CFO gives advice to students in lunch discussion, shares tips

Brian Greenburg, ’81, the chief financial officer of Rapid Displays Inc., shared insights about his experiences in business with students in a lecture titled, “Brian’s 10 Rules for Success in the Business World,” on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The first rule of business, he said, is not to focus on the dollar figure in your first job.

“At the end of the day you are a commodity, and at the end of the day your goal should be to make yourself a hot commodity,” Greenburg said. “In your 20’s you need to focus on getting experience in order to turn that into a paycheck in your 30’s.”

Greenburg talked about the importance of luck in one’s career.

“At some point you will get a lucky break, if you understand when it comes, capitalize it, take advantage of it,” Greenburg said. “It is important to take advantage of difficult opportunities because the outcome is worth the work.”

Greenburg advised students to be proactive and always have their next move on their radar.

“If you don’t advocate for yourself, in many cases no one else will,” Greenburg said. “At 27 years of age, I was named a plant controller. I was the youngest person to have that position because I made sure I got the experience I needed to move up the ladder at my company.”

Greenburg told students they should not be afraid to take risks.

“I volunteered to move to Mexico to help establish financial reporting and controls with companies. It was a great opportunity,” Greenburg said.

Greenburg also addressed finding the right time to leave a company.

“It is time to leave when you aren’t learning something new, or you aren’t being exposed to new things,” Greenburg said. “If you are coming to work everyday and you aren’t being challenged with new opportunities, you are losing the battle of experience.”

Greenburg said his sixth rule is to save for retirement.

“Always find a way to put money in the retirement plan,” Greenburg said.

He also mentioned the importance of learning on the job.

“In the first six months, bury yourself in that job, make it everything, learn about the job, learn about everything,” Greenburg said.

Greenburg said to never accept things at face value.

“There are lots of good finance and accounting people out there,” Greenburg said. “There are very few great ones. A great person in my field challenges the status quo and leaves no stone unturned.”

At the company where Greenburg formerly worked, the previous CFO overstated profits by $15 million. In a matter of time, Greenburg discovered the company’s losses.

Greenburg also told students to have fun and laugh.

“Laughter is great and having fun is great … we are here to learn and have fun in [our] spare time,” Greenburg said.

Mohammad Khan, ’19, said he found the talk more useful than he had first expected.

“Top 10 lists are usually useless. I was surprised that the speaker actually gave some useful tips … like not accepting things at face value,” Khan said.

Graham Tufts, ’20, attended for the pizza and was pleasantly surprised by the event.

“I really appreciated the part where he talked about what he looks for in an employee,” Tufts said.

Greenburg also talked about his professional experience and position at Rapid Displays. The retail displays created by Rapid Displays are sold directly to consumer goods companies such as Starbucks, Sephora, Yeti, Anheuser-Busch, Sony and Samsung. These displays are then placed in retail stores like Walmart, Target and Best Buy. Greenburg has helped the company grow from $50 million to $250 million in sales since 2002.

While at Allegheny, Greenbug was active in the Lambda Sigma National Honor Society, the college’s WARC 90.3FM radio station, The Campus and intramural sports.

At the end of his talk, Greenburg left students with the four things he looks for when hiring a candidate for any position at his company.

“Intelligence … if you have intelligence, you have the opportunity to excel,” Greenburg said. “You have to be able to communicate effectively. You have to be able to think on your feet. You will be successful because some people can’t do that. The fourth is culture fit. Every company is different. … Don’t underestimate culture fit.”