“I have what can only be described as a bizarre career path,” says Brian Cruver, whose professional pursuits over the last 20 years have included day trader, architect, chef, lawyer, carpenter, pizza deliverer, investment banker, entrepreneur, and most notably, author.
Cruver, author of The Anatomy of Greed: the unshredded truth from an Enron insider, recently spoke to students at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University about his unusual combination of experiences and the lessons he’s learned from them.
Though he had many adventures in employment prior to 2001, it was in that year that Cruver landed his dream job on the trading floor at Enron. The job lasted a short nine months, but its impact on Cruver’s life has been enormous. After the company collapsed, Cruver was among the first to write a book on the subject from the inside. The book was quickly adapted into a CBS TV movie, The Crooked E: The unshredded truth about Enron, and Cruver experienced the ultimate “when life hands you lemons” scenario as he went from an out-of-work businessman to one of the most sought after commentators on the Enron scandal. He went on to do more than 300 radio and television interviews on the subject.
“Writing a book is not something I ever thought I would do. And it’s probably not something that I’ll ever do again,” said Cruver, admitting that he does not enjoy writing. “But it was a great opportunity.”
Not everyone was a fan of his book, however; Cruver told students that he may have been one of the only authors to be accompanied by off-duty police officers to book signings at Barnes and Noble. “When you tell the truth about bad things people have done, those people tend to not like you much,” he said, noting the threats he received during this period of media attention.
“Enron was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” said Cruver, who was amazed by all of the doors the experience opened for him. One of the most important lessons he learned from it was that working for a large firm doesn’t equal job security. “I was drawn to big companies like Shell and Enron, thinking that it was less risky, but I learned there is as much risk there as there is in doing your own thing.” That decrease in his aversion to risk allowed him to pursue his own entrepreneurial dreams.
When the immediate “after-Enron” phase of his career ended, Cruver says he wanted to start the “anti-Enron,” a business that was dedicated to making money for good causes. He started Giveline soon after, which enabled online shoppers a way to divert part of their purchase dollars to the charity of their choice. At its peak, Giveline was serving 20,000 non-profits. Cruver said the company was growing but not yet profitable when they decided to fold. Not one to give up easily, he has recently gone into business with three partners to create MarketDriver, a consulting company focused on sales and marketing for new ventures.
While at Enron, Cruver traded bankruptcy risk (and yes, he appreciates the irony). MarketDriver builds on some of the concepts Cruver acquired in that position, as he and his partners evaluate new ventures to help budding entrepreneurs avoid failure. “There are just so many ways to find out if an idea is going to work before you sink a bunch of money into it,” he says. Cruver counsels entrepreneurs involved in ventures from oil and gas technology to software, lending his business savvy to these creative minds. He focuses specifically on the first 100 days of the company, helping clients go from a great idea to a successful business model.
A native Texan, Cruver holds an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of Texas. He currently resides in Austin.
Categories: Executive Speakers