We asked our readers, what's themost important thing you've learned since you started your career?(Photo: Shutterstock)

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We asked our readers, what's the most important thing you'velearned since you started your career?

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Never be the smartest person in the room

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To surround myself with those who are passionate about healthcare and benefits. Those with a desire to create positive change inthe industry. Never be the smartest person in the room. When wework together, our only competition is the status quo. That is what we shouldall be fighting.

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By collaborating with passionate and innovative professionals,we are bringing newfound light to anindustry that has been stagnant for too many years.

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Taylor Y. Lindsey, partner, Employee Benefit Consultants,Inc.

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Related: The life of a broker

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Go as a team

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If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go as ateam.

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Gary Becker, CEO, ScriptSourcing

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Teamwork

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Success takes a team; failure requires only one.

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Don Levit, co-founder, National Prosperity andHealth

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Be open and trust others

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Working together can take you much farther than doing it alone.A leader must be open to new ideas and has the responsibility toinnovate and find the best solutions for the clients. Be open andtrust others, but verify before committing.

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Suzy K Johnson, president and owner, Employee BenefitAdvisors of the Carolinas

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Set deliverable expectations

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Always provide clients with a date by which I will respond,whether on the phone or in an email (and regardless of whether theresponse is “an hour, a day or a few days”). I do my best to setdeliverable expectations with everyone.

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Those we work with notice the difference. They appreciate it andlet others know, which strengthens our reputation as ahigh-touch/follow-through organization. We play in anuber-competitive health care space, so service, attention, andresponse is more than half the battle.

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Keith Lemer, CEO, WellNet Healthcare Plan

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Always do to the right thing

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Always do the right thing, even though it is not always theeasiest. Having respect for yourself and your customer paysoff.

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Tina Willenborg, AVP business development, Employer BenefitUnderwriters

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Find your 'why'

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It's all about the people and the difference you can make in oneclient at a time. Be creative, be bold and find your “why”—it'swhat will give you endless energy and a passion for life!

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Mark Gaunya, principal, Borislow Insurance

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Give everyone the benefit of the doubt

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Sometimes, the most demanding customer can become your mostloyal customer, so give everyone the benefit of the doubt when theyare having a bad day. They may become your beacon of light when youare having a bad day.

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Eileen Pabon, Account Executive, Marsh & McLennanAgency

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Make it 'human'

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Listen twice as much as you talk. Remember that for all thewisdom, knowledge and ideas you possess, it's important to make it“human.” That's who you're speaking to.

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David Mordo, Director of compliance and broker education,Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

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Kindness wins

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You can be aggressive and competitive, but you can also be kindwhile you do it. Polite and nice really do win in the end!

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Constance Morrison, president and CEO, Home Health CareManagement

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Take care of the client

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The power of the referral. When clients feel like you care aboutthem, they will be more than willing to refer people to you. I tellour new advisors to never focus on the money, because as long asyou take care of the client, they will take care of you. Ourclients have been our biggest source of new clients. They are thecheapest, most effective method of getting new business.FelipeBarganier, CEO and president, GAB International LLC

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Maintain consistency

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A real leader serves and finds ways to maintain consistency inthe face of constant change.

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CM Bazik, national editor, FCSLA

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Stick to your niche

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That as a boutique firm, we can compete and thrive against thebig, national consultancies. Moreover, I've been surprised by howwell our value prop transcends group size and scope. We work justas well with small not-for-profits as we do with large, NYSE-listedcompanies. Sticking to our niche focuses—disability, life, leave,voluntary—and providing unparalleled levels of expertise hasallowed us to be nimble, introducing creative product, process andservice solutions that are often neglected or overlooked bytraditional brokers. As our tagline suggests, “There are Savings inSpecialization.”

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We have numerous cases in which clients peeled the employer-paidancillary and voluntary benefits components away from one of thelarge “alpha house” firms, only to later move away from thatincumbent consultancy, while keeping us in place.Kevin Kennedy,Benefits consultant, Tribe Insurance Build trust

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In my career, I have learned that relationship building is themost valuable strategy for gaining and retaining clients. The keyto my relationships is the trust my clients have that our companyknows the business, and that we bring substance and value for themand their employees. In addition, the clients believe the teambehind me is competent, responsive, knowledgeable and stable.

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Lydia M. Rivera, senior vice president, employee benefits,EPIC

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Great students make the best teachers

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Make sure you are always a student of the industry. The mostsuccessful industry leaders are committed to continuous learningand evolution. Surround yourself with thought leaders who want todisrupt the status quo.

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Employers no longer want a broker, they need an advisor who willensure their health care strategy is aligned with their businessstrategy. Help clients understand what industry variables arewithin their control and how they can actually win in the healthcare industry for their business and employees. As Gretzky said,focus on where the puck is going, not where it is today. We candefine where the “puck” is going as teaching our clients to embracedisruptive innovation that will lead to a truly high performinghealth care strategy.

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Reed Smith, SVP, practice leader, benefits, CoBizInsurance

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People skills

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“How to Win Friends & Influence People” is still aguidebook, as are many other classes, books and coaching sessionsfrom mentors. It's lifelong learning—for those who know me, don'tjudge me, because I know I've fallen short many times. It's ajourney to develop those people skills.

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Reid Rasmussen, co-founder and CEO, freshbenies

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Never take anything for granted

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Never take anything for granted. As an immigrant from India,settling in the South and being challenged by a male dominatedindustry certainly transformed me into a fearless competitor.Careers do not come with instructions, but neither do successes andfailures. It's crucial to continue to strive to learn withoutrelying on any one skill and love what you do without losingperspective. To quote Jay Danzie: “Your smile is your logo, yourpersonality is your business card, how you leave others feelingafter an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

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Rina Tikia, FLMI, Tikia Consulting Group

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Diversify!

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Diversify and work in niche markets!

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Wayne Sakamoto, president, Health Insurance Interactive,Inc.

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Be flexible

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Whether I'm teaching a group fitness class or supervising mystaff, I've evolved to a more flexible approach. I listen more,talk less and ask questions. To sift through people's assumptions,opinions and biases, I must inquire without passing judgement. WhenI see someone doing a task differently than I suggested, I ask why.The answers have amazed and educated me.

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Grace DeSimone, national group fitnessdirector, on-site services, Optum

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