Guest Post

Courage

by Dick Schulte
11/04/2009

Another word for nerve is courage, the ability to stand tall, move forward and persevere in spite of that familiar cold feeling fear brings when facing daunting odds. Why do people respond courageously in situations where it would be much easier to fold, quit, retire, call it a day?

As the former co-founder and/or CEO of three tech-based start-ups, I have seen ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things because they brought courage to work with them every day. Why? Well, first, it was one of the core values of the company, decided on by all not just the leaders. Second, we created a culture where it was okay to talk about our fears and concerns openly. Not whining, just constructive dialog around what we were up against. Third, we encouraged solution-based thinking and a bias for action and taking risks, knowing at times we would make mistakes. And finally, we had people who trusted each other and had total belief in what we could accomplish—together.

The most recent example is a company I led, an online ecommerce business aggregating and distributing adventure travel to consumers worldwide. We worked with adventure travel suppliers around the world--folks who were passionate about transforming travelers via unique and memorable experiences. Talk about nerve. These outfitters offered adrenaline-infused activities like paragliding in Rio, kite surfing in Bahia, canyon swinging in New Zealand, whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon, zorbing (look it up) in Australia, shark diving near San Diego and heli-skiing in Canada. And we had suppliers who offered more gentle and cultural pursuits as well, all with the intent of challenging and stretching the traveler so that they would "come back different".

The business model for aggregating adventure travel for online purchase had never been accomplished successfully—we knew that going in. The aggregation process takes time and that means you need to be well capitalized. So we were in a race for time and the odds were not in our favor. But we had an outstanding team, an incredibly courageous crew of start-up adventurers in their own right. And if at times we lacked inspiration, all we had to do was look to our suppliers, some risking life and limb daily to pursue their passion.

I'd like to tell you that this business was a smashing success. The company was recently acquired by another online travel company, which happened before we could fully realize the fruits of our labor. Leaving a job unfinished takes courage, too. We ran out of time and, to some degree, money. We hope the acquiring company will be good stewards of what we created. We traveled a long distance in a very short time in building a viable business model, and we did it because of a team who loved what they did, greatly respected each other and had tremendous nerve in the face of tough odds.

Following 20 years spent in senior executive roles, including founder and CEO for both private and public companies, Dick Schulte has shifted his vocational focus from operating leader to executive coach and advisor, founding TruPath® Leadership Development. His mission is to serve, coach and guide senior business leaders — at the enterprise and whole-life level — empowering them with the courage and clarity to become highly effective leaders.

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