Monday, May 23, 2011

The Wisdom of Henry Kravis

 I had the good fortune last week to hear Henry Kravis describe, to Columbia University’s graduating class of MBAs, the principles he lives by.  The keynote speaker, alumnus and current co-chairman of Columbia Business School, Kravis is the renowned founder of KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company), the global private equity and alternative investment firm.

While you might consider some of his points obvious (because you have heard them before), what he said made an impression on me because it was Kravis saying it.  I agreed with his tips and was glad my son was among the graduates in the audience. 

1.    Be aware that something newer, better and cheaper is always around the corner.
2.    Work harder than everyone else.
3.    Arrogance kills.
4.    One who sits on one’s laurels has them in the wrong place.
5.    You are at your most vulnerable when you think you’ve got it made.
6.    Bad news and criticism deserve more attention than compliments.
7.    Life is not a football game where only one team can win.
8.    Bending the rules is not an option; being dishonest is not an option.
9.    It is not: “My service is better than his.”  It is: “We need to make our service the best.”
10.    Helping others and providing key resources for others is a key part of capitalism.

Kravis quoted the fox from the book, The Little Prince, to highlight a fundamental theme:  “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”  This is true in so many facets of business and particularly in our relationships.  As Kravis pointed out, giving is its own reward.  He added that graduates who have experienced a recession have a greater sense of what they have and fare better than those who have not gone through a serious downturn.

Kravis concluded with a beautiful quote penned by author and professor emeritus William Watson Purkey, which I had not heard before but shall always remember:

"You've gotta' dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt.
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth."

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