Amassing a net worth of $5.2 billion is no easy feat, and yet, that’s precisely what American businessman Henry Kravis managed to do.

The 73-year-old is the co-founder, co-chairman, and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR), one of the largest investment firms in the world. In an interview with Goldman Sachs, Kravis explained how he built one of Wall Street’s biggest financial institutions.

It all started in 1976, when Kravis, his first cousin George Roberts, and their good friend Jerome Kohlberg decided to start their own company. At the time, all three men were working at the now-defunct investment firm Bear Stearns.

Kravis described Stearns as being a hierarchal “eat-what-you-kill” environment in which workers were evaluated solely on what they produced. The trio didn’t like that approach to business, which is what inspired them to create a new workplace culture that was founded on inclusivity.

“We decided that when we started KKR, every single person at KKR was going to participate in everything we did,” Kravis recalled. “Whether you’re a partner at the firm or you weren’t a partner, whether you worked on a deal or you didn’t work on the deal, whether you lived in San Francisco where George was or in New York where Jerry and I were, everyone was going to participate.”

The men quickly found that this newfound approach to running a business was far more conducive to success, as a heavy level of involvement allows employees room to grow. However, Kravis also attributes KKR’s success to the fact that he and his fellow co-founders have always been long-term thinkers.

“We like to take a long-term view, and we always have taken a long-term view, and that’s really critical to how we create value,” Kravis explained.

When asked what advice he has to offer to entrepreneurs and other business professionals, Kravis broke it down into three parts:

“If you focus on curiosity, get of your comfort zone, and give back to society, you’re going to be really happy.”

Photo: Casimiro PT /