Businessman turns peacemaker

Ron Bruder and his amazing work

Ron Bruder is an amazing man. But before I tell his story I should explain how I came to learn about him.

Having read my previous blog “Secrets of Success” you will know that I am currently reading Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire everyone to take Action”.

The premise of Sinek’s book is that businesses, governments and individuals alike need to know their WHY. In other words, “”Why are they doing what they do?” People will readily tell you WHAT they do and HOW they do it but WHY is the most important.

It is important because people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

Once organisations know their WHY then decisions about WHAT and HOW follow easily.

Ron Bruder knows his WHY. He has dedicated his life to showing people ALTERNATIVES.

Standing at a crossing with his daughters he asked them “”What did the DO NOT WALK signal mean?” His daughters answered correctly but Bruder challenged them “”How do you know it’s not telling us to run?”

So Bruder sucks at teaching road safety, but he doesn’t suck at business.

Bruder was working at a large food conglomerate selling vegetables, canned goods and meats. A senior executive in the group wished to buy a travel agency for his nephew. He asked Bruder, the company CFO, to check out the agency.

Seeing an alternative way of doing business, an opportunity, Bruder joined the agency. Greenwell became the first travel agency on the East coast of the US to take advantage of new technologies and computerise their operations. Not only did they become very successful but within a year, their business model became standard for the industry.

One of Bruder’s former clients was in the coal, oil and gas business, all industries that produce wastelands called “”brownfields”. These areas were too polluted to develop. Clean up costs were high, and insurance for such work prohibitively expensive.

Bruder had an idea about rehabilitating these areas. He teamed up with engineering firm, Dames & Moore who loved his idea. With the strength and size of D&M behind him, what looked to be impossible became achievable. With reduced risks, insurance became affordable and with insurance in place, finance was readily available. Bruder’s small real estate company, Brookhill took off.

His alternative thinking pioneered an industry that was not only good for business but cleaned up the environment.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Like a lot of people Bruder was moved bY the events of 9–11. His daughter worked near the World Trade Centre and the risks to her brought home the evils of terrorism.

He was very successful in real estate but he wanted to do more. He directed his mind to terrorism and world peace. Unlike the major view that terrorism should be met with increased militarism and border protection, Bruder sought an alternative.

Thinking about his daughters and how to make the world a safer and happier place, it struck him that in the US the vast majority of young people wake up every morning with a feeling of opportunity and hope about the future. They have an inherent sense of optimism. They have an idea of their American Dream and a means of achieving it.

By contrast, the young people growing up in Gaza, Egypt or Yemen do not share the same hope and optimism. Importantly, education in these areas is limited and does not prepare young people for lies ahead.

Bruder came to the view that terrorism has less to do with what people in the Middle East and North Africa think about the US and more about what they thought about themselves.

Using his own funds (US$10 million) and resources, Bruder established the Education for Employment Foundation (EFE Foundation).

I was very lucky in my life. Kids I meet in the Middle East have the same intellect and drive as I had, but don’t have the same opportunities…We can make a radical difference to their lives. Once they have a job, they feel part of society. They can become a breadwinner and maybe support eight or nine people, including their siblings.

– Ron Bruder, CNN News

EFE is run by local people working in their communities. It is managed independently. by local boards. It has been established in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Yemen.

EFE has placed 10,000 young people in jobs. 67% of graduates are placed in employment. 53% of EFE graduates are women. Nearly 2,000 companies employ EFE alumni.

Its aim is to teach young people the hard and soft skills they need to feel that they have an opportunity in life, to feel like they can control their destinies. These are people pursuing goals for themselves thanks to a Jewish businessman who is always exploring new ideas and alternatives.

When people know their WHY remarkable things can happen.