- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Having a strong work ethic and developing a reputation for being able to execute on projects is one of the most important determinants of career success, said Marc Spilker, a former Goldman Sachs exec who’s now chairman of Chiron Investment Management.
- Working hard leads to learning more, which leads to improving, which leads to getting more opportunities, according to Spilker.
- Getting to see as many opportunities as possible, and then selecting the best ones, is what ultimately translates into career success, he said.
You’ve heard it 1,000 times: 80% of success is showing up. The quote is often attributed to Woody Allen, in an interview after his breakout 1977 hit, Annie Hall. By now, the comment has almost become a cliche.
For Marc Spilker, work ethic, and fostering a reputation for getting things done, is actually an explanation for his success. Spilker, a former Goldman Sachs partner who’s now chairman of a small but fast-growing asset manager, said it’s the single best thing he did to get ahead during a 30-year Wall Street career.
“If you look at the industry I grew up in, there’s not a big diversity in terms of raw intelligence of the people, yet some do wildly well and some don’t,” Spilker said in an interview with Business Insider. “There’s always a little bit of luck, but work ethic is way more important than people think.”
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Spilker joined a derivatives trading house in Chicago named O’Connor. It was the late 1980s, just as global stock and bond markets were beginning a meteoric expansion. As a young trader, Spilker signed up for unpopular work shifts in order to gain experience and soon gained a reputation for efficiently executing on the projects he was assigned, he said.
“I was willing to work the Japan shift from Chicago – come into the office at 6 o’clock at night and work through the night,” Spilker said. “I was willing to work the London shift, come to the office at midnight and work through breakfast the next morning. To me it was like, the more you work, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you were. The better you were, the more opportunities you saw, and back to this virtuous cycle.”
After a few years at O’Connor, Spilker joined Goldman Sachs. In 20 years at the Wall Street firm, he rose to co-head of its asset-management arm with a key position on the firm’s powerful management committee. In 2010, Spilker left for Apollo Management, where as president he helped the private-equity firm sells share to public. Spilker later founded GPS Investment Partners with two ex-Goldman colleagues and together they built Chiron Investment Management, a manager of $2.7 billion where he’s chairman.
Over many years, Spilker said he got opportunities to work on cool projects and earn promotions by establishing a reputation as someone who could get stuff done. It was all part of building his personal brand and showing his colleagues that he could be trusted to finish the job, he said.
“You want to be in a position to see opportunities as they come up,” he said. “If you have a brand, a personal brand, known for being somebody that will do excellent work but will actually get the work done, then you’re more likely to see the opportunities than others. And that’s the best thing you can have happen in your career.”