Five years ago, Bruce Culver had what seemed like a good job. Trained as a chemist, he had worked his way up the corporate ladder to become vice president for Applied Research Laboratories in Valencia, Calif. He was tired of the revolving door at the top that had brought in four different company presidents in five years, but he felt pretty secure and had no plans to leave.

Then in June 1983, everything changed. The company’s president became the leader of a leveraged buyout. Culver was booted out. There was no joy in workville. “When you leave, you go with an awful lot of emotion. I was surprised. I was angry,” he says. Today, though, Culver, 43, is a very happy man and feels that in retrospect getting fired was a good thing. It led him to cofound, with former ARL colleague Raf Dahlquist, a sort of Rent-A-Scientist agency, of...

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