For Ron Shurts, CEO and Co-Founder of Annexus, hard work isn’t just a value, it’s part of who he is. Outwork your competition. Push the envelope. Set no limits. These ideas are pervasive and prized throughout the Annexus workforce, and they all cascade from Ron’s embodiment of these principles for 35+ years. The results speak for themselves. Annexus continues to innovate the industry and build new partnerships that drive outsized growth. But these successes aren’t culmination points. For Shurts, they are merely milestones on the path to bigger things, and hard work will continue to drive Annexus forward.
Read on to learn what led Shurts to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, why he refuses to set goals for his teams, and his advice for overcoming barriers to success.
You're a lifelong entrepreneur; that's not the easiest career path. What about the founder’s journey is so motivating for you?
We have a saying at Annexus: “Be the first, be the best, or change the game.” This idea is what drives me—I love being on the firing line, the one who is responsible for making things happen. I love making the call, and I couldn’t be prouder of our success. Annexus is the leading independent product design and distribution company in America, and we have developed some of the industry’s best-performing FIAs, IULs and RILAs. The world’s largest investment banks and insurance carriers value our expertise. By designing groundbreaking retirement solutions, we’ve helped provide better outcomes to hard-working Americans—and that is the best motivation of all.
We talk a lot about the importance of seeing the opportunity for innovation. What firsts led by Annexus are you especially proud to have brought to the industry?
The first one is distribution. We cleaned up the industry’s distribution model—in fact, we revolutionized it. We partnered with a very select group of elite distribution partners and gave them exclusive rights to distribute our products. This limited distribution strategy has been extraordinarily successful.
The thing I’m most proud of though, is this: With Genesis as partners, we were the very first to create an uncapped crediting strategy in the FIA space. Annexus invented the uncapped design in 2006, and now just about every single FIA on the street today is uncapped.
Again, these accomplishments were driven by consumer value more than anything. Our product development team is painstaking about doing their due diligence and making sure our product structures provide the opportunity to work going forward, not just how they would have looked historically. The end goal is to deliver great consumer value and better client outcomes. If that’s not number one, the rest doesn’t matter.
You've established a culture at Annexus that shuns corporate goal-setting in favor of a “no limits” mindset. What has led you to make this approach so integral to your leadership philosophy?
The problem with corporate America is this goal-setting mentality—“we’re going to grow by 8% this year.” Why would you limit yourself? If you hit that goal in July, you feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to do, and you let off the gas. If you don’t set a goal, you don't set your cap.
When I was in college, I started selling pots and pans door-to-door. I had never worked in sales, and it was a horrible job, but I can tell you this: I learned how to grind.
And that’s what you can control—the grind. Take small bites, go grind it out every day. Make your goals daily or weekly. If you control the grind, the goal will take care of itself.
How do you describe your mission as it relates to your career?
It's always been about helping people grow. If we can help them grow and reach their career goals, that benefits everyone in the value chain, right down to the advisor and finally, the consumer. It’s about trying to get people to be better.
Think differently. Almost everybody who works for me comes from corporate America—which is perfectly fine—but at Annexus, we try to get them to think a bit differently when they get here. Help people grow themselves. Many of our employees stay and contribute at a high level with Annexus for years, but if and when they do leave, they're going to take that mindset with them. It’s a privilege to help people be successful.
The Annexus story is one of significant successes since the company's founding in 2005. But overnight success is almost never actually overnight. What advice do you have for others who are encountering barriers to success?
The barrier for most people is between the ears. You don't know how great you can be, but you have to earn the right to get lucky. Work on being better today, better tomorrow, and better this week. If you take care of the fundamentals, work harder than your peers, work harder than your competitors—if you out-grind them every single day—there's almost no way you can't win.