On December 4, 2001, the day Enron filed for bankruptcy and laid off 4,500 employees, John Elder was having lunch with some of Houston's top business executives. "The conclusion was that the most valuable thing at Enron was the employees," Elder says. "We feared Houston would lose major talent, and we wanted to keep these people working in Houston."
So Elder, a principal at Devine & Christopher, a recruitment firm that specializes in the power industry; Mark Slaughter, a private investor and former president and CEO of Reliant Energy Communications; Dan Sudduth, CFO for RoadShowMedia.com and Teligistics; Randy Stilley, a private investor and ex-president of Weatherford International's completion and oil-field services division; and Barry Smotherman, managing partner of Tatum CFO, came up with a plan to help talented former Enron employees get their businesses up and running. The executives started a nonprofit incubator called Resource Alliance Group, a temporary venture showing former Enron employees the ins and outs of running a business. Within just three months, the group helped 25 ex-Enron employees become entrepreneurs, according to Elder.
Resource Alliance Group's first success was Mobius Risk Management, a company that helps large businesses cut energy bills by replacing light bulbs and by scouring the marketplace for low-cost electricity and natural gas contracts. Mobius is headed by two former Enron executives who worked at the company's retail energy services division. Elder says Resource Alliance provided Mobius with mentoring services from experienced business executives, business plan review and development, access to funding sources and office space.
|Mentors can provide you just the push you need to succeed. Read more about mentors in Learning From the Best.|
Eric Melvin, Mobius' 39-year-old CEO, says his firm has turned a profit of just under $1 million since opening in March and was hired to evaluate the energy consumption of Harrah's Entertainment, which operates 25 casinos nationwide. Mobius, which started with three employees, now has a staff of 10.
Resource Alliance Group fulfilled its mission and shut down in October, says Elder. But Elder still mentors former Enron employees looking to start businesses.