These 5 Things Once Meant Success, But No Longer Do

indicators of success

Here are five things that used to be synonymous with success, but aren’t necessary anymore.

1. Expensive suits

Once upon a time, high-powered people wore power suits. A suit meant that someone meant business. Suits were synonymous with money, influence, and success while scruffy clothes were synonymous with the opposite. Times have changed. Michael Acton Smith, the co-founder of Moshi Monsters and Calm App, is often described as having scruffy hair and wearing jeans and a T-shirt. It doesn’t affect the growth of his user base and it certainly doesn’t affect his ability to think up incredible business ideas.

Now, many successful entrepreneurs take pride in having no obligations on their appearance. They don’t waste time thinking about the outfit they need to wear and they can prioritize their comfort.

2. Industry experience

Multiple years of experience in a particular industry used to be a hallmark of success and credibility, but now that’s not necessarily the case. It’s useful to have seen and dealt with situations before, of course, but that learning curve can be ramped up quickly with access to the learning materials and communication the internet provides. The way that something has always been done is not always the best way, or the best use of the resources now available. Sometimes a lack of specific experience can mean an increased appetite for learning, adapting or going the extra mile.

Technology has rapidly changed the business landscape in most industries. The gig economy also means that there are freelancers in every industry, with expertise available for hire. It’s often more important to be able to respond, adjust and implement effective solutions than to have seen it all before.

3. Recruiting

Whilst there will always be benefit in utilizing professional assistance to filter, shortlist and interview, truly successful organisations attract inbound candidates. The most switched-on business owners have ways of collecting potential hires without relying on recruitment agencies to find them.

Now, nearly all of the companies in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 have their own careers pages, including Grenade and social-led brand Gymshark. They are building impressive databases of proactive people who might one day become part of their team, maintaining control and maximising speed whilst ensuring they hire people who are fully bought into their brand.

Moreover, forward-thinking businesses are working out ways of increasing revenue without increasing headcount. Maximising revenue per person (RPP) has become a primary endeavour in many organisations, so success might mean hiring only when absolutely necessary. Bo Burlingham’s book, Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead Of Big, illustrates this perfectly.

4. Being busy

“Busy” was once an indicator of success. The busier someone was, the more successful they were deemed. If someone couldn’t spare the time to see their friends or spend time with their family or even leave the office before dark, they were likely to have many responsibilities and be very well paid. I remember hearing someone once brag that they missed the birth of their first child because they were closing a deal.

Thanks to thought-leaders in this field as well as more focus on health, wellbeing and general happiness at work, this is no longer the case. Being busy is now closer to symbolising chaos and lack of control, or lack of processes. Systems that support people to do their best work now mean that busy just doesn’t have to be the goal, or even tolerated. There’s no need for rushing or frantic behaviour with careful planning and well thought-out processes and you can always choose to go slower without it compromising earning potential. Someone being too busy to sleep or eat or look after their own health is no longer admirable.

5. Meetings and phones

Picture the businessperson of the 1990s. Chances are that he or she is sitting at a desk behind stacks of paperwork, with multiple phones ringing off the hook, struggling to answer them in between back-to-back meetings. People are trying to communicate with them constantly. According to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, “Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.”

Automation and processes can mean the constantly ringing phone or the constant need for meetings are success signals of the past. Many customer service departments utilize AI to help customers find the solution without needing to speak to a human, often very effectively. Project management tools that give complete transparency over everyone’s work negate the need for in-person status updates that come at the expense of deep work.

The most impressive businesses I know are focused on just being exceptional. Doing great work without constantly meeting people to talk about it. Providing exceptional value for their clients, not organising golf trips to distract them. Designing products that are intuitive and user-friendly without the need for accompanying guidance or lengthy demonstrations. Letting their work speak for their commitment and prowess instead of buying designer suits to present a fabricated image.

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