NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - When it comes to activists making change in corporate America only one number counts: 5%. It's the organized 5% of a shareholders that influence management, change the direction of a company or rally the stock with their holdings. It's also the group of shareholders an average retail investor should scrutinize when considering a long-term investment. On Tuesday, Pershing Square Capital Management's William Ackman sent shares surging nearly 10% when he announced a 15% stake in Fortune Brands Home & Security ( FBHS), signaling he may have been part of a push to spin the unit from its parent Beam ( BEAM), formerly named Fortune Brands. The announcement followed news on Monday that El Paso ( EP) and its largest shareholder Carl Icahn with a more than 6% holding were bought out by Kinder Morgan ( KMI) at a near 40% premium. These activists show investors can own shares worth more than a vote in a company's strategy. For the 95% or more of individual shareholders, one share equals one vote. In terms of returns however, the top 5% don't own all the upside. At Tuesday's Value Investing Congress William Ackman said of his activist holdings, "Our interests are aligned with the investor community in general. It doesn't bother us for 80% of shareholders to come along for the ride." Anyone owning the Fortune Brands', El Paso's or Motorola Mobility's ( KMI) of the investor world may appreciate the idea. About the keys for a successful activist company plan, Bill Kavaler a special situations analyst at Oscar Gruss & Sons said that a 5% or greater holding is probably needed to really push a management change or company sale. In a phone interview Kavaler said, "For someone with 2-to-3% to say you've got to get your act together and get the stock price up, it's really not that credible." Though 5% gives you an amplified voice, to successfully initiate a company sale, spin or change Kavaler said, "If there is no credible threat and no credible bid, then management won't take it seriously...There are relatively few people that are true activists in that serious sense of the word like Carl Icahn, but even he's got a mixed record." Consider Icahn's mixed year. On Monday, his third largest holding El Paso ( EP), which has an over 6% share ownership, was bought for $21.1 billion at a near 40% premium by Kinder Morgan ( KMI). Similarly, Icahn took an over 10% stake in Motorola Mobility ( MMI) and asked the company to sell its patents portfolio in the mold of Nortel's $4.5 billion patent sale in July. In August, Motorola Mobility wound up selling itself to Google ( GOOG) for $12.5 billion at a 63% premium --the largest return any investor made on the summer's patent buying spree.