former Marketing Director of PriceWaterhouseCooper

“In these difficult times, it’s important to demonstrate that you are able to thrive in a ‘high-demand’ world. You have to be able to ‘see around the corner’ and be sure your actions result in outcomes. Also, it is critical to know your strengths and to be in tune with how the organization is evolving. If the strengths you have don’t fit the needs of the organization, you should prepare to deploy elsewhere.” 

Managing Partner, thelauckgroup

“Be the hardest worker in your group. Find the most stressed person on
your team and figure out a way to help them overcome their problem or workload. Become the go-to person for a type of specialized expertise. Make yourself and therefore your team very valuable to your client by developing a higher level of service. Develop and advertise versatility in the skills or roles you can play. Be very crisp and accurate with deadlines and paperwork and strive to make meetings more effective and focused.” 

A thread of truth that all of these comments share is the idea that you can’t just rest on your laurels, professional degrees, or tenure. You have to think and discover where the intersection of your value and creating value in the marketplace is for your company. And that’s, basically, how you become indispensable.