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Small business survival tips from Survivor contestant Marty Piombo

Ring Central Blog


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3 min read

With the new year nearly here, we asked RingCentral’s VP of Partnership Development, Marty Piombo, what helped him as a contestant on Survivor: Nicaragua and how his survival strategies can help business owners.


Copyright: CBS (c)2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Right Reserved.

Drawing from his years of experience working with small businesses, he was a serious contender on the show – lasting 24 days before being voted off and making it onto the final jury that decided who should get the $1 million prize. Here’s what Marty had to say: 


Winning in business and on a reality show requires both diligence and a drive to succeed, regardless of the odds and despite intolerable conditions that appear to be insurmountable. The key is to maintain energy, motivation and the ability to inspire others and build confidence.

In Nicaragua, the conditions on every level were incredibly inhospitable. Two people with a one-in-nine chance at winning $1 million dropped out because they did not possess the drive and willpower to see it to the end.

No one goes into business lightly. The business world can be every bit as stressful and demanding as Survivor. Unless you’re ready to live up to what you signed up for, you shouldn’t bother!

Manage the chaos

Many industries face very chaotic and tumultuous conditions. New, disruptive technologies are launched, and competition surfaces out of nowhere. New sources of distribution; legislation; and shifts in consumer behavior can contribute to creating a very challenging landscape for small and medium-sized businesses. There is a need and a requirement for calmness and clear-headed decision-making to face whirlwind changes and chaotic environments.

In Survivor, chaos reigns. Emotional chaos, ever-changing game conditions, weather (rain, heat, humidity, cold, wind) and tribal switches conspire to create a state of constant disruption. If you are unable to remain calm and process these outside influences with a level head, you will most certainly not survive. In business, I find this to be the case, as well. The only difference is the type of triggers motivating and creating the chaos.


In order to be a successful player in any industry, it is important to manage growth, resources and flexibility in such a way that it allows your business to be responsive to changes – both planned and unforeseen. In the game of Survivor, you may rule the tribe one day and wake up the next day on the chopping block.

In many cases, you must adapt quickly and learn how to successfully manage as a pawn just as effectively as you would as a king. Your hope is to reestablish yourself as the king. However, it may take patience and tremendous ability to flex into a new role or position within a competitive environment as you reinvent yourself to stay in the game.

This was just as true in Nicaragua as it is in the workplace. Businesses that succeed are those that have the ability to adapt to new technologies and/or competitors.

Create a strong team

As in the game of Survivor, you cannot achieve success in business without having a team that you can depend on. Choosing strong members for this team is essential. For many small business owners, RingCentral is an important part of this team by supporting vital business functions.

Use your instincts

I would say my instincts in Nicaragua were almost 100% spot-on. I believe in first impressions, and I trust my gut on people and organizations. Second-guessing yourself on Survivor or in business can spell disaster. I feel it is critical to follow through on your instincts.

In business, it may be just as important to make decisions and follow through. Obviously, good preparation is required to ensure solid decision-making. However, there is also a time and place where quick and difficult decisions must be made to move forward. Slow decision-making and indecision can cost you the game in Survivor. I find the same can be said of certain situations in business.

Manage relationships

Naturally, in the game of Survivor, managing your relationships (alliances) is at least 33% of the game, and mistakes in this area can quickly become the most dangerous and costly. Many businesses rely on their customers and, at times, strategic partners, to succeed. Maintaining loyalty, performing well and being consistent are all qualities that have been critical in both Survivor Nicaragua and in my professional life. The same can be said for any business.

Practice, practice, practice

Working hard every day to make sure you deliver consistent results that engender trust is critical in business. The same was true in the game of Survivor. I needed to reflect consistency in my daily interactions and contributions to daily camp life. I rehearsed what I would say at critical junctures, because any small thing could be misinterpreted or found to be misleading. In making any small or medium-sized business a success, this holds true, as well.  Never become complacent, and continually strive to improve.

Originally published Dec 29, 2010, updated Aug 27, 2020

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