The Dumbest Guys in the Room

A Narrative Memoir

These were the finger-wagging words of a septuagenarian investor at our company’s final Annual General Meeting in Brisbane: ‘You lot need to buy socks.’

She’d made $1 million on her initial $25k investment. We later counted over two dozen such people on our share registry. ‘But I like your cheek,’ she added. ‘All of you. Your company cheek.’

We weren’t your typical billion-dollar company. We had one part-time employee, no secretary, and no answering machine—because we wouldn’t figure out how to work it. This isn’t your typical business story either because I’m not really a business guy.

I don’t know what I am—part engineer, part writer, improvisor, entrepreneur. But mostly I’m a father, husband, friend—that’s what this book is about—the oddball underdogs and their families who rode this rollercoaster as we built our company from nothing. How we got into this mess, how we survived it.

THE DUMBEST GUYS IN THE ROOM is a narrative memoir that tells the unlikely but true story of Pure Energy—from million-dollar debt to billion-dollar sale in 2.5 years. I was Co-Founder and Exploration Manager, from beginning to end. My business partners were the warmest, funniest, smartest, big-hearted family guys I’d ever met. And they were absolutely nuts.

It took us two years to float on the Australian Stock Exchange. No brokers would back us and no companies would deal with us—we were outsiders, “those cowboy Canucks.” When we finally floated in 2006 at $0.20 per share, my wife’s parents were buying our groceries. When we sold in 2009 to British Gas for $8.25 per share, our competitors hated us because we made them look lazy, and the government hated us because our record-setting land bids made them change their rules. But our shareholders loved us.

Founded by four eccentric Canucks and one determined Maori, Pure’s secret was simple: do your homework, do the field work, do it hard, and do it while balancing your kids on your shoulders. We were the opposite of polished. We were the work-hard, play-hard rag-tags. Imagine Butch Cassidy partnered with Tony Soprano and John Belushi, going toe-to-toe with Enron’s SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM. Except Butch and his gang have challenging kids, and that’s what drives them.

I struggled for years to find the right voice for this book. I wanted readers to experience what we lived, not just be told about it: the heart-attack stress, the fun, the fear, the humour, the love, even the loss, in the end. I studied JR Moehringer for his honesty and intimacy, even in a business book like SHOE DOG, or a sports memoir like OPEN; Nora Ephron and David Sedaris for their disarming, eccentric sense of humour; William Goldman for his loveable characters and gripping stories like THE PRINCESS BRIDE—both the novel and screenplay; and THE BIG SHORT—especially the film—for how to make a technical story engaging, even thrilling, using break-narratives along with true camaraderie, friendship, and family. I tried to keep it fast and fun, but full of heart, driven by dialogue and action.

One last point: “Coal Seam Gas” may sound like a dirty phrase to those who associate it with global warming. But in the end, the gas we discovered was exported to China to replace coal for power generation. The resulting reduction in greenhouse gases was equivalent to taking all the cars off the road in Canada for over two years.

“… the most dangerous parts of spaceflight are the launch, the landing, and everything in between.” – Roberta Bondar, Canadian Astronaut

“Only the stupid need organisation, the genius controls chaos.” – Albert Einstein

“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit……what a ride!'” – Hunter S. Thompson

“My name is Inigo Montoya. Prepare to die.” – William Goldman

“I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed.” – Marco Polo