Greg Crossman

Learning the business of fire with the AIB MBA

  • Industry: Operations & Management
  • Mode of study: On-campus
  • Location: South Australia
  • Programme: MBA (Human Resource Management)
  • Themes: Career Goals,Practicality
  • Motivation: Better Leader/Skills,Job Requirement
  • Seniority: High-Level

created on 06/08/2015

Working in a company built on a hierarchical structure, Greg Crossman worked his way up to the position of upper levels of the business through his operational abilities in firemanship and the craft of firefighting.

But it wasn’t long after he’d taken the position before the then-Chief, Grant Lupton, asked him to complete an MBA to drive his skills as a business manager.

“I had just been promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief Officer and I was holding a lot of responsibility for Search and Rescue, major hazards and Human Resource Management,” he said.

“I spent a lot of time managing problems in HR, so when I sat down to think about what the focus of my MBA would be, I thought I’d use it as a way to grapple with all these HR issues.”

Having previously completed a Graduate Certificate in Business with a local university, Greg had a background in business, but said the theoretical basis of the study and exam process at the university made it difficult to translate his skills to the team.

“From a university context it was difficult to make the link back to operations and when I went back to the Fire Services to explain what I’d learnt it was like I was talking a different language,” he said.

In attempting to navigate the challenge, Selva Abraham, the Founder and Chairman of AIB, gave the team the opportunity to learn the qualification through means that would allow them to apply the theory back to their role.

The resulting skills brought back to the company allowed many of the leadership team to make better strategic decisions for the business, impacting not just the company but the community that they serve.

“People’s lives are literally in our hands when we are making very important decisions,” Greg said.

“We are not only talking about operational decisions on the field, but about strategic decisions about where we best place our resources and all we need to do to ensure our systems are efficient and sound.”

Completing an MBA gave Greg important skills in understanding and managing the business of fire better, and understanding the interrelated systems within a complex organisation.

“The MBA gave me a lot more understanding about finance and business, setting strategic goals and development strategic plans, which was a useful mechanism for me to apply across my life,” he said.

“Once I realised I could use a systems approach to manage all the complexities that were coming at me, it made things so much easier.”

While Greg was one of the first in the leadership team to complete his MBA with AIB, he quickly noticed how the skills learnt in the programme helped not only himself, but others in the company to improve the business as a whole.

“Our organisation is built on a hierarchy – one man sits at the top and everything filters up to the Chief Officer,” Greg said.

“We started to ask, ‘How can we be efficient when everything hangs on one man who even signs off everyone’s leave?’ As a result of that we did some process engineering – getting the employees involved to tell us how to do things better,” he said.

“We process-engineered our meetings process as well, as some days we had meetings merging into meetings, and we were not getting any time to actually do anything.”

Completing the MBA encouraged Greg to become more organised and able to fulfil the aspirational ideas he has by finding systems to manage them.

“I got a lot of value out of my studies – I became a lot more focused, and have a lot more priorities in work goals and personal goals,” Greg said.

He said he enjoyed his MBA, which he completed through a mixture of weekend sessions on-campus in Adelaide and via Distance Learning.

“I have been a firefighter for 38 years now, and the interaction we had with colleagues during the course was invaluable,” Greg said.

“I’m still in contact with most of the team I completed the MBA with, and when I see them at AIB’s alumni events it encourages me to ask what more I can do in my field of endeavour,” he said.