How Does Courage Help Entrepreneurs Create Wealth?

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How Does Courage Help Entrepreneurs Create Wealth?

Courage Growth Partners has been a Sponsor of Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic for six years.  In that time their Principals, Dr Louise Yochee Klein and Dr Merom Klein, have worked closely with many of our presenting companies.  Recently we had an opportunity to sit down with Dr Louise and Dr Merom to discuss their experience coaching leaders and explored how exercising courage can lead to optimal wealth-creation.

Keiretsu:  The word ‘courage' is in the name of your company and the title of your published books.  Why do you find that courage is an essential characteristic of a successful business leader?

Louise + Merom:  First, it’s a lot easier to follow than it is to lead. It takes Courage to see a problem and ask, “what can we do to fix it?” rather than “how do we resign our lives to living with it?” Without energy, imagination, possibility thinking and constructive inventive dissatisfaction – rather than fear, passivity, resignation and risk-averse avoidance – no business leader enters a new market, launches a new product or disrupts and transforms an industry.

Second, to be a successful business leader, any entrepreneur or intrapreneuer needs a team of people to follow their and join them in leading – customers, investors, collaborators, channel partners, advocates. Many of them start out skeptical, fearful, risk-averse, uninterested. Successful innovators don’t just have courage, they need to know how to build Courage in the people they hope to mobilize, to build a network of support that gets a new business off the ground and give it lift.


Keiretsu:  What characters differentiate a highly successful corporate leader from a highly effective entrepreneur?

Louise + Merom: Actually, the similarities are more important than the differences. When we work with corporations to help them identify and develop their high-potential talent – the highly successful corporate leaders who can take success to the next level or invent their next generation of success – we’re looking for entrepreneurial leaders and inventive thinkers inside a corporate matrix. We’re looking for people with Courage and people who have the capacity to learn to reach out, beyond their silo or job description, and build Courage.

Of course, in a small entrepreneurial venture, you don’t have the same resources and structures you have in a corporation – which is both freeing and which creates a lot of extra work that entrepreneurs have to do for themselves, or do without. But the Courage to seize opportunity, rather than stay complacent about “what is,” and the ability to build Courage so that investors, customers, employees and strategic partners come along with you – that is essential, whether you’re an intrapreneur in a corporation or an entrepreneur setting up an independent venture.

Keiretsu:  You both talk about “abrasiveness” as an essential element for success in an entrepreneurial culture. That’s unusual. We often think of abrasiveness as something that makes cultures toxic or dysfunctional. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Louise + Merom: In our work coaching innovation leaders, we describe 12 risk-averse traps that inhibit wealth-creation. Many of those traps – groupthink, summit fever, silo myopia, victim thinking, tunnel vision – occur when there isn’t enough diversity in a team’s thinking or when leaders don’t allow people with diverse perspectives to challenge and sharpen each other. This is uncomfortable and, when you’re challenged, it feels abrasive. We all want to be right and we all want to be validated, in the wheelhouses where we think we should have hegemony. It takes courage to allow yourself to be subject of a healthy debate, to have your assumptions tested or adjust your thinking and your planning because someone from another discipline or from another generation, lifestyle, gender or culture has a better perspective.  When we come together to challenge, sharpen, debate and learn from each other in mindshare – like we do at Keiretsu Forum – there’s a healthy level of abrasion in rubbing against one others’ perspectives. Research clearly shows – abrasion creates more wealth than comfortably sitting back and not rocking one another’s boats, letting one solo genius prevail or compromising rather than optimizing.

Keiretsu:  What is the most significant risk associated with not having a healthy dose of abrasion?

Louise + Merom: Blind spots and preventable mistakes are the most significant risk – if you don’t have enough diversity and enough abrasion when you bring a team together to set direction. One Medical Director in a pharma company decided to streamline decision-making by restricting participation in a clinical trial planning meeting. The group he brought together was proud of the progress they made and how congenial his group was. “Your naysaying and negativity isn’t helpful,” he said, when a few operations, quality and statisticians leaders asked why they’d been excluded and how the flaws they saw with the clinical trial design would be addressed. The Medical Director meant well. But if he’d had the courage to allow for more abrasion in planning, he might have avoided the problems that led to the clinical trial delivering a p < .07 result – 2/100ths short of statistical significance. The company lost a year of patent life and had to raise $15MM to redo their clinical trial with a better study design – all because the leaders who foresaw problems were excluded from decision-making. That’s not a mistake that you’d want your portfolio companies to make. Our clients tell us, as advisors, that we bring a perspective that helps them round out their teams and builds the courage use diverse perspectives more effectively. We do that when we equip them to pitch to investors or corporate investment committees – so they make mistakes in rehearsal rather than when it really counts – and when they come together in teams to take key business decisions.

Keiretsu:  Courage Growth Partners is a regional sponsor for the 6th Annual Angel Capital Expo.  We would be remiss if we did not ask you what you see as the greatest value associated with Expo.  Please share your thoughts.

Louise + Merom:  First, it’s an opportunity to see a showcase of companies who’ve been through the Keiretsu Forum Due Diligence process, and whose value propositions have been sharpened, validated and tested in a spirit of mindshare and creative abrasion that Keiretsu uses when investors with a wide range of different backgrounds come together and pool their knowledge to make good investment decisions.

Second, it’s a great opportunity to meet fellow Keiretsu members and co-investors from different chapters – so you can put a face and personality with a name and a voice, when you work with them on due diligence teams and screening, and build a stronger connection with fellow Keiretsu members.

Third, there are some great educational components of the program – that will sharpen your perspective and help you make better investment decisions.

And finally, it’s an opportunity to spend a few days in Philadelphia – and, if you’re part of the Philadelphia chapter or the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community, it’s a great opportunity to host and make people from other Keiretsu chapters welcome in our home town and to show them some of the well-known and hidden gems peppered throughout the City.  Several years ago, we introduced Randy Williams to the Reading Terminal Market and we took another colleague to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. For all of us, these are great opportunities to explore a less-known gem and build a stronger personal connection with one another.

We want to thank Louise Yochee Klein and Merom Klein for sponsoring this year’s Angel Capital Expo and for sharing insights from their extensive work with business leaders.  For more information on Courage Growth Partners, please visit


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